EVENT INNOVATORS 2016

Top 10 Innovative Brands 2016: #2 Samsung

Fresh off the launch of its latest smartphone, the brand has continued to stay on top—and build buzz—with events designed to showcase its leadership in immersive tech experiences.

By Michele Laufik May 17, 2016, 5:40 AM EDT

Festivalgoers could test out Samsung’s new 4-D virtual reality chairs at the Samsung Studio at this year’s South by Southwest event in Austin, Texas. The activation simulated a ride on a Six Flags roller coaster.

Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images for Samsung

An ongoing slowdown in smartphone sales continues to plague major tech companies, but Samsung is looking beyond that to the overall mobile experience, hoping to connect consumers with the brand, with one another, and with the world around them in new and better ways.

The tech giant’s ability to reinvent the mobile experience is reflected in its innovative consumer-facing events and activations from the N.B.A. All-Star Game to South by Southwest to Samsung 837.

In February, the electronics company opened Samsung 837 in New York’s meatpacking district—an immersive tech playground that encourages guests to touch, explore, and create with the brand’s products. (The name is not only the building’s address, but it also represents the brand’s eight passion points, the three-story flagship location, and the fact that it’s open seven days a week.) During the opening event, attendees walked through a mirror-filled tunnel displaying images from their Instagram accounts. To participate, guests had to interact with the brand by syncing their account with a Samsung Galaxy phone. In addition to being a showcase for devices, the “marketing hub” features regular programming such as movie screenings and musical performances, as well as event series like hackathons and Tribeca Film Festival activations.

Along with the dedicated consumer space, the brand has reimagined its on-site sponsorship activations. For example, at this year’s SXSW, guests who purchased Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge at the on-site Samsung Studio received an all-access pass to the first Galaxy Life Fest—a three- day music event featuring acts including the Strokes, 2 Chainz, and Sia. In addition, attendees could score the Samsung Gear VR, gift cards, concert tickets, and more at Samsung Pay vending machines for just one cent. Plus, Samsung’s new 4-D virtual reality chairs were available for guests to test, transporting them from Austin, Texas, to a seat on a roller coaster ride.

Those virtual reality rides offered a preview into the brand’s latest venture,“Virtual Reality Roller Coasters.” In March, Samsung announced a partnership with Six Flags Entertainment to place thrill-seekers in a 360-degree virtual reality world by wearing Samsung Gear VR headsets while riding a coaster that’s traveling as fast as 55 miles per hour. The coasters debuted this spring in amusement parks across the country.

But the company’s biggest ride of 2016 might still be on the horizon—serving as an official sponsor of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, which take place in August. As part of the build-up to the Games, Samsung joined the Road to Rio Tour last year and introduced fans to the United States Olympic Committee Virtual Reality Experience, where guests could simulate athletic training using the brand’s VR headsets.

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