By Adrian Covert, NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Samsung had the world’s attention on Thursday night. Then it blew it.
The Korean tech giant spent the last year setting itself up for success. Samsung built the Galaxy brand into a household name with hardware prowess and marketing guile. It picked the highest profile city to debut it’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy S IV. Samsung even picked a historic venue to show the phone off.
Everything seemed to be in Samsung’s favor. It seemed impossible for the company not to succeed.
And then the lights came on.
The crowd was subjected to an hour of overblown theatrics, unnecessary banter, and moments which, at best, bordered on political incorrectness. At worst, it was downright sexist.
If you’re going to launch your biggest tech product ever, here are eight things you shouldn’t do.
1) Don’t portray women as technologically illiterate: Yes, it’s OK to acknowledge that there’s a growing segment of smartphone users who happen to be female. It’s not OK to suggest that the main reason they’d want Samsung’s latest and greatest technology is to keep their nails dry. (Samsung did not respond to requests for comment.)
2) Don’t portray Women as technologically illiterate…again: Yes fitness tracking features are good. Yes, some women are into fitness. But fitness enthusiasm, or almost any other aspect of technology, is hardly gender specific. And presenting that idea to millions has no place in the world in 2013.
3) Don’t plant shills in the audience to make awkward comments: One of the more surreal moments of being at the event was realizing how blatant Samsung’s planted audience members were. They laughed and cheered at seemingly arbitrary things. And to make things all the more awkward, I heard a few making strangely pointed comments about the attractiveness of the female performers on stage. Huh?
4) Don’t make the event into a Broadway play: Even if the idea holds up conceptually, don’t mask the launch of your biggest product. Nobody really cares about the presentation. People care about the phone.
5) No precocious youth: The whole overly-precocious youth gimmick hasn’t been not-annoying in at least 10 years. Sticking a smartphone in his hand doesn’t make it anymore excusable.
6) No tap dancing: Making the smartphone-shilling half pint tap dance? Samsung, you just compounded the problem.
7) Don’t demo your new phone in the basement of a theater: Radio City Music Hall holds 6,000 people. And it looked quite full on Thursday night. So why Samsung tried to corral the crowd into demo stations a fraction of the size of the actual theater is beyond me.
8) Don’t steep to lowest common denominator-type populism: The whole point of this event was an attempt by Samsung to appeal to the mainstream. Specifically, the American mainstream. But in trying to strike a less arrogant, more populist tone, Samsung went for the lowest common denominator, playing to cultural tropes which are simply retrograde.