• 10.11.16

Is The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 A Metaphor For America Right Now?

As the company ceases production, the launch ad for the maligned device starring Christoph Waltz was maybe more accurate than we thought.

Is The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 A Metaphor For America Right Now?
[Source Photo: Flickr user Tim Tai]

Back in August, when the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was still shiny and new, and garnering rave reviews, the brand unveiled a clever commercial starring Oscar-winning actor Christoph Waltz as a man who starts out mocking American exceptionalism before becoming so moved by the very traits that have led us to accomplish, that he ends the whole thing wrapping himself in red, white, and blue, and becoming one of us.


With news that now–after multiple recalls and incidents of Galaxy Note 7s bursting into flames around the world–Samsung has ceased production of the device altogether, that ad takes on a completely different tone. On October 4th, Michael Klering of Nicholasville, KY woke up at 4 a.m. to a hissing sound, his bedroom full of smoke, and his recently replaced Note 7 on fire. That hissing sound you hear today is Samsung shares falling 8%, its biggest one-day decline in eight years, dropping the company’s market capitalization by about $17 billion.

According to one estimate in The Wall Street Journal, the potential losses in the fourth quarter alone could reach $2.8 billion. Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Mark Newman told the paper Samsung should even consider ditching the Galaxy Note series altogether, meaning no Galaxy Note 8 next year. “Samsung needs to act swiftly and move on to protect their brand image,” Newman told clients on Tuesday.

Newman’s words will sound familiar to Republicans reflecting on the state of their own party over the last few days. And while Americans–Republican, Democrat, or Independent–would like to believe Waltz’s version of their country as a true representation, many would just as easily apply Newman’s thoughts to America itself after this flaming dumpster fire (maybe filled with Note 7s?) of an election cycle is over.

Back in those wide-eyed, non-flame bursting days of August, Waltz used American ambition as a metaphor for how the Galaxy Note 7 could help us in our ever-increasingly busy lives, but this latest news actually makes that comparison even more apt. Not only for our own day to day–where burnout is a constant topic of conversation–but also for America itself.

Just as Samsung’s rabid zeal to beat what it saw as a dull iPhone may have helped cause its burning battery crisis, perhaps in our mad dash to crown America’s Next Top Politician, we’re playing a bit too fast and loose with some of our own fundamental principles. By spending so much time chasing the next, the fastest, the shiniest, instead of focusing on more crucial issues (like, say, the battery in the proverbial phone) we get a presidential debate mere miles from Ferguson, Missouri, that would rather grab tacky reality TV tactics and locker room talk by the pu**y, than discuss, say, policing issues, racial bias, and racism in law enforcement.

But let’s face it, the British have their condescension, the French and Italians their food, the Germans their precision, Canadians their politeness, but when it comes to the world’s nationalist cliches, America would not be America without its optimism. Something Samsung may take solace in. Sure, the Note 7 controversy will lose the company billions and leave some ash around its brand image, but on the bright side it’s Galaxy S series still outsells the Note by three to one.


So while the 2016 election may be playing the ol’ paper-bag-on-the-porch prank with the country’s reputation, maybe we can be optimistic that in the end it will be full of Galaxy S phones instead of democracy’s version of dogsh*t.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.