Posted September 28, 2004, 12:00 AM EDT
NEW YORK Sony and Samsung routinely compete for market share in the consumer electronics industry. Last Wednesday evening they competed for guests too, as both companies launched new stores in Midtown with simultaneous events, both vying for press attention for its latest products.
Samsung took experiential retailing to a new level with its Samsung Experience, a sprawling product showroom on the third floor of the Time Warner Center that's filled with the company's gadgets, from cell phones, to digital cameras, to camcorders and flat-screen TVs—but there's nary a cash register in sight. Instead of walking out of the store with the merch in hand, you're handed a list of retailers that will sell it to you elsewhere.
The South Korea-based electronics manufacturer promoted this pseudo-store concept to New York journalists and its business partners at a cocktail party and launch event that packed the third floor of the center. Paul Kim, senior manager for strategic marketing at Samsung Electronics America and EventQuest produced the event. EventQuest created an all-white lounge in front of the store's entrance, complete with a fabric tension tunnel entrance, curving white benches, and color-changing LED light tubes suspended along the walls that filled the space with a myriad of colors. Caterwaiters passed an abundance of decadent hors d'oeuvres, like foie gras on toasted brioche, short rib tartlettes, and truffled corn custard, from Café Gray—the most memorable nibbles we've had in a long time. An uptown, suited crowd mingled in both the retail and lobby spaces.
A few blocks east, Sony launched Qualia, its new collection of high-end electronics. Marcy Cohen, public relations manager for Sony Electronics, and R. Couri Hay Creative Public Relations coordinated the event, which had post-work suits and scruffy hipsters sipping Cristal in the basement-level retail space. The store's setup had a homelike environment (if your home is filled with giant flat-screen TVs and robots, and supermodels and socialites are wandering around, that is). An hour and a half into the event, the only food offerings left were a well-grazed cheese table and a hungry group of guests waiting for the chefs to prepare more sushi.
While the Samsung environment was certainly more inviting, and offered guests more room to mingle and play with the products, for lasting impressions, Sony had Samsung by a bag-full. On the way out, Samsung guests received a branded bottle opener and a bottle cap encased in a wood box engraved with the company logo and date. Sony guests received a John Coltrane and Miles Davis CD box set, a Spiderman DVD, DeBauve & Gallis chocolates, a mini bottle of Asprey perfume, an eye cream sample, and white leather coasters in a Qualia-branded tin.