Watched by 43 million people on television as she hosted the 2014 Oscars, actress Ellen DeGeneres crossed the audience at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.
Cell phone in hand, she approached actress Meryl Streep.
She said, “Meryl, here’s my idea. You’ve been nominated 18 times, a record, right? Meryl looked up with a slightly puzzled look.
“I thought we were going to try to break another record now. I will take a picture of us. And then we can see if we can break the record for most retweets, ”said Ellen.
Ellen pulled out her phone and struggled to get a decent frame. Cooper, kneeling in front, reached out and grabbed the phone from Ellen’s hands. ‘That’s it. Ready? Ready? Said Cooper. Break. “We did it!” Cried Ellen before tweeting the picture on her personal account
She stooped slightly and held the phone out between her and the legendary actress.
Meryl turned to the woman behind her, four-time Oscar nominee, Julia Roberts, voted best supporting actress. “Bring her in,” Meryl insisted.
Ellen called Channing Tatum, the former stripper-turned-actor, and Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, nominated for best supporting actress and best supporting actor. They gathered around Ellen.
Then Ellen called another Brad – Brad Pitt. Kevin Spacey [before he was accused of sexual assault] slipped from behind, smiled, and raised an inch. Soon, a crowd of rowdy celebrities made faces and created minor chaos.
Ellen pulled out her phone and struggled to get a decent frame. Cooper, kneeling in front, reached out and grabbed the phone from Ellen’s hands. ‘That’s it. Ready? Ready? Said Cooper.
For many years, Samsung had supplied Apple with the technology – in fact, the iPhone was only made possible by Samsung’s electronic memory chips. But in 2010, Samsung released its own smartphone, the Galaxy S, which some dubbed the “iPhone killer”
Break. “We did it!” Cried Ellen before tweeting the picture on her personal account.
Eleven of Hollywood’s greatest legends – among them the winners of ten Oscars which together and $ 9 billion in prize money – had spontaneously come together in one fell swoop.
Shortly after, Ellen announced: “We just crashed Twitter!”
It was the first time that the social media site “broke” in eight years of history. In less than an hour, the selfie had over a million retweets. The next day, he had more than three million.
But thanks to an image of Cooper taking the selfie that later went viral, Ellen’s phone – a Galaxy Note, made by South Korean electronics giant Samsung, sponsor of the Oscars – would become the biggest star. It was Samsung’s time.
For some time, the bosses of the firm have been bubbling over the omnipresence of celebrities holding the iPhones of Apple, its rival.
It was incredible, free, word of mouth advertising, an unbeatable way to build a cultural movement.
But now Samsung had reached the ultimate product placement: a photo of one of its products in the hands of the most prominent person on the planet right now – the Oscar host.
The irony of the truth is that they should have taught Ellen, an iPhone user, how to use the Galaxy. But the rewards were immediate.
This fiscal quarter, Samsung would ship 85 million units of smartphones – a combined total greater than its four biggest competitors, LG, Lenovo, Huawei … and Apple.
It’s the story of how South Korean Samsung triumphed over the all-American Apple iPhone in its own garden.
It is also the story of how South Korea went from a poor agricultural country to one of the most prosperous economies in the world in two generations.
The rivalry between Samsung and Apple dates back to the early days of the battle to dominate the emerging smartphone market.
For many years, Samsung had supplied Apple with the technology – in fact, the iPhone was only made possible by Samsung’s electronic memory chips.
But in 2010, Samsung released its own smartphone, the Galaxy S, which some dubbed the “iPhone killer”.
Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was livid. He wanted to launch a “thermonuclear war” on the operating system used by Samsung phones and accused his rival of having “slavishly” torn away the iPhone with a similar range of designs, features and packaging.
Samsung reacted furiously. And so began one of the most costly commercial battles in history.
In April 2011, Jobs filed more than 50 lawsuits worldwide, claiming $ 2.5 billion (£ 1.92 billion) in damages.
Then there were countless reports of the Galaxy Note 7 fire. Regulators and the public were looking for answers from Samsung. The brand’s reputation was plummeting, but it was not working. Airlines Banned Note 7 From Flights
Undaunted, six months later, Samsung released its Galaxy Note, a device halfway between a tablet and a smartphone, and, commercially, it has made its way. In turn, Apple introduced iPhones with larger screens.
This motivated the South Koreans to continue their frantic quest to replace Apple as the most famous and successful electronics company in the world. Employees were constantly reminded of their mission: to take a bite of Apple.
“We had one goal: to beat Apple. I’m not kidding, ”said a Samsung executive.
To this end, trucks carrying fresh apples arrived at Samsung offices and fruit baskets were placed in rooms where employees took coffee breaks and were encouraged to take a bite of an apple.
Rightly so, for a company that would face so many fierce battles, Samsung had started its life in a context of war.
Its founder, Lee Byung-chul, known as BC Lee, opened in 1938 a vegetable and dried fish store called Samsung Sanghoe – “ Three Stars Shop ” – in Korea, at the time a Japanese colony , providing food for the Japanese war effort in northeast China.
Lee admired and decided to try to copy the Japanese zaibatsu (wealth clans), some of the largest and most powerful societies in the world.
These industrial and financial conglomerates, ruled by family dynasties, benefited enormously from the Second World War.
In 1945, after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing Japan to surrender, then provincial magnate Lee established relationships with the new US military occupation government in Korea and bought a local university and a newspaper.
However, five years later, after having prospered enough to move its headquarters to the capital, Seoul, the Korean War began.
North Korean communist forces invaded the South. Samsung’s warehouse was looted and its employees and their families were evacuated to the south.
At the end of the war in 1953, the West did not see South Korea as a very promising country.
Nonetheless, Lee rebuilt his business to take advantage of the post-war boom, using his political sense and connections. Now importing raw materials such as wool and transforming them into clothing, at the end of the 1950s, he was reputed to be the richest man in South Korea.
It’s the story of how South Korean Samsung triumphed over the all-American Apple iPhone in its own garden. It is also the story of how South Korea went from a poor agricultural country to one of the most prosperous economies in the world in two generations.
Above all, he appreciated the loyalty and participated in almost all the interviews with the employees – around 100,000 people. He hired professional physiologists, or face readers, to help interpret the structure of a candidate’s eyes, nose, lips and ears to get an idea of his personality.
Details, precision and careful record keeping were the hallmarks of the boss. He hated garbage and at meals, he tore his napkin in half and saved the other piece for later.
The company has also started a series of physical and mental training exercises for managers. These included 40-mile mountain hikes to test mental toughness.
Company was family and family was company. A “Samsung Man” commanded respect in Korea as a distinguished and hardworking husband. “Samsung treats you best. So you’re the best, “said a company motto.
There are indeed similarities between the culture of Samsung and the totalitarian dictatorship of North Korea. They share an extreme veneration for family dynasties; they practice rituals, ceremonies and military slogans. They also share a paranoia and distrust of strangers, and the veneration of a paternalistic leader like an emperor.
In the 1960s, Samsung’s activities included banks, a sugar refinery, a woolen mill, an insurance company, a department store, and a Confucian university. But the company was mired in a corruption scandal and Lee was forced to resign.
When he returned to the helm, Samsung turned to a much riskier and faster business – electronics, opening its first manufacturing plant in 1983. By the time Lee died in 1987, he was starting to fill in away from Japanese competitors such as Sony.
Lee’s son Lee Kun-hee took the chair. He was a clumsy, moody recluse who spent his free time wandering around Samsung’s private racetrack – his favorite car was a Porsche 911.
“Driving at 200mph is life threatening,” he told Business Week in 1994. “It makes you fully alert and relieves most of your stress.”
Maniacal and mercurial, he had a dark streak. Rumors – still denied – have spread that he was a drug addict and had fathered many children outside of his marriage. Upon request, he had 95 children, he said he had had a vasectomy so it was not possible.
There were also prostitutes. In videos which have been disclosed, he has been seen seated in a reclining chair, wearing a ragged white T-shirt, in front of a television, while paying for four women for their sexual services.
Lee’s son Lee Kun-hee took the chair. He was an awkward and sullen recluse who spent his free time wandering around Samsung’s private racetrack – his favorite car was a Porsche 911
One of the women secretly filmed it from a hidden camera attached to her purse. Three people were then jailed for trying to blackmail Lee into the video.
Despite the scandal, President Lee has built an almost religious corporate culture at Samsung, producing a proverb book summarizing his philosophy.
“It was like Chairman Mao’s red book,” joked an American executive, “but it was President Lee’s blue book.”
His words included: “Neglecting to feed talent is a kind of sin” and “One genius is one in 100,000”.
The employees watched the internal broadcasting service 30 sermons from him each morning – and, ironically, were ordered to examine their morals. What wealth!
However, in 1999, Lee’s lofty business ambitions faltered due to colossal high-risk spending. The expression “made in Korea” was still an international laughing stock.
Lee duly initiated a management revolution, drawing lessons from German car assembly factories, employing leading American tech designers, and visiting sites like the Taj Mahal.
For example, he instructed executives on Japanese master craftsmen called shokunins who sought “learning through repetition.” He explained that they were so skilled that they could put their hand in a bowl of dry rice and take out exactly 250 grains – the number needed for a single piece of sushi.
Another executive compared electronic products to a banana. He said: “Nature is the best creator. The banana fits in your pocket. It is delivered in its own sanitary packaging. It is biodegradable. And the color indicates when the fruit is ripe. Now imagine if you could design a product that uses these same principles. “
With this infusion of design talent, and Lee’s cruelty and vision, Samsung has grown from an obscure family electronics business to a global giant.
Its main weapon was its first premium smartphone, the Galaxy S, launched in June 2010, three years after the first Apple iPhone.
The name “Galaxy” appeared after company officials tasted a $ 95 bottle of California red wine of the same name and believed it had a premium ring.
In 2011, Samsung overtook Apple to become number 1 as the world’s leading supplier of smartphones. But two years after the triumph of its “Internet shutdown” at the Oscars, a damaging scandal engulfed the firm in 2016, bringing Samsung Electronics to the brink.
After pushing the boundaries of smartphone technology with rapid incremental improvements, Samsung has released phones with larger screens and stronger hardware, sold at higher volumes.
Then the Galaxy Note 7 – with an eye-catching glass and metal case, giving it a feel of luxurious plastic rather than cheap. But the phone quickly became a source of problems.
There have been reports of overheating. Some had caught fire. At first, Samsung blamed the batteries.
On October 5, 2016, Brian Green took his seat on an airplane at Kentucky Louisville International Airport when he suddenly found smoke coming out of his pocket where he had put his phone.
He took it out and threw it on the ground. “I didn’t want it to explode in my hand,” he said. The cabin crew evacuated the aircraft. “Leave your bags. Get off the plane immediately! Shouted the stewardess.
After three weeks of stumbling and stuttering, Samsung recalled the Galaxy Note 7 in the United States, but seemed skeptical of the phone’s fault. Investigators at the Consumer Product Safety Commission saw things differently.
The day before Green’s phone caught fire, Michael Klering of Kentucky woke up with a whistle. “The whole room just covered in smoke, [it] smells horrible, “he said.
The expression “made in Korea” was still an international laughing stock. Lee duly initiated a management revolution, learning from German car assembly plants, employing leading American tech designers, and visiting sites like the Taj Mahal, above, for inspiration
It turned out that his phone was “on fire”. Later in the day, Klering started vomiting black fluid; at the hospital, she was diagnosed with acute bronchitis due to smoke inhalation.
As technology journalist Jordan Golson said, “The most worrying thing is that Klering’s phone caught fire a day before Brian Green’s flight – and Samsung knew it and said nothing.”
Then there were countless reports of the Galaxy Note 7 fire. Regulators and the public were looking for answers from Samsung.
The brand’s reputation was plummeting, but it was not working. Airlines have banned Note 7 flights.
The Pranksters posted YouTube videos of Grand Theft Auto V showing characters buying Note 7s and throwing them at people and cars like grenades.
Samsung wanted people to believe there was a problem with the batteries, but knew it had to quickly reverse the debacle – or have its brand stained.
Two weeks after the release of the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung halted sales and offered replacement handsets to all of its customers.
The Galaxy Note 7, the bright light of the Samsung empire, was now its greatest disaster.
Of the 2.5 million on the market, Samsung was to recall approximately one million. It was one of the biggest brand disasters in recent history.
Engineers have started to design a much more difficult series of tests on phone batteries. The case, as far as Samsung is concerned, has been closed.
And consumers are fickle. When the Galaxy S8 was released in April 2017, they had moved on – and they loved it.
Just months after the disaster, Samsung overtook Apple as the world’s most profitable technology company, with profits of $ 12.1 billion in the second quarter of 2017.
© Geoffrey Cain, 2020
Excerpt from Geoffrey Cain’s Samsung Rising, published by Virgin on March 19 at £ 14.99. Offer price: £ 11.99 (20% discount) until April 30.
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