A BBC article was recently published, “Selling South Korea: No ‘sparkling’ brand image” by Lucy Williamson. It delves into the Korean governments efforts to promote Korea’s brand. Williamson interviews government officials and experts along with inserting her own little analyses here and there.
The article itself reconfirms much of what we have said here (and we’ve been criticized by kimcheerleaders and trolls for saying) and also frustrates us that so much money and energy was wasted and likely still will be wasted by the ajosshis-in-charge. I’ll post some choice quotes, and you tell me if they sound familiar.
Take the slogan “Korea, Sparkling”.
“It doesn’t make any sense because it’s not easy to interpret – what is sparkling? Is it the people? The springs? The brand has to be very easy to understand,” (Dr Charlotte Horlyck, a specialist in Korean art history at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies) said.
In fact, branding often works best when consumers themselves decide what’s iconic
”That’s one key thing we learned about branding Korea: let people outside Korea decide for themselves what they like.”
But according to one insider, the slogans and images for at least one recent government-funded campaign were chosen by a handful of South Korean experts – most of them male, and all of them over 40. Foreign consumers were only asked their opinion after the decision had been made, he said.
You can advertise your country to tourists, he said, but not actively ‘brand’ it. ”Branding is something that happens in the consumer’s mind.”
“Reputation is something you earn, not something you construct.”
(Brand policy advisor Simon Anholt) agreed. “My only criticism is that they’re still constantly publicizing the fact they want a better image,” he said.
”The first rule of propaganda is that, if you’re going to do a number on people, you shouldn’t warn them you’re about to do it.”
I’ve seen this issue come up many times in my work. Often the powers-that-be will choose an English word and decide on a meaning for that word. If the intended audience does not understand the chosen word the same way as those who literally invented a new meaning for it do, then the audience is at fault for “not getting the concept”.