CMO50 2020 #20: Josh Grace

  • Name Josh Grace
  • Title Chief marketing officer
  • Company Samsung Australia
  • Commenced role January 2018
  • Reporting Line Subsidiary president
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Marketing Function Not disclosed
  • Industry Sector Information technology
  • 2019 ranking New to CMO50
  • Brand Post

    ‘Defy barriers to progress’ is Samsung’s purpose. So it was fitting the mantra also became the catch cry supporting marketing transformation locally, says Australian CMO, Josh Grace.

    “Through effective local, regional and global stakeholder management, we overcame many barriers,” he says. “This positioned Australia as a pilot market for a series of global Samsung firsts, thereby transforming our local subsidiary.”  

    Among the many milestones Grace highlights over his tenure so far are bringing customer needs to the fore through best-in-class customer insights and targeting, becoming a more efficient, agile and effective team with fresh new agency partnerships, and creating bold new communications and experience, all while realising commercial return and growth.

    Other highlights are delivering record brand strength in the tech company’s four biggest categories, and achieving year-on-year share growth, even during a tumultuous and unpredictable 2020.

    Innovative marketing

    Joining Samsung, Grace says it became quickly evident to him the lack of emotional brand connection and understanding was the biggest growth opportunity.

    “We make unbelievable products, but people don’t love us. We had to invest in brand, yet this felt challenging to a rational, sales-led organisation,” he says. “It was essential to prove that investing in brand delivers ROI.”

    Collaborating with the mobile and consumer electronics divisions, Grace engaged Kantar Millward Brown (KMB) to conduct a brand power study. This incorporated the masterbrand and each of Samsung’s eight key product categories. Results were clear and compelling.

    For example, over the mid-term, every 2 per cent increase in Samsung brand power translates into millions in projected value share growth. In addition, products with stronger masterbrand correlation, such as phones and TVs, grow more proportionally. Strengthening brand correlation for smaller products like home appliances and wearables also amplifies their growth and in return strengthens the masterbrand.

    “And the interconnectivity our product suite is the most compelling and differentiating story to emotionally connect and drive brand power,” Grace says.

    “We took these findings to build an emotionally engaging, local campaign, harnessing our global ‘Do What You Can’t’ brand platform. Our mission was to leverage the combined power of two separate divisions - mobile and consumer electronics - and their incredible portfolio of smart connected products.”  

    The program of work immediately delivered business-wide impact. In the first six months, Samsung significantly grew brand power, despite fluctuations in media investment. It also saw its highest ever competitive brand index scores across its four biggest categories, Grace says.

    Business smarts

    The immediacy of sales levers on driving financial outcomes naturally biases Samsung as an organisation to trusting such sales-driven mechanisms, Grace continues.

    “It is often easier to communicate via excel as numbers translate universally, rather than the ‘emotion’ us marketers bang on about,” he comments. “The marketing industry is its own worst enemy, too. We have created a multitude of confusing metrics, bearing little relativity or correlation with sales.”

    The majority of Samsung’s sales are done through partners, adding further complexity. “We’re unable to close the loop and accurately link marketing impact compared to industries like banks, telcos and supermarkets with full-funnel control,’ Grace says. “It became critical to demystify marketing as a growth mechanism.”

    Grace’s approach has been to drive alignment around delivering consistent market penetration via a simple communications growth formula. This model is built upon the findings of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, summarised by Professor Byron Sharp in his book, How Brands Grow. It incorporates brand goals, measurement and a strategic improvement framework.  

    “Through this approach, we have driven a strategic enhancement program built around business aligned growth priorities. Great progress has been made, with all but two priorities complete,” Grace says. “It’s tied together by a real-time reporting portal, explicitly built to reflect how our business reports sales, or supply chain management.

    “Critically for us, the business better understands marketing’s role and is now pushing us to deliver stronger creativity, while investing above media sufficiency.

    Grace’s proof of concept was around showing how rebalancing media investment to TV would drive impact through stronger emotional storytelling and creative punch, provide most cost-effective mass research in Australia and increased share of voice, and stronger message impact over large format screens.

    Accordingly, in 2019, the local team increased TV/BVOD spend. Compared to 2018, for the 12 months ending March 2020 and excluding COVID-19 spike, Samsung Australia doubled its share of voice and demonstrated lifts in both its branded search and AV sales indexing.

    Data-driven approach

    Data continues to be key to how Grace builds marketing’s might. An audit of data and insights infrastructure revealed that while Samsung has lots of data, there was plenty of scope to build more actionable insight.

    For example, five years of significant research investment was hidden in countless reports, local versus regional and global approaches didn’t always line up, and there was inconsistent customer segment and targeting approach.

    “In two years, we have delivered a customer first, insight-led transformation of Samsung marketing,” Grace says.

    As an example of data in action, he points to the portfolio brand study, which showed increasing masterbrand power by 2 per cent would deliver massive incremental value across Samsung’s product categories.

    “Our brand power framework enabled us to create a portfolio go-to-market strategy, contributing to dominant increases in product level brand competitiveness,” Grace says.

    Actioning data has also been vital as part of the ‘One Samsung Segmentation’ program of work. Incredibly, Australia is the first Samsung subsidiary to execute a cross-category segmentation.

    Nature Research’s 8000 sample quant study, paired with qualitative and ethnographic deep-dives, turbocharged customer understanding, further lifting marketing’s game, Grace says. Integrating quantitative segmentation into Roy Morgan, via a sophisticated algorithm, has enabled data-driven implementation of all paid media from H2 2020.

    “We have also built a mechanism to connect the segmentation to our SCV,” he says.

    In addition, Grace and his team have been designing, prototyping and deploying a proprietary customer data platform (CDP) as part of work to build out a single customer view. This unifies multiple data sets, matching millions of customer records to create an actionable data-driven CRM platform. Overnight, audience addressability improved more than two-fold, he says.

    Democratising insights is another priority and to do this, Grace has disseminated all proprietary research into Divisional Insight ‘Bibles’. “Marketers and our agency partners now have a powerful single source of truth, elevating critical insights that inform every key activity for 2020 onwards,” he says.

    Then there’s real-time reporting dashboards. “We delivered live campaign dashboards servicing every product and specialty [above-the-line, digital, social, CRM, Web]. Critically, the next phase will incorporate earned media,” Grace says.

    Customer-led thinking

    To extend Samsung’s access to customer insights, Grace has ensured Australia was the first Samsung subsidiary to implement the Medallia voice of customer platform two years ago.

    “Our CX journey commenced, enlightened by the customer insight the platform quickly generated,” he says. “Since inception, over 15 core changes have been made to Samsung’s Mobile business operations. The combined efforts of our business and service teams has yielded double-digit increases to our mobile NPS. Similar gains have been achieved with Consumer Electronics.”

    One such example delivered in Q4 2019 was for around Samsung’s mobile phone repair service. “Qualitative interviews with both customers and staff revealed many problems could be solved before people came to store,” Grace says. “We completely redesigned our end-to-end experience, overcoming many global system, policy and structural challenges.”

    The overhaul improved Mobile Retail Service NPS significantly within the first three months and in the process helped the brand retain more customers, lower the cost to service and improve store operational efficiency.

    Grace also points to increasingly positive verbatims including quotes like: ‘It was easy to book online, 2 days to fix everything was a lot less time than expected’.


    As COVID-19 escalated, it reinforced the merit of Samsung Australia’s evolving marketing growth model, Grace says.

    Firstly, our unified group agency model commencing January 2020 delivered a windfall by enabling creative adaptability, new-found data precision and extracting greater media value than ever before,” he says.

    This approach sees Samsung retain a group agency of record, uniting creative storytelling and customer contact strategies across disparate teams. A new team with specialist expertise replaced the former agency village, reuniting creative, media and data. And two local divisions - local and global procurement – were aligned with regional and global marketing teams.

    Four driving principles were then instilled: Enterprise scale agility including a co-created remuneration model; an emphasis on mutually beneficial growth; consistent quality; and trust through transparency.

    This new agency model greatly improved year-on-year ESOV, Grace says. This was evidenced by Samsung’s mobile category SOV dominance improving from 1/6 months in 2019, to 3/6 months in 1H 2020.

    As more Australians went into lockdown, Samsung pivoted to expand usage and occasions through its new Lifestyle range, and launched customer benefit-led communications around live, entertain and work from home. While AV branded search grew 50 per cent, Lifestyle TV exploded to capture 63 per cent of all volume, Grace says.

    Portfolio distinctiveness then became a critical focus to improve creative ‘purchase intent’ and build masterbrand power. “Our business has come together to champion a new and distinctive portfolio branding approach to enhance creative efficacy in 2H 2020 and beyond,” Grace says.

    At a much more tactical level, Grace and his team had to rethink the Galaxy S20 launch as COVID decimated Australia’s media industry right before the product launch. To do this, marketing turned paid media into earned media by incorporating a microcode into every single launch ad across TV, out-of-home, digital and social media.

    “This perfectly amplified our 100X zoom USP: Find one and win a free Galaxy S20,” Grace says. Microcodes is quantitatively proven to deliver incremental revenue and has been nominated for five Australian Effie Awards.

    “But most importantly, team has been essential in these times to keep people connected, motivated and sane,” Grace adds. “Fear has been rife. My direct reports are maintaining daily team calls; we all play Zoom trivia on Fridays and I am meeting one-on-one with every employee on a rotating basis.”

    Share this article