Marketing lessons that I’ve learnt in Korea

Experience in a foreign country will always leave something to us, whether we like it or not. It gives us another way to look at, think about and do things.

Since I’m leaving South Korea, it’s a good time to reflect on things that I’ve experienced and learnt here.

In the first article, I want to talk about some marketing techniques that Korean companies do extremely well, that we can consider in our own business.

Lesson 1: Appearance is important

At childhood, We got lectured by parents that the inner beauty is more important than outside appearance. At school, we were told the function of a product should be emphasised over its form.

But in Korea, things are ironically different. Everything is judged by its appearance – whether it’s people, fashion, product or food. The look plays an extremely important role for someone or something to be accepted.

cosmetic packages
Packages for cosmetic products

I was quite annoyed by this appearance obsession at first. Slowly I started to see the value in this culture, especially the vital energy it brings to the market.

The appearance of your product gives you unfair advantages in competitions. You might argue that the function and quality are more important, but in many cases, the functionality of a product is very difficult to quantify:
– all the products have acceptable quality but have slightly different functions. ex: cosmetics
– the function of a product is too complicated for a single customer to understand. ex: CRM system

In these cases, customers cannot rely on pure quality comparison to decide. They have to consider more illusory aspects of the product, such as branding, experience, trustfulness. For any of these aspects, the appearance plays a vital role. Design of the package, quality of the catalog, posters, flyers, looks of your website influence how customers would perceive the value of your product, attribute your brand to high-end or lower-end of the market.

Lesson 2: Sell a dream, not a product

Korean drama suddenly stormed the international entertainment market in few years. One of the reasons that people like it is Korean drama is very dream-like. Handsome young man and kind-hearted young lady overcome all the obstacles and emotional moments to come to the happy ending. Everything – settings, lights, fashions and flawless makeups, contributes to the dream.

After I came to Korea, I discovered that the Korean’s dream-making ability is not limited to its dramas.

Entering a cosmetic shop, you instantly feel that you are in the center of beauty palace. It only makes sense to care for beauty. All the colorful boxes and shining bottles call for your attention.

cosmetic store
A cosmetic store featured with pink decoration in South Korea

During weekends, some downtown areas are transformed to paradise for young couples. Hundreds of small coffee shops and western restaurants feature the theme of romance. You’d feel forbade to go there alone.

Korean beef created its image of prestige through great marketing campaigns in grocery stores, restaurants, and TV programs about how local foods are fresh, nutritious and healthy. It only makes sense to feel Korean beef taste better than imported ones.

A typical promotional poster about Korean beef made by Korean beef association

Sell a dream, not a product. By selling a product, you are selling functionalities. by selling a dream, perceived value of your product is beyond the imagination. People are not buying a bottle of lotion, they are buying the expectation of beauty. Young couples don’t go to restaurant for food, they go there for creating a memory.

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