How do you prove to the public that the Galaxy S7 is waterproof? Samsung's strategy is simple: Get one of the most well-known living rappers, Lil Wayne, to show off its smartphones capabilities in the most over-the top way possible.
"One of the things for us as we launched this new campaign was to tell the Samsung brand story in new and humorous ways people can engage with," said Marc Mathieu, chief marketing officer at Samsung Electronics America.
And, the tech brand did just that. In a recent series of commercials for the Galaxy S7, Wayne is seen pouring champagne on the phone and dunking it in a fish tank — all without the phone shorting. A new ad, which was released Wednesday, features the rapper walking around a store dumping a bottle of champagne on the smartphone, then using it for a mobile payment to buy another bottle of bubbly and continuing his antics. Other ads show him testing the Samsung Gear VR goggles with actor Wesley Snipes.
"I was just happy for the opportunity to be there," the Grammy-award winning rapper said of the shoot. "There's a billion people they could pick, and they chose me. I tried to make the most of it."
Mathieu said the idea behind hiring Lil Wayne as a pitchman was simple. The technology company wanted to make waves in pop culture, and the rapper had "a large fan base and broad appeal." Lil Wayne has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and in September 2012 surpassed Elvis Presley as the male artist with the most entries on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. (Only the "Glee" cast has more.)
His ability to poke fun at himself was so well known that when the company's agency Wieden+Kennedy came up with the idea for the campaign, Mathieu said it did so with Lil Wayne specifically in mind.
"We didn't just want to find a way to tap into popular culture, but to create culture. … If you enjoy (the ads), you share it with one another and connect with one another," Mathieu said.
For Lil Wayne, the reason to work with Samsung was much simpler.
"The Nike sign," Wayne said laughing. "That check."
Lil Wayne had previously name dropped Samsung on his song "We Be Steady Mobbin'" featuring Gucci Mane. When the company heard the track, it reached out to work with him.
"It's just perfect timing," Wayne said. "I have this song. Samsung is said in the song. Let's just go with it."
So far, Samsung's strategy of aiming for a viral video instead of just focusing on creating a TV spot seems to be working. The Lil Wayne 30-second commercials on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the GIFs clipped from the ads, have been viewed more than 30 million times on the two platforms, according to the company. On YouTube, the commercials have racked up 11.5 million views, with the "Champagne Calls" spot getting 5.8 million views on its own.
That's not to mention the almost 200,000 shares and retweets the Wayne ads and GIFs have gotten on Facebook and Twitter alone, Samsung added.
Lil Wayne pours champagne on a Samsung Galaxy S7. Photo courtesy of Samsung/Getty Images
To further the partnership, Samsung featured Wayne and rapper 2 Chainz at its Galaxy Life Fest at this year's South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, which also featured performances by Sia, Elle King and The Strokes. A spokesperson mentioned that hip-hop artists tended to be the biggest crowd draws for the brand's previous SXSW events.
A little over a week before the March 12 performance, 2 Chainz released "Collegrove," a collaborative album with Wayne. A widely known dispute between Wayne and his label Cash Money Records has prevented the rapper from releasing the highly anticipated "Tha Carter V." Not only did "Collegrove" mark new — albeit unofficial — music from the rapper, but Samsung underwrote the first live performance from the album, which happened to be the day after the Galaxy S7 launch. One of the songs from the performance, "Gotta Lotta," was taped and aired on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" as well.
"That was our first time ever (performing these songs live)," 2 Chainz said. "Wayne was just saying earlier, we go to the studio every day. We're constantly doing new verses. It's easy for us for our wires to get crossed up. It was fun to get up there today and just shoot for the stars, shoot for the top."
True to form, Wayne poured champagne on a Galaxy S7 phone backstage after the show.
"I hope (my fans) expect the best," the rapper said about his name becoming a brand. "Nothing more, nothing less. I hope they expect the best from me and I work as hard as I can to give them that."