inWhatLanguage realizes that there are thousands of marketing techniques that show the best way to reach your target customer. But when your marketing needs to go global, these techniques will change significantly. Thankfully, one concept remains the same: knowing your audience. In this blog, we’ll take a look at how to market to a South Korean audience.

Marketing to South Korea

South Korea is a country that is rapidly growing in a variety of industries like technology, fashion, entertainment, and many others. Regardless of the smaller market size population of 51 million, the Korean market is one of the most lucrative in the world. Unlike their complex and conservative neighbors (China and Japan), Korea shares a more westernized market familiar to most United States companies. Their socio-economic view provides more flexible free trade agreement (FTA) opportunities that make marketing easier to navigate and access. However, just because the marketing climate is similar, doesn’t mean there aren’t any challenges.

Large western companies like Walmart, Yahoo, Airbnb, and Google have shared their difficulties when branching into the Korean market. Simply put, the ‘copy and paste’ method will not work here. The atmosphere is too advanced and grows too quickly to let businesses underestimate the uniqueness required to flourish when marketing to a South Korean audience.

Knowing the Market

When planning to enter this market, timing, price, and popularity are everything. The first mistake companies make when looking to branch into the Asian market is assuming that all Asian countries are the same. South Korea is vastly different and does mirror a western approach to consumption. However, there are many unique traits to their spending habits. Korean consumers usually get excited to buy when there are big deals involved. The mentality in South Korea is typically to get the most bang for your buck. Companies like Groupon seem to do well in Korean markets because they constantly show-off deals for services and products around the world.

While Koreans are quick to adopt new trends, the products, and the company, must be popular and recognizable. If this is the case, they don’t mind spending more on products across various industries. There is a concept called FOMO (fear of missing out) that resonates with the vast populous in Korea. Examples of this are mostly in the fashion and technology industry. Korean consumers crave the latest cellphones, automobiles, handbags, and clothing.

Localize—Use Relevant Content in Context

This step is often ignored because it requires the most effort in researching the country’s market. To be clear, simply translating a piece of marketing material isn’t the same as providing localization. Companies get excited when they can add a new language and market to their arsenal. Think of stellar translation as the beginning piece to the marketing puzzle. If you’re going to cut corners to bridging the gap between translation and localization, companies may as well leave their marketing in English.

To localize content properly, foreign brands will need to cater their marketing specifically to Korean consumers. This means developing a strong sensitivity to historical/cultural/political context that is special to South Korea only. Everything within the content of your marketing must be analyzed. The colors, themes, graphics, writing style, models, and overall tone will need to be sifted through to make sure your company doesn’t stick out in a bad way (like a sore thumb).

The easiest changes to make for localizing your content are in the small details like changing up font types and adopting new ways to say things to make sure your message is as clear and effective as possible. Make sure your content is properly placed into context. A helpful tip would be for companies to contact local partners who know the Korean market well enough to review and revise before entering.

Understanding the Korean Language Nuances

When a company localizes its content for the Korean market, it’s important to note that a deep understanding of the language is really important. As an overview, the Korean alphabet is called Hangul (Hangeul). Made up of 24 vowels and consonants, Korean words and phrases are spelled out in blocks by syllables.

Because of the complexity of his language, translating a text from English to Korean without paying attention to correct grammar, spelling, and nuances would cause vast misunderstandings. The Korean language also operates in different speech levels based on formality. Depending on the context, typically companies want to use some level of formality as to not offend anyone, but not be so formal that it sounds dry and unapproachable.

inWhatLanguage Looks at How to Market to a South Korean Audience

Once again, it’s important to strike up relationships with consumers and marketing firms already positioned in Korea before planning out marketing strategies. But before that, the company needs to do the research. Remember that branching into a new country doesn’t mean you can use cookie-cutter marketing techniques that work in Europe, the United States, or even neighboring Asian countries. While it’s definitely a requirement to have a perfect translation, make sure the content is localized for context purposes. An understanding of the Korean language will certainly be of help before deciding what details to change around.

For more information on localizing content for your marketing needs, reach out to inWhatLanguage. Remember, when you start to go global, try your best to sound local.