Out-of-the-box: Samsung’s Karthikeya vs. Sony’s Ganesha

Given that ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) is the hottest metric for global companies to go after, both Samsung and Sony have been trying specific things out of their cardboard packaging.

While Samsung’s fun efforts put the onus on the users, Sony’s efforts take the effort on themselves.

Remember the race between Lord Ganesha and Lord Karthikeya for the divine fruit? I was reminded of that when I observed Samsung and Sony’s efforts.

Samsung launched its eco-packaging concept in CES 2020 (January 2020) with The Serif range of TVs. The TVs corrugated cardboard box includes a special dot matrix pattern, a QR code, and instructions to reuse/upcycle the box into useful household items! The launch offered 4 products that can be made: a TV console, a storage box, a magazine rack, and a cat house! It was a smart idea that involved the users in participating in Samsung’s eco-friendly direction.

To bolster this idea and make it more popular, Samsung, in mid-2020, launched a design competition with Dezeen, one of the most influential architecture, interiors and design magazines in the world. The Dezeen x Samsung Out of the Box Competition invited design ideas from participants to explore what more could be made from three of Samsung’s TV boxes – The Frame 75″, The Serif 55″ and The Sero 43″.

The idea produced tons of interesting designs!

The five finalists were announced in September 2020, and the winners were Sarah Willemart and Matthieu Muller from Waterloo, Belgium, for their idea of making three endangered animals to teach children about declining biodiversity: a polar bear made from The Sero box, a rhinoceros made out of The Serif box and a sea turtle made from The Frame box.

Of the five finalists, one was Indian – Mumbai-based Akhil Kumar, who made a basket called Twist (right at the center of the collage above).

Samsung has been expanding on this idea this year too.

For World Environment Day 2021, Samsung went to town with full-page advertisements talking about a fully-functional chair made out of Samsung’s Neo QLED TV box!

Another, more whimsical idea that Samsung launched for the same occasion was in conjunction with Amsterdam-based paper artist AJ Smith a.k.a Papersmith. He created a Small World, an ecosystem of buildings, wildlife, forestry, and people, created entirely out of the brand’s eco-packaging of devices like Samsung’s QLED 4K TV, Galaxy S21 and Galaxy Buds Pro among others. The communications campaign around this and the video below are by Edelman.

Almost all of Samsung’s ideas involve both the company and the user: the company creates eco-friendly packaging and helps users to purposefully upcycle them. But, it is up to the users/customers to decide to choose doing what Samsung asks them. The ideas do look tempting, and kudos to Samsung for being at this task for more than a year.

If Samsung’s ideas remind me of Lord Karthikeya’s around-the-world journey to win the divine fruit, Sony’s idea towards the same purpose seems like Lord Ganesha’s let-me-walk-around-my-parents-thrice technique.

To be fair, Sony’s use isn’t apple-to-apples comparison. Sony does use a lot of recycled plastic in their manufacturing, to be clear – their new products are made with 65% recycled plastic.

But, when it comes to innovating towards eco-friendliness using the products’ cardboard boxes, Sony’s thinking is in a very different direction and it does not involve or expect the users to do anything.

Sony’s SoundBar range consists of a long, bar speaker and a separate box-like subwoofer. Those two shapes don’t complement each other on a shipping pallet and the company was forced to make a much larger, standard box size where 50% of the space was just air or packaging materials!

For this conventional rectangular box, since only 380 boxes could be loaded on a single shipping pallet, the greenhouse gas emissions per box was 14.46kg-CO2.

So, Sony designed a space-saving L-shaped box that created the ability to stack 600 boxes per shipping pallet and helped the company reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 12.34kg-CO2 per box.

See the Ganesha-effect? The goal for both the brands is the same – packaging boxes + sustainability, but they approached the goal from different directions!

But yes – in case of Sony, when the box reaches the buyers’ homes, it would still be wasted.

How would it be if Samsung allowed Sony to use the box upcycle idea and if Sony allowed Samsung to use the L-shaped box idea? 🙂

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