Samsung invited K-Pop stars Suga, Stray Kids, and IVE’s Wonyoung to Unpacked. Why didn’t it use them?

Samsung’s Fold and Flip rollout has been a little…messy. The tech giant’s Unpacked event took place in South Korea, its home turf, this year, so its promos have been themed to Korean culture.

Last week, ahead of today’s Unpacked livestream, the tech company invited me to preview their new phones at their New York city pop-up, which opened to the public this morning. Unpacked is taking place in South Korea this year, so the event promised a “K-culture” experience including a manicure and interactive photo booths.

The space was cute but, reader, they manicured a single finger of mine and grabbed the photo booth prints from me before sending me out the door empty-handed (well, except for that one glossy nail). They said they wanted to make sure I didn’t share the photos before the space opened to the public, even though it’s my job to respect embargoes. The best photos I got from the event, ironically, were taken on my iPhone.

The experience felt awkward, like it fell short of its potential. Unpacked felt like that, too.

Marketing for the company’s foldable devices, especially it’s Flip phone, have featured young, bright-eyed Gen-Zers — members of a generation that adores K-pop and is curious about Korean culture. And Samsung invited (and likely paid) a handful of the industry’s top artists to attend Unpacked. But instead of leveraging their immense influence to create social buzz, sell phones, or even to share Korean culture, Samsung left its MVPs on the bench.

Suga in a khaki suit, with the caption

I have some questions, too, Suga.
Credit: Samsung

Take BTS’s Suga, for example. The Seoul-based septet have been Samsung’s most prominent ambassadors for the past several years, hawking BTS-themed phones and earbuds in their signature purple. It made sense that Unpacked opened with a flyover montage of Seoul set to Suga’s hit “Daechwita.” So far, so good.

About 20 minutes into the presentation, they threw to a pre-recorded video of the rapper asking a few basic questions about the Fold. Less than three minutes later, the camera cut to Suga — live and in the flesh — sitting in the front row at Unpacked, flashing a custom Fold emblazoned with “D-Day” (the name of the solo album he released in April). So…why didn’t Samsung just give him a microphone and have him ask the questions live? Why didn’t they have him perform “Daechwita” to open the event? We may never know.

Suga holds up his D-Day phone at the event.

Suga holds up his D-Day phone during the Unpacked livestream.
Credit: Samsung

A screenshot of J-Hope's pre-recorded video during the livestream. He is holding a Samsung Flip.

BTS’s J-Hope also made a sudden, silent appearance in a pre-recorded
Credit: Samsung

It-girl Wonyoung, a member of girl group IVE, attended Unpacked, too. She took selfies with Sydney Sweeney in a pre-planned bit, but was never introduced to the viewing audience. Neither were Brazilian superstar Anitta or TWICE member Jeongyeon, who sat next to Wonyoung and looked on in silence.

Anitta and Wonyoung later posted about the event on their Instagram stories, but Samsung missed out on claiming the cool points that come with having pop’s top talent at your event. Instead, these superstars were simply unnamed women sitting next to Sydney Sweeney.

Sydney Sweeney, Wonyoung, and Anitta, seated in a row. Wonyoung is taking a photo with her phone with the flash on.

Sydney Sweeney, Wonyoung, and Anitta.
Credit: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Behind this group of women was Stray Kids, an eight-member band with the second best-selling K-pop album ever. Beyond a pre-event red carpet photo opp, Samsung made little use of the group’s attendance.

That’s especially frustrating given how much of Unpacked focused on the Flip5 phone’s ability to elevate your creative expression, especially through its front-facing selfie camera. Imagine Stray Kids closing out Unpacked with a high-energy live performance, snapping selfies on Flip5s as they sang (they even have a song called “Cheese,” which would have been perfect). Instead the livestream concluded with a montage of Seoul landmarks set to the tune of Australian band Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition,” a song that is nearly 13 years old.

It’s impossible to quantify just how much money Samsung missed out on by letting these stars sit and watch, instead of playing to their strengths — those hypothetical Stray Kids selfies, for instance, which would have garnered massive engagement when posted on social media.

It’s a pretty silly flub for Samsung especially considering that, just last week, Apple managed to get K-Pop’s most promising new act — NewJeans — to film an entire music video on their iPhone.

Well, there’s always next year.

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