Isabel Han
Jul 24, 2023

You get what you pay for: Why you should select a marketing partner carefully

MediaMonks' Isabel Han delves into what brands should do in the Korean market to aim for digital solutions at a reasonable price and receive the best value for the investment, rather than compromising quality for cost.

You get what you pay for: Why you should select a marketing partner carefully

There’s a Korean proverb—cheap things are like spoiled rice cakes—which translates to “you get what you pay for” in English. This proverb implies that low-priced items may be of inferior quality, as is the case when rice cakes are made with spoiled rice. If a product or service is cheap, its quality may not be comparable to more expensive alternatives.

Ever since the turn of the millennium, South Korea’s IT industry has seen impressive growth with the rise of system integration (SI) specialist companies and a steady surplus of talent. At the same time, as South Korea has evolved into a developed nation, clients and consumers alike now demand the highest global standards when it comes to speed and quality—but they’re not necessarily willing to pay for it. There’s still a lot of reluctance around paying an appropriate price for top-notch digital marketing services like tech support. As such, it’s often the players who offer lower prices that walk away as winners. This has led to a pricing competition that many companies who provide such services struggle with.

However, choosing a cheaper option often means compromising quality for cost—and that’s just one of the key risks. I’m here to tell you that yes, brands should always check the price tag before entering any partnership, but this shouldn’t come at the cost of the quality of a service. Here’s why brands should aim for digital solutions at a reasonable price, and how to find it.

Understanding a complex market

To understand why brands shouldn’t opt for the cheapest partner, we first need to set the scene and discuss current challenges in the Korean market.

First and foremost, the Korean market is highly competitive, as many companies offer similar products and services. In the crowded marketing and advertising space, we see a mix of local emerging agencies, independent players, and big firms which are often part of a holding company—and then there’s us, an integrated digital-first marketing services partner that has created its own lane.

In such an environment, it can be challenging to differentiate yourself from your competitors and clearly communicate the value of your offering. So, many players have resorted to differentiating themselves on the basis of price, lowering their costs—for example by reducing their talent or limiting their services—to get more clients. This can be challenging for those who are looking to make a sale based on the value of their offering, not by price matching. 

Secondly, there’s the challenge of cultural differences. Korean culture puts a strong emphasis on building relationships and trust, which means that brands must invest time and resources in demonstrating their expertise and reliability in order to build relationships with their customers—credibility simply doesn’t come in just a day, you actually have to work for it.

This brings us to a third major challenge: language barriers. In this market, Korean is the primary language, and any player that does not speak the local language may have a hard time communicating with customers and truly understanding their needs. Especially in a complex market like South Korea, where decision-making processes involve many stakeholders and corporate hierarchies are not (yet) a thing of the past, it can be tough to communicate if you don’t know the right words.

Cutting corners isn’t going to get you to your goal faster

Focusing solely on getting a cheap(er) deal can result in several issues. As I’ve already touched on, the main issue is that you run the risk of compromising on quality. In turn, this can lead to a service or product that does not meet expectations, requires frequent revisits or repairs, or needs to be redone or replaced sooner than expected.

A price-focused approach often emphasises short-term savings, which can be detrimental to long-term goals (remember the cultural weight on building trust). In marketing and advertising, true digital or data-driven solutions may require a significant initial investment, but often lead to even more significant long-term benefits in terms of efficiency, customer satisfaction and overall cost savings.

How to find a partner who offers top-notch work at a reasonable price

While the cost is an important consideration when selecting a digital marketing partner, it shouldn’t prevail—value also matters. Here’s how to balance these two.

First up, consider the partner’s level of expertise. One that has more experience and expertise in digital marketing is likely to charge a higher price, but may also be able to deliver more value and achieve better results for your business.

Second, find a partner that practices what they preach, meaning they should be able to provide case studies, references, and data to demonstrate how they provide value. Take time to evaluate their past work and see if and how they have achieved measurable results for other clients.

Third, evaluate the partner’s pricing structure. Whereas some digital marketing services firms offer a flat fee, others may charge hourly rates or project-based fees. Consider which pricing structure works best for your business and whether the partner is transparent and reasonable about their pricing.

Finally, focus on long-term value. While a lower price may seem like a better deal in the short term, it's important to consider the value they can provide in the long run. Look for a partner who can help you develop a digital marketing strategy that aligns with your long-term business goals and is able to deliver sustained value over time.

Before you purchase a rice cake, you want to know what you’re sinking your teeth into—what if it’s made with spoiled rice? Even if the price is low, you wouldn’t want to waste your money. By understanding your preferences, needs and goals, you can make well-informed decisions, including which products to buy or what services to get into. This awareness allows you to strike the right balance between cost and quality, and ensures that you receive the best value for your investment. By carefully considering different factors, you can avoid being swayed by low prices alone—and instead choose an option that is set to provide long-term benefits and satisfaction.

Isabel Han is country head of Data and Digital Media, MediaMonks Korea.

Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

2 hours ago

Agency Report Cards 2023: We grade 31 APAC networks

Campaign Asia-Pacific presents its 21st annual evaluation of APAC agency networks based on their 2023 business performance, innovation, creative output, awards, action on DEI and sustainability, and leadership.

2 hours ago

Not dead yet: Is it time for brands to invest more ...

Age should be seen as a creative asset, not a hindrance to new thinking, Hot Pickle's Rupert Pick writes.

3 hours ago

'We are now a performance business': DoubleVerify's ...

On a recent trip to Singapore to attend Campaign 360, CEO Mark Zagorski spoke to Campaign about the company's expansion into social-media measurement, retail media, and AI plans.

4 hours ago

Toyota set to end $600 million Olympic sponsorship deal

The Japanese giant is seeking to end its nine-year tenure with the Games, after becoming the first automaker in the world to sign a top-tier sponsorship contract in 2015.