David Blecken
Jan 31, 2012

Korean consumers seek guidance and stress removal: Cheil

SEOUL – A new report conducted by Cheil Worldwide into public attitudes to consumption in Korea indicates a trend toward reduced individualism and the search for authoritative ‘guides’ when making decisions.

Cheil: Consumers to depend on trusted brands in 2012
Cheil: Consumers to depend on trusted brands in 2012

The agency’s Annual Consumer Report (ACR) points to a lack of confidence in government and social institutions as a result of the economic uncertainty of the past four years. Conversely, it finds consumers are placing more emphasis on well-known brands that are perceived to be reliable when making shopping decisions.

The study also highlights a degree of ‘social numbness’—a decline in interest and participation in broad social issues such as the welfare system and the division between rich and poor. However, the trend is balanced by a rise in niche interest communities.

A spokesperson from Cheil notes that “ironically, people become even more active when it comes to a few issues directly associated with their own interests”. An example is a recently-formed online plastic surgery community consisting of women in their 20s to 40s that has developed into an activist group opposing the South Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The trend suggests that brands would do well to concentrate on offers related to specific needs rather than building brand image. The perception and requirements of CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities have also evolved: where in 2009 consumers applauded large scale eco-friendly initiatives, the preference now is for cultural or sports-related CSR actions that are of direct benefit to consumers. The agency cites the example of a Korean solar energy company that installed solar mobile phone chargers and refrigerators at popular beach resorts.

In addition, the study shows signs of technology fatigue among consumers. The rate of respondents who expressed enjoyment in using digital gadgets and made full use of smart devices decreased by around 5 and 7 per cent, respectively, compared with the previous year.

Based on the study, Cheil advises companies to offer consumers reassurance by offering guidance and revealing the weaknesses as well as the strengths of their products. In terms of technology, a ‘stress-free’ experience is preferable to detailed explanation of sophisticated technologies.

The report is based on a survey that canvassed 3,800 people across Korea’s six largest cities over a period of four weeks in June 2011.

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