Eric Kim

Executive vice president, Samsung Corporation

Nationality: American.

Born: 1954, in Korea.

Education: Harvey Mudd College, BS; University of California–Los Angeles, MS; Harvard, MBA.

Family: Married (wife's name unknown); children: two.

Career: Lotus Development Corporation, general manager; Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, chief technology officer; Pilot Software, president and chief executive officer; Spencer Trask Software Group, venture capitalist and chief executive officer; Samsung Corporation, 1999–, executive vice president.

Address: Taepyung-ro Building, 310 Taepyung-ro 2-ka, Chung-ku, Seoul, South Korea;

■ Eric Kim was already an accomplished businessman when he joined Samsung in 1999. Thanks to his marketing strategies and creativity, he transformed Samsung from just another Asian electronics off-brand to an impressive household name—doubling U.S. profits and brand value for the company in less than three years. After partnering with Sprint PCS, Napster, and Warner Brothers, Samsung became one of the world's fastest-growing electronics leaders, recognized as a brand symbol on the cutting edge of technological innovation.


Kim was born in Korea but left at the age of 11 and was reared by his Korean parents in Southern California. He graduated from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, with a BS in physics. After earning his MS in engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles, he went on to get an MBA from Harvard. His considerable knowledge in the areas of software and electronics, combined with advanced finance and marketing skills, gave him an unequivocal advantage in the job market.

He became a general manager for Lotus Development Corporation, a recognized leader in computer software. From there, Kim took the job of chief technology officer at Dun & Bradstreet Corporation and then president and chief executive officer of Pilot Software. Wanting more unbridled freedom for his creative marketing skills, Kim took over as venture capitalist and chief executive officer for Spencer Trask Software Group, a technology-focused venture capital firm in New York.

Around that time (1990s), Samsung had been operating (out of South Korea) for nearly three decades as a behind-the-scenes supplier of computer monitors and semiconductors for large multinational electronics corporations. Even as it ventured into its own products for the end-user market, Samsung had little name recognition of its own and was arguably the biggest consumer electronics manufacturer that consumers had never heard of. According to Kim, that was partly because the company had 55 advertising agencies promoting its products. The challenge was too much for Kim to resist. Having lived the West Coast life, he knew the enormous market potential for some of Samsung's ideas, and marketing was his forte. He later recounted, for Time (November 30, 2002) reporter Donald MacIntyre, how he convinced Samsung that it needed to have a single message: "We were the new kids on the block, and the block was noisy."


In 1999 Kim returned to his homeland, Korea, to become marketing executive vice president for Samsung Electronics Company in Seoul. In addition to his technical skills, his bilingual English and Korean language proficiency clearly gave him an advantage in the worldwide market he wanted to develop. His first big success was talking Samsung into spending $400 million on a worldwide advertising campaign all under one roof—that of Madison Avenue's Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide. The new advertising featured sleek new Samsung products being used by sexy, angelic models in a surreal dreamlike world. The world noticed.

Next, Kim ordered a redesign of the company's Nexio handheld device, also ordering a better screen, keyboard, and wireless lan connection for it. In the United States the average selling price of Samsung phones soon shot ahead of competitor Nokia products. People could use their phones to read and send e-mail, in addition to accessing English/Korean dictionaries, Buddhist songbooks, the Bible, and electronic games, all loaded into the devices' memory banks. Soon Samsung had been transformed from an original equipment manufacturer for use in others' products to a company that proudly developed products bearing its own name.


Another Kim signature strategy was to align Samsung with high-end recognized leaders in the industry. Thanks to his marketing savvy and direct-approach management style, Samsung developed a partnership in the United States with Sprint PCS, with which it coordinated from a design and marketing center in Dallas, Texas. It also partnered with Napster for a flashy new portable music device. In 2003 Samsung announced a groundbreaking global partnership with Warner Brothers, covering worldwide promotional rights to the popular Matrix trilogy.

By the beginning of 2003 Samsung's brand value had doubled, and soon it became the fastest-growing global brand. Kim did not rest on his laurels. He continued to aim for new markets in more high-end distribution channels and to cut the time it took to get new products on the retail shelves worldwide. In the end, Samsung metamorphosed from a brand that one purchased if one could not afford Sony or Toshiba to a brand sought after by global consumers looking for the most stylish and fun models of a variety of products, from cell phones to plasma screen televisions, California-style.

See also entries on The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, Lotus Development Corporation, and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. in International Directory of Company Histories .

sources for further information

MacIntyre, Donald, "2002 Global Influentials: Eric Kim, Marketing Chief of Samsung," Time , November 30, 2002, .

"Samsung and Napster Partner on New Portable Music Device," , September 19, 2003, .

"Samsung Electronics and Warner Bros. Consumer Products Announce Groundbreaking Matrix Partnership," February 6, 2003, .

—Lauri R. Harding

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