To appeal to generation Z, Samsung created a TikTok challenge featuring the music and dancing of K-pop stars BLACKPINK.
The smartphone category had peaked. Sales were stagnant and there was a growing belief that a new generation of high-end smartphone capabilities just didn't justify the cost. Samsung wanted to compete in seven global markets (India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, France, Germany, and the UK), targeting a new audience prioritizing cost — generation Z. However, competitors such as Huawei and Oppo already held more appeal for this audience with affordable devices, rendering Samsung's mid-tier Galaxy A Series phone vulnerable.
The strategic objective was to increase favorability by 25 percent and purchase intent by 10 percent.
Samsung knew that instead of texting or sharing selfies, generation Z was increasingly turning to live video to connect with friends and the world. This meant that they needed a smartphone that could keep up. Samsung's goal was to let them know that its Galaxy A's screen, camera, and battery life were built for their "always-on-social" lifestyle.
A message like this, though, was bound to get lost through traditional media channels. So, Samsung created something that didn't feel like "just another ad." For generation Z to take another look at Samsung, the brand needed to be refreshingly honest with a healthy dose of self-awareness and clearly celebrate the features generation Z needed in a way that felt authentic.
Samsung drew a lesson from Peloton's holiday campaign featuring a husband body-shaming his wife, a marketing snafu that inspired user-generated parodies that will likely live on in infamy. The learning? Even if you don't intend to elicit user-generated content (UGC) for your brand, generation Z will often provide it — shaping the message how they choose and sharing it.
Generation Z likes brands that are honest and authentic and brands that natively help them create amplified versions of themselves. And, at the time, Samsung knew that the newest and fastest growing space in which generation Z wanted to express themselves was TikTok.
Samsung's strategy was to win over generation Z using an approach that prioritized honesty and authenticity. Creatively, this meant developing social content that generation Z wanted to engage with, replicate, and share. Media-wise, this meant being on generation Z's native platforms, where they were turning in growing numbers to express themselves and their creativity.
This led Samsung down the path of turning what older generations call a "jingle" into what TikTokers call a challenge. Specifically, the company created a global TikTok brand challenge supported by an integrated social campaign.
To increase favorability and purchase intent, and get generation Z to look at Samsung again, the brand highlighted three Galaxy A product benefits designed for the TikTok generation: "Awesome Screen. Awesome Camera. Long-Lasting Battery Life." This wasn't just a tagline. It was the chorus to Samsung's original, custom Galaxy A song, music video, and dance routine performed by world-famous K-pop band BLACKPINK, which was featured in the brand's commercials. Catchy and addictive, the song was specifically designed for social video and generation Z's newest platform of choice, TikTok.
This was the first global #challenge campaign TikTok and Samsung had ever activated. With over 20 billion video views and nearly five million pieces of UGC being created, the campaign was a record-breaker and benchmark-setter for Samsung and TikTok.
Overall Campaign Execution:
Mobile was a critical component of this effort. Total campaign spend was $800,000 USD with 90 percent spent on mobile and 10 percent on desktop. (This was tailored to the generation Z target and their significant mobile habits. Studies show that generation Z spends an average of over four hours per day on mobile and unlock their devices an average of 79 times daily.)
Each BLACKPINK member was filmed individually on Galaxy A phones performing the #danceAwesome dance that Samsung created to go with the song. This allowed fans to film their TikTok as a duet with any band member.
Next, the brand created the first official TikTok account for Samsung to house influencer and promotional films. Then Samsung launched its challenge video on TikTok and natively leveraged other social platforms popular with generation Z (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Snap) to promote awareness of the initiative and drive users in-app, bringing scale to the platform. By overlaying demo and interest-based targeting — including K-pop and entertainment passions — Samsung isolated an engaged audience that was most likely to respond.
Then, the brand enlisted global and locally focused influencers to pick up the dance moves, creating and amplifying their own interpretations (which Samsung promoted). Finally, Samsung released a series of how-to dance tutorials on YouTube. Its TikTok challenge and UGC took off as the newest generation Z TikTok dance craze.
The entire social campaign revolved around the "Awesome screen, awesome camera, long-lasting battery life" song and dance. This came to life via mobile, where users weren't only dancing with their favorite K-pop group BLACKPINK; they were engaging with the brand, creating, and sharing an "ad" for the Samsung Galaxy A organically among their peers.
The mobile-first approach was based on the audience, generation Z, being the largest mobile-using generation. Generation Z is different from other generations: they were born when the internet had already come of age and social platforms had become an essential tool. Their mobile device is fundamental to them as a tool for consuming, sharing, and — most importantly for this TikTok campaign — creating video content every day.
In fact, they are three times more likely than older generations to create videos to express their personality and connect with their peers. Samsung's campaign had to live on mobile. And with TikTok emerging as the hottest platform on the planet for this generation, Samsung had to be there too.
As a result of Samsung's campaign, five million pieces of UGC were created and shared using interpretations of the brand's song and dance, all of which touted the Samsung Galaxy A's three main product benefits.
Samsung's hashtag challenge garnered over 20 billion video views (43 percent of which were organic), which made the song about the Galaxy A's features the most played song on the platform for two weeks. All this activity took Samsung from having no TikTok account to having one with 700,000 fans in a week.
The campaign also performed well on other channels. The #danceAwesome challenge received an additional 23 million views across YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram. The #danceAwesome how-to tutorial featuring BLACKPINK'S backup dancers got 1.8 million organic views in less than 10 days, meaning people really wanted to participate. All this engagement led to a 19-fold increase in social conversations about Samsung and a 500 percent lift in Galaxy A Series search volume.
Overall, the campaign exceeded objectives, driving a 35 percent increase in favorability and a 15 percent increase in purchase intent.