Q&A: Samsung's Ralph Santana On Olympic Genome

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Beginning this week, Samsung has finally launched to the public its Olympic-themed social marketing platform, the Olympic Genome. Under the guise of asking “How Olympic Are You?,” the app mines a user’s public information on Facebook and matches it with information from Olympic athletes and hopefuls to draw a map of connections (hometown, high school, college, interests) between an individual user and athletes competing on a global stage this summer.

The initiative also has some added “gamification” elements such as points, pins and tokens to keep users working to expand their maps, compete with friends and continue interacting with the brand. Samsung CMO Ralph Santana spoke with Marketing Daily about the app’s development, how the company hopes they’ll use it up to and during the games, and its future beyond London 2012. 

Q: From the time you announced this program in September until its launch this week, how has the vision and development changed?

A: We stayed pretty true to the concept. What we’ve refined over time is the user experience of the app. It stayed true to the original vision. What we refined from that is how you navigate it. Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is build a community. What we found is what really matters to people is how they’re stacking up against friends (when it comes to connections and points). So there are ways to filter that element into it.

Q: With this talk of points, tokens and badges, it seems there’s a lot more gamification in the final app than had been originally announced. How do you reconcile the competitive game elements with the impulse to build a community?

A: It’s still all grounded in community. These elements of badging are just gamification elements. Those were always expected throughout the process. That’s just a filter. The other place we refined it was around the marketplace. This whole thing is based on connections to athletes, and you get tokens [based upon connections]. Those tokens can be redeemed for real value, such as trips to London, support for athletes and discounts on Samsung products. 

We had this great idea, which I would call “the hook.” But if you want to create a community, you need to keep them on the journey, and that’s what I call the “Hold Them” part. What we’re trying to do is get you engaged with the brand as a facilitator of the Olympics in a transformational way.

Q: Now that it’s launched, where do you take it from here, and how will the Genome work with other activations around the Olympics?

A: We’re making sure we have an app experience that reflects the journey. What we’re engaging on now is driving awareness for it. We’ve partnered with athletes to be the face of this [including gymnast Dominque Dawes and radio personality Dan Patrick]. They’ll be doing traditional things like media satellite tours through their social media channels.

Q: What’s the future of this Genome after the Olympics are over?

A: We want this model to be an evergreen platform. You can take this model and apply it to anything. This is an application we can use for other sports and other events going on. With regard to the community, the idea is to continue that community and send messaging to them in relevant ways. We will learn a lot during this process and I’m sure there will be a lot that comes out of this.

Q: What’s the overall value in Olympic marketing for Samsung?

A: It all comes down to: “Are we able to drive our brand equity and drive sales on the brand equity piece?” We’re asking if we can drive engagement. Conversations about the brand are important, and we know those correlate with sales.

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