Samsung’s annual Galaxy Unpacked events—when the electronics brand unveils its latest products to the industry—are known for being tech spectacles unto themselves.
From a live orchestra at Radio City Music Hall to a flash mob in Times Square to cathedral-like LED screens for its 10th anniversary, the events sometimes require just as much planning and execution as the cutting-edge products they're showcasing. With Galaxy Unpacked 2021, which took place in January, Samsung’s in-house production team was forced to innovate even more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While livestreaming isn’t new for Unpacked, this year’s event went completely virtual with no in-person attendees and was recorded in a studio near Seoul, South Korea. Similar to recent event production practices in the U.S., the Unpacked production process involved rigorous health and safety protocols such as daily health surveys, two temperature checks in order to enter the facility and more.
Plus, all participants were required to wear latex gloves and face shields on top of their face masks. Stringent social distancing practices were also enforced including the rule that all meals needed to be eaten in isolation. Overall, South Korea enforces strict distancing rules, such as a ban on social gatherings of five or more people, and is known for its fastidious tracing of COVID-19 cases.
Among all the necessary newness of 2021 was the return of Unpacked’s famous giant, cube-shaped symbol, which made its debut in 2009 but has been MIA in recent years. Samsung brought the well-known 3D symbol back, serving as a backdrop for the presentations, which included the introduction of the brand’s newest smartphones—the Galaxy S21, S21+ and S21 Ultra 5G.
“We wanted to make sure that we established a clear identity for Unpacked in the virtual event space—similar to how we created a legacy of offline Unpacked events,” explained Mary Lee, who handles marketing for the mobile communications business at Samsung Electronics and has led the production of Unpacked events since the launch of Galaxy S7.
“We used the cube design logo and icon from 2009 to 2014 then changed our invitation strategy to include more teasing elements for what will be presented at Unpacked. However, the cube design remained central to many of our events that followed, including the Galaxy S7 Unpacked, which incorporated the physical unpacking of a cube stage, and the Note8 Unpacked, where we took three sides of a cube to create a three-dimensional space,” Lee said. She added that the brand “wanted to bring back the epic scale and the signature Unpacked identity from offline events, while taking advantage of digital elements of a virtual event.”
The cube may have served as a nod to those IRL events, but Lee explained that the virtual event format does offer advantages including “smoother transitions and visual effects including AR, tightened storytelling and pacing, and incorporating curated content. For example, going virtual allowed us the opportunity to share untold stories and deep dives about the development, engineering and innovation of Samsung products and technology.”
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