Article from Yonhap News:
SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) — He came; he saw; he horse-danced. But as the worldwide mania surrounding Psy’s super-smash “Gangnam Style” abates, where does Brand Korea go next?
“You can harp on about Psy, or Samsung, or Kim Yu-na,” said Samuel Koo, the chairman of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding. “But what a single person or achievement — be it a Psy or a Samsung — does is whet the appetite.”
With the global appetite for Korean culture and exports expanding, branding experts, while acknowledging Psy’s extraordinary impact on raising Korea’s visibility overseas, say the country has so many arrows in its national quiver that it should not depend upon specific image makers.
“Take (Lionel) Messi and (Diego) Maradona. They make you think Argentina is a great footballing nation,” Koo continued. “But for a national brand, you need more pieces than one.”
Korea certainly boasts an expanding range of “pieces.” It is an export powerhouse and a high-tech leader. It is the home of taekwondo and a highly competent host of global mega-events, from the 1988 Summer Olympics to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. Its cuisine is wooing palates globally, its films are winning international plaudits, and its music and TV offerings have taken Asia by storm.
Given such diversity of appeal, is effective destination branding — the concept of managing global perceptions about a city, province or nation, usually via a campaign of advertisements and public relations — impossible for Korea?
“Unless you are talking about a specific product, normally tourism, then destination branding as a structured campaign is a misnomer,” said Bill Rylance, who ran international public relations for the 1988 Seoul Olympics and now heads Singapore-based PR agency Watatawa.
Most destination branding campaigns are single focus. “Incredible India” and “Malaysia: Truly Asia” are tourism-based, but even the all-inclusive destination brands started with narrow aims: “ILoveNY” was designed to generate pride among New Yorkers at a time of high crime and urban problems, while “Hong Kong: Asia’s World City” originally focused on investment promotion.
“Reputation happens as a result of the many things an organization or country does well, and not because it decides this is how it wants to be seen,” Rylance continued.
Rather than producing marketing campaigns, Koo’s organization is working on a number of reputation-enhancing tactics, including training volunteers for overseas development projects and improving the behavior of Korean tourists overseas.
Koo is particularly keen to turn foreign workers and wives from areas such as China and Southeast, South and Central Asia, and who often encounter prejudice here, into ambassadors for Korea. He advises on visa policy and is working on plans to enable Internet Protocol TV that would enable people from developing nations based in Korea to watch programming from their home countries online.
More strategically, the council enables national brand dialogue, makes recommendations to presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and monitors other agencies’ global marketing, for in addition to Koo’s organization, a dizzying number of bodies promote Korea.
The Korea Overseas Trade Promotion Agency and the Korean International Trade Association push trade and investment. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization are behind tourism, conventions and “hallyu.” The Ministry of Agriculture promotes cuisine. The Korea Overseas Information and Culture Service is the government’s PR voice, while Arirang TV broadcasts foreign-language programming.
On the sub-national level, cities and provinces — notably Seoul, Busan and Incheon — are advertising themselves as tourism or investment destinations via international ad campaigns, and in a country that sometimes seems overly obsessed with the national image, various unofficial bodies are also grabbing a piece of the action.
Corea Image Communications Institute awards people who best promote Korea, Voluntary Association of Network Korea tries to correct misperceptions about Korea through online lobbying and singer Kim Jang-hoon buys global media space running ads asserting the Korean position in disputes with Japan.
Yet Koo, who considers his organization a “bully pulpit” and “watchtower,” does not see his job as dragging these multiple stakeholders under a single, umbrella campaign.
“Are there too many bodies? I think we should let 1,000 flowers bloom and there should be a tacit understanding of the direction we should be traveling in for tourism, IT, conventions and so on,” he said, noting that the “direction” he favors is an image of Korea as both “dynamic” and “caring.”
“It does not all have to be centralized,” he added.
Rylance concurs. “The government’s role should be in smartly supporting how achievements are communicated,” he said. “It needs a creative communications infrastructure in place that can seize opportunities to put what Korea is doing in the news.”
Yet despite the immense resources Korea sinks into national promotion, that infrastructure does not yet exist, and another expert says central government’s best option is to simply get out of the way.
“The best favor the Korean government could do for the country would be to identify strategic sectors and create the necessary regulatory framework, then take a step back and let the private sector do what it does best,” said Mike Breen, the CEO of Seoul-based PR agency Insight Communications.
By Andrew Salmon