Staff Reporters
Sep 3, 2018

Korea's top mobile-friendly brands

In-market experts explain the brands identified in our survey, and add a few of their own choices.

Korea's top mobile-friendly brands

As part of our look at Korea's top brands of 2018, which is part of our Asia’s Top 1000 Brands report, we found that Korea consumers see Samsung, Google and Naver as the top mobile-friendly brands, with Apple, LG, and Daum also rating highly. We asked in-market observers for their insights.

Nielsen’s research shows that the most mobile friendly brands in Korea today are Samsung, Google and Naver (in that order). Do you agree? If so, what could other brands learn from them?

Mike Forster, Geometry Global: Firstly I’m surprised that Kakao is missing from the list as KakaoTalk is the most used Instant Messaging platform.

While Google does well with gmail and YouTube here, I’m surprised that it comes second. It is however undoubtedly growing in influence here with YouTube Red and Google Home both being successfully launched here this year.

Samsung is seen as being very mobile friendly partly because it sells the most mobiles and also because it heavily promotes connected experiences enabled by their smart home devices.

Naver’s “lock-in mobile platform strategy” that offers consumers a huge array of products from a single sign up coupled with the fact that they were the first to tap into mobile apps has benefited them enormously.

SJ Kim, McCann: Samsung and LG have an unrivaled market share in mobile devices, Google in Android OS and video portal (YouTube), and Naver in search portal and media.

But considering mobile friendliness in Korea, we cannot exclude Kakao & SKT. Kakao is a provider of services such as mobile messenger and Kakao story, SKT provides services in mobile network and 11st. All of these companies strive to further enhance their services especially focusing on UX/US, contents, and network optimisation to make it more reliable and sophisticated, thus making it easier and simple for the users.

Kihwan Lee, Grey Group: I agree with the research. What these brands have in common is that they create an ecosystem.

Samsung started its journey of being mobile-friendly with its hardware. Now there is Samsung Pay, a financial service started several years ago which has enabled one to live without a wallet in Korea as long as they carry their Samsung mobile phone. Naver provides various services as a web portal. Google also offers diverse functions. Hence, once a person gets into one of these eco-systems, then there is rarely a reason to leave.

What is critical is to think about how to make consumers stay in the brands’ ecosystem because there are now a lot of substitutes. Brand loyalty has become all important as just the eco-system or platform itself may not be enough of a pull to stay. Brands need to think hard to find ways to prevent consumers’ leaving, which means staying on top of trends and regularly reinventing the product so that consumers don’t lose interest.

Chan Kim, JWT: These top three brands have evolved as the strongest technology brands over a long period. However, in my view a more mobile friendly brand is Daum Kakao, which offers a range of apps covering messaging, navigation, transportation, shopping, banking, gaming and so on. Daum Kakao has managed to align its own brand identity with its platforms. Whatever apps you use, they are consistent in brand tone and manner.

What do you think is the most important thing for a brand to offer in terms of mobile experience? Also, what is most important for them to avoid?

Forster: The most important thing to offer is seamless integration within and across platforms. Korean consumers are notoriously demanding so this is a must. This is a market which loves novelty and trends come and go very quickly but gimmicky tech can kill a product very quickly so must be avoided.

SJ Kim: I would say attractiveness of the service is the most important factor.
The higher the attractiveness, the more users will use the service and not turn away. Attractiveness of a service depends on a number of factors including usefulness, convenience, design and originality. Exposure of unwanted information to customers is also a factor that can impact user engagement.

Lee: The most important thing I would say is it needs to be easy to experience and the brand needs to have an open mind when interacting with consumers so they hear what the consumers are looking for. Consumers can be fickle and can easily move or go off a brand, so they need to listen and convert those ‘wants’ into simple solutions. Brands also need to communicate with consumers. This is the difference when comparing to traditional media which is just more of educating the consumer or making them aware of their product. Nowadays there are plenty of opportunities for the consumers to give their feedback and the importance of this cannot be emphasised enough. With the turnover cycle becoming shorter and shorter, brands really need to consider how to align their values and assets with consumers’ interests.

Chan Kim: Not just to stay within the confines of the mobile format, but to expand the mobile experience into real life.

Which social media platform do you see as the most influential/most important to a brand’s reputation in Korea? Please explain.

Forster: Naver is still the most important platform not least because of its hybrid nature. It continues to dominate in search, blog and community cafes. Brands find banner ads on their main landing page to be very powerful it’s curated, locally-focused news section is very popular too.

Next, I’d rank Facebook. Very targeted ads and editorial.

Third, I’d place KakaoTalk messaging. As mentioned earlier its messenger platform is the most popular due to the ability to add friends automatically and its inbuilt enhanced search and shopping capabilities.

Fourth comes YouTube. Brands are increasingly needing to invest in video content to reach younger consumers here and YouTube has successfully used and encouraged video influencers.

Also worthy of mention is Instagram which is the fastest growing platform in Korea, driven by increased female and younger (under 30) consumer usage. They also introduced “Shopping on Instagram” capability from June this year which has already been taken up by many brands successfully.

SJ Kim: Although there are differences by age group, up to this date, Facebook is the most popular channel used among all ages followed by Instagram rapidly gaining its popularity among people in their 20s-30s. KakaoTalk is also used by all age groups if the scope of SNS is expanded to video and messenger realm.

YouTube is popular among teens as they can watch a variety of content for free with only having to view some advertisements. It is also easy to upload and share content globally.

For people in their 20s and 30s, Facebook and Instagram satisfy the need for expressing and sharing their best days. 

And for people in their 40s and 50s, a closed social network that allows one to share information makes them feel special and thus fosters active engagement.

Lee: YouTube. Of course, many brands are using Facebook and Instagram, and some are using them as well. But a current survey done by Opensurvey ,the mobile research company, shows that the most popular Social Network Service (SNS) in Korea is YouTube with a 27.6% engagement and more importantly it is also the fastest growing SNS in Korea. Having the ability to collaborate with famous YouTubers, brands can deliver their message in a more consumer-friendly way and with a ready-made audience through high ‘follower’ numbers.

Chan Kim: SNS channels can be used differently depended on each brand or target. For example, Facebook is an essential SNS channel as a brand can communicate with consumers in form of text, image, and video. Instagram is suitable for fashion or beauty brands targeting people in their 20 and 30s. Then there is ‘Naver Band’, which is a closed community with a high proportion of users in their 40s and 50s.

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