Stories of Korean Brands That Made it Big Abroad
With the rise of kimchi, BTS, and K-dramas, Korean culture has become nearly unavoidable worldwide. While the K-culture phenomenon certainly opens up ripe opportunities for Korean brands, it’s not enough to simply latch yourself onto the K-train. Successful global marketing strategies involve a more methodical approach that spotlights trends while also highlighting the brand identity in a smart and strategic way. Here are some stories of successful Korean brands, and how they got there.
Knowing what makes your brand unique is where it all begins. Knowing who you’re targeting is just as essential. With Korean brands claiming the throne in the global beauty circle, Beauty of Joseon caught sweeping attention with a global marketing strategy spotlighting traditional Korean medicinal ingredients and methods in a nuanced modern way.While aspects of traditional Korean culture and Eastern Medicine presented with difficulties for many Westerners, the brand’s success was owed to its ability to translate the information into modern global skincare speak. Its social media presence is a well-balanced act between bringing light to its historical and cultural roots in Joseon Dynasty while also describing ingredients in a way that’s helpful and understandable to the general public.
While aspects of traditional Korean culture and Eastern Medicine presented with difficulties for many Westerners, the brand’s success was owed to its ability to translate the information into modern global skincare speak. Its social media presence is a well-balanced act between bringing light to its historical and cultural roots in Joseon Dynasty while also describing ingredients in a way that’s helpful and understandable to the general public.
Not only that, but the branding and design stood out among Korean brands, especially by drawing on traditional Korean craftsmanship for packaging inspiration. The Dynasty Sun Kit featured its sun products in a Kyungdae-style vanity, and came wrapped in a Bojagi, both elements lending the audience a way to engage with Korean traditions in a beautiful and approachable way.
Punctuating the brand’s takeoff, global consumers responded to this approach with 15 times the average daily sales on Amazon’s Black Friday in 2022, awarding Beauty of Joseon with 1st and 3rd for its “Clear Rice Sunscreen” in the category of sunscreens and 4th for eye creams for its “Ginseng Eye Cream.” It goes to show, a solid system of branding, messaging, and target audience leads to global marketing strategies that spell success.
Samyang stood out among global marketing strategies with a smart focus on its iconic Buldak noodles. This fiery sensation was punctuated by creating an ultra-branded lifestyle that aligned with its American and Canadian Gen Z target audience. Laying down the base with clear social media style guidelines, BorderX crafted a bold, youthful, exciting, and playful look and feel that was as loud as the Buldak noodles.
The highly branded social media feed consisted of bold typography and colors in static and motion graphic content that often featured the brand mascot, Hochi. The UGC also featured faces that were relatable to the Gen Z target audience, adding to the excitement of the Buldak lifestyle. The tone of voice needed to align with the visual identity as well, using Gen Z lingo in an approachable, fun, and lighthearted way.
Sticking to a clear personality on social media resulted in explosive hype abroad, with an average of 3.67% monthly follower growth rate, and a whopping 20,089 average monthly engagement in the U.S.
The success of CJ CheilJedang’s Bibigo is rooted in knowing its audience while leveraging the spread of Korean brands and foods.
In 2020, the love for Bibigo dumplings had already become pronounced globally, with availability in 70 countries and 1 trillion won ($890 million) in global sales. Part of its success was related to the brand’s efforts to localize the product, matching ingredients to local preferences (a preference for corn in China or for cilantro in the U.S., for example). Along with dumplings, the love and knowledge of Korean food such as kimchi had become more commonplace in many countries around the world.
Bibigo’s global marketing strategy played to and amplified these strengths with a partnership with the Los Angeles Lakers to put Bibigo on the map with the U.S. audience. The messaging around this partnership was simple: the idea of excellence and legacy to bring Bibigo into the fold with the Lakers’ history and lifestyle. And with sports being such a prominent part of American culture, the brand smartly repositioned their dumplings as “new favorite game day snacks.” This messaging was delivered with a look that aligned with the field of sports, using confident soundtracks, and videos that featured quick transitions and exciting visuals.
While Korean brands make big impressions across the globe, attaching the remnants of a culture to every product is simply not enough. Global marketing strategies that are conscious of what make your brand unique are sure to support branding and marketing that will showcase the best of what you have to offer to a global audience.
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