The Need to Unify Korea’s Multiple Brands
Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
Korea’s new ambition to enhance its international positioning has seen the emergence of multiple brands and campaigns. All of which have different strategies, are more or less comprehensible, but share the same target audience and objectives of promoting tourism and improving Korea’s image abroad.
This proliferation of brands is a reflection of a certain ambition and motivation of multiple organisations and institutions seeking more visibility in this overall competition on Korea’s positioning. However, it is also a clear reflection of the ongoing exchanges and review at the national level on Korea’s identity and how to promote it abroad. This reflection and vision-definition process is in fact happening in a very visible way through this proliferation of brands and campaigns centered around Korea. There is therefore a need to coordinate and unify these initiatives in order to define a unique and longer term intra-communication strategy among governments for a stronger more unified positioning of the country.
To illustrate the current situation, we have grouped the main destination branding logos and slogans. We have included Seoul due to the significant importance of the city at the national and international levels. From an external point of view, how many brands are promoting Korea, the city of Seoul or both?
“Korea Inspiring” & the National Branding process
As Cheil Worldwide also noticed during the creation of the new “Korea Inspiring” campaign for Korea Tourism Organization, the message often lacks consistency, even within the same campaign depending on the Media used. Each organization seems to try to promote itself, with its own objectives, egos and stakes. Instead of having different organizations bringing their own expertise and skills to the National Branding effort in a coordinated manner, independent initiatives are taken, often adding confusion and difficulty to the already extremely complex debate.
And therein lies the whole challenge of the National Branding process: it needs to both define and promote Korea’s positioning in a timely manner in order to effectively assert the country’s identity abroad, but also to coordinate with the different stakeholders (governmental institutions, private organizations, advertising agencies, etc.) in a single strategy to ensure the creation of a strong brand and an effective unified international campaign.
The launch of the “Korea Inspiring” campaign seems to be already a step in the right direction, with a coordination and synthesis effort that seemed to have been done within the Korea Tourism Organization. As Cheil Worldwide noted “one of the biggest challenges is to integrate the essence of Korean culture and deliver them in a unified format”. However, a visit to the visitkorea.or.kr website brings questioning regarding the message itself, is it “Korea Inspiring”, “Korea, Be Inspired” or even “Korea, Be !nspired” (the exclamation might add its own problems in terms of clear communication and general understanding among native and non-native speakers).
Still, at the national and international levels, the Visit Korea Year Committee (a private organization, separate from the Korea Tourism Organization, but also under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) seems to have its own objectives and distinct campaign with “2010-2012 Visit Korea Year“, as well as the city of Seoul, with the “2010 Visit Korea Year with Seoul” message among others, and the Presidential Council on Nation Branding with the “Korea Brand / Korea, A Loving Embrace” campaign.
The Need to create a Truly Independent and Representative Council with a Real Power to Act
Competition among different campaigns can be great at an early stage, to make sure that all ideas have a chance to compete and that only the best ones emerge. However, if the competition is uncontrolled among different organizations and the result is multiple campaigns fighting for the same space and objectives, then the whole process can potentially become quite destructive for the image of the country, the city or the organization itself.
This is the reason why we, Branding Korea, strongly believe in the need to create a truly independent and representative council, comprising of representatives of all stakeholders in charge of promoting Korea abroad (starting with all public and governmental institutions in the tourism industry), with a real and responsible power to decide and control all campaigns, brands and operations regarding the promotion of Korea. This Council could be based on or work in conjunction with the Presidential Committee on National Branding, but should have a long term vision and objectives of assembling, relaying, discussing and coordinating all initiatives related to Korea’s image and positioning abroad. Without such a coordinating body, it seems difficult to avoid the creation and multiplication of new brand (and other independent initiatives) which could bring more confusion and contradictions to the national effort taken to establish a clear and strong position of Korea internationally.
This type of Council has been successfully implemented in the past in other countries, like South Africa for example, with the creation of the International Marketing Council of South Africa in 2000. The IMC helped create a mother brand and sought the cooperation of multiple entities and stakeholders in the promotion of the country, to ensure that all international campaigns and sub-brands were consistent with the main nation brand. This process could be successful in Korea as well.