In our Marketing Around the World series, we’ll start with the world’s #1, the most innovative economy: South Korea.
Innovations happen around the world every day, so let’s explore and get a taste of the best of the best and what’s happening now and celebrate this month—The Month of Creativity!
Six-time defending champion of its number 1 status from previous years, South Korea remains at the top of the world ranking as the most innovative country*, and its heartbeat is Seoul.
so we visited the most innovative country’s capital, ourselves, to take a first, in-depth look.
We are going to take you through first-hand examples that are probable contributors, with specific focus on Marketing.
Innovation doesn’t come without astounding Research and Development. Here’s a quick recap from @Bloomberg on South Korea.
Consumer Technology: Future is Now
Consumer technology and process: we are talking robots in airports to finding your car apps, delivery services, robot baristas, architecture, seamless customer journey all engineered and designed with customer & user centric marketing to make one experience impressive.
First, let’s talk about these robots (working & effective, not prototypes at an exhibition). As we were at Incheon airport, we walked through the normal security procedures—security, gate, shops—now, just right outside of the shops, there were these shiny white robots moving around slightly, with the major part of their front bodies as a touch screen, where users can click for information about flights, shops around them, and anything pertaining to the airport.
Now let’s talk attention to detail: they even have hearts as eyes to make you feel comfortable, small enough to make them appear approachable, and of course, multi-language functions (which is a no-brainer for a service at an international airport).
Oh, this wasn’t the only hardworking robot we saw: we had one make all kinds of macchiatos and espressos for us. Yes, a robot barista at the Seoul Lotte World Tower (impressive architecture, this tallest tower in S.Korea, alone deserves a whole separate post).
The process is easy and the coffee from this robot barista is ½ the price from the actual barista stand (with human workers) upstairs.
Users order from a touch screen (nothing new here), take a number, then the barista makes your coffee, and you wait (like you do at Starbucks or any other coffee shop) until your number is ready. To collect your coffee (and really your coffee), you just input your assigned number in a pin-code machine, and you grab your coffee & go (as if from a vending machine), but a lot nicer.
How does the robot deal with buildup of orders? Ah ha! Here is the seamless customer journey and engineering. Well, the robot makes the coffee as they come in order, then once it’s finished (it places the ready-to-go coffees on a rotating panel (like the ones you see in these sushi shops), and when the order is ready for pickup, the panel just rotates to the users.
How does the robot keep everything organized and clean? Well, it clearly has an effective process optimization—it cleans while making orders to ensure no spills occurs, it click buttons to ensure the right ingredients go into each cup and it’s behind a beautiful glass dome to ensure it’s safe from users and that no interruption occurs.
Icons & Power of Brands
Kakao Talk—aside from being just a well-known communication app (originally a chat app, messaging application like Facebook messenger, WhatsApp… ), this app has become a main channel and a focus in the daily lives of Koreans. From its own map feature to pay feature (can pay with kakao pay like apple pay), the brand of Kakao has become so huge that you can find its branded characters on nearly any products sold in Korea. Imagine if everyone in one country, city had emoji-branded head to toe, on all belongings…well Kakao Talk managed to create such a life-style brand that you will find many people with their own emojis (different from iphone emoticons) on their bags, nails, coffee cups, etc. Take for example a skincare product such as a facemask, where the characters are embedded into the mask itself, thus while you’re using their chat function, map, and payment, you have one glued to your face during your downtime.
Another software brand Line Friends, with similar type of style and characters dominate the consumer market in S.Korea.
Their characters have become so popular, major flagship stores are found across Seoul and its major malls and high fashion streets, and you’ll find life-size versions sitting on benches, outside of malls and parks.
K-Beauty: Science of Beauty // R&D of products to the Physical Retail Experience
Beauty is inclusive of skincare and cosmetics, but in K-Beauty (Korean Beauty) this goes up another level with heavy focus on science in beauty. The retail, physical brick and mortar experience are astonishing and impressive. Some popular and pioneers making a difference in beauty around the world are Dr. Jart, Laneige, Belif, and Innisfree.
So, we visited the world’s leading K-Beauty brand’s flagship stores, and every flagship came with its very own café and lounge rooms—themes, decorated with atmosphere exactly in line with the brand. You actually start to forget that you’re in a retail store, but feel like Alice in Wonderland—the same feeling you get in Disney World. Completely fascinating and mind-boggling. Here are 3 brands, all in the same & cross sectors, but see how each have a strong brand presence.
Dr. Jart: The K-Beauty that embraces science more than others, especially in their marketing efforts, laboratory-design and inspired flagship store.
Stylenada Hotel: Hotel-inspired (but in reality, it’s not an actual hotel) as in everything is created to in a hotel-theme with floors, completely decked out in its own theme. This concept was founded by a blogger who lived up to the blogs to riches fairytale. Each floor is themed and different types of beauty to apparel products are sold across all 4 floors.
Innisfree: The brand is all about its natural, organic hand-picked sourcing concept for its beauty products—hence a lot of greenery and wood in the shops as foundation but then as you head upstairs, you are in a beautiful café with desserts, VR system, tables to enjoy the greenery. Feels like a forest in a city. The VR system allows visitors to play games and take a dive into a fairy tale world of all things Green.
Cafes and coffee shops // Taste of Marketing
One thing you will not have to ever miss is a coffeeshop—full of beautiful bakeries ( similar to the likes of French bakeries but modernized and developed with Korean pastries) and coffees and Matcha teas of all sorts of shapes, sizes, flavors, looks. The branding and marketing for each coffee shop and bakeries are well defined through their specialties and unique product offerings, and of course, incredible taste!
Art and Fashion Capital:
Seoul is not only the fashion capital of S.Korea but a major fashion capital in the world now. With famous art and fashion brands emerging from Seoul to Paris, London, and New York, the future of fashion is innovated here.
A major fashion area called DDP is a huge hub of fashion (Dongdaemun Design Plaza (동대문디자인플라자)) – where small fashion boutiques operate under designers chasing their big fashion house name to wholesalers who create their own design to sell to neighboring Asian countries, many from China, Hong Kong and Singapore.
As you walk around from 9pm to the early dawn (busy around midnight), you see hardworking designers, manufactures and wholesalers bustling the outside streets and small corners (separated merely by large plaster of walls). Being number 1 doesn’t come without hardwork.
Streetstyle and athleisure wear are extremely popular in Seoul and the city is becoming one of the world’s most important hubs of high-premium and luxury streetwear—some influenced by entertainment such as K-POP.
South Korea also holds the title for the most popular boy band. If you’re looking for good examples of branding and marketing and packaging – K-POP is the place to look for exemplary examples. Individual members are branded so that they encompass various characteristics to appeal to a larger audience rather than niche, at the same time their flawless and perfectly (down to the second) choreographed dances to hit collaborations in the music scene, all create the ultimate music sensation and performances leaving you with pure adrenaline rush. There are roughly 3-4 big entertainment companies and each holding company has tens of KPOP artists produced yearly, and they’re making some major impact and transitions in the music world. TIMES cover article recently featured BTS (a.k.a. Bangtan boys/ Beyond The Scene), the biggest boy band and k-pop icons as the next generation of leaders. The consumer demand for the band is so high, they’ve nearly appeared on every news, media channels in the US and around the world. Their influence is so powerful, they even gave a speech at the U.N.
K-POP and celebrity endorsement and influencers are the big drivers of consumerism in Korea. If a celebrity wears a t-shirt, uses a facemask, eats a certain snack, or wears a certain jewelry, or has a certain haircut, you’ll find the streets full of those exact items or copies of them lined up . At the same time, trends move extremely fast, at the blink of an eye. While it’s impressive and fast-moving, this tends to be highly volatile, creating stress and frustration for producers keeping up with these trends.
The country drives major technology innovation and R&D in fashion, beauty, entertainment and media trends as of today, influencing the world and standing at #1.
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