With One’s Sights on Young Koreans
That young people are serious customers has been known in the mobile telephone industry of Korea for a long time now. While in the cellphone branch of the state-subsidized mega-concern Samsung the model Anytime has been the leader in the sales group “Adults” for years, Korea’s young people tend to favourize smaller producers like KTF or Pantech. Unimportant? Not at all, for a good 86% of high school kids own a mobile phone but only 72.9% of the population as a whole do. And the tendency is even rising if one includes the 20- to 29-year-old age group of whom 98% own a mobile phone. Winning over Korea’s young people is what it’s about. And, here, the Korean cellphone industry is not alone.
The potential customers of tomorrowFor a good time now even the Korean banks have been trying to get inside the heads of today’s youth. Well within the trend of youth culture, the largest bank in Korea, Kookmin, ran a breakdance competition in September 2006 to which thousands of young people came.
In Korea, breakdance, also known as B-Boying, is more than a dance form which combines acrobatics with hip-hop techniques; it’s “a way of life” with which young people are currently strongly identifying. Dismissed and ridiculed by conservative society, the B-Boying movement began during the Asian Crisis of 1997/98 when young unemployed people got together in tube stations and open areas to pass the time breakdancing. That is why for many young Koreans B-Boying is a form of youth culture protest in the best sense of the word in which they differentiate themselves from conservative society.
Whereas the sponsoring of B-Boy events is relatively limited, the marketing of StarCraft, a computer real-time strategy game, breaks all records. And here too the principle applies: win over Korea’s young people – the potential customers of tomorrow. Korea’s Number 1 cellphone provider SK Telecom which has its own StarCraft Professional League is certainly not going to miss establishing contact to modern youth cultures. StarCraft is played in public competitions in Korea because of its great popularity. Here highly styled professional players who enjoy pop status in Korea compete against one another. During their performances, every move of the players is greeted with frantic screams from their (mainly female) fans. The euphoria is so great that it is surely only a matter of time before individual players, entire competition groups, “trainers” and PR specialists will be able to earn their complete living from public StarCraft battles.
They meet in cyberspaceThe influence of young people in Korea is even more extreme when one immerses oneself in the sphere of the internet. The absolute blockbuster here is the Korean phenomenon CyWorld (“Cy” means “relationship”), an interactive blog and homepage system that can be transformed into a virtual living space. The users visit each other on their “minihompys” (a Korean expression for “mini-homepage”), leave comments and exchange photos. While the homepage itself is free-of-charge, one pays for animations, graphics and music. “Welcome songs” for example that play when you enter a mini-homepage are an absolute “must” with the young people. After all it is good for one’s status to have the most recent and coolest songs which are available for 40 cents each. CyWorld sells 6 million songs per month. Of the 30% of users active in “Cy”, young people constitute 90%. Hence it is easy to see what profit margins can be achieved in cross marketing – and that one wants to achieve. In order to reach the remaining 10% in CyWorld, mobile phone providers are wooing them with adverts, vouchers and other “gifts”. These turn up – you guessed it! – directly on one’s mobile phone. Aggressive youth marketing. Everything else is completely out.
is a second-generation South Korean. She was born and grew up in Hamburg and studied music and theory of music there.
Translation: Moira Davidson-Seger
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
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