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Guide to digital marketing in Korea (B2C)

Want to reach South Korean consumers digitally? In Korea, digital is the majority (54%) of advertising in Korea. In 2021, Korean digital advertising had the most revenue with 7.5 trillion won (5.9 billion USD). The total advertising revenue in Korea (Asia’s fourth-largest economy) was 13.99 trillion won (about $11.7 billion), up 20.4 percent from 2020. The contents of this blog posts are: 

  • Platforms
  • Agency
  • Training / Course
  • Jobs
  • Q&A
  • Related posts

Platforms

In Korea the most dominant search engine is Naver and the most used messaging app is KakaoTalk. However, both are much more than just a search engine and messaging app. Besides Naver and KakaoTalk, the most used social media channels in Korea are in the infographic below. 


Now, we will elaborate more on Naver and KakaoTalk. 

Naver

The two most distinctive features of Naver are the following:

  1. Search Engine Results Page (SERP) with a lot of user generated content (UGC) from Naver’s own services like Naver Blog and Naver Cafe. Very often, the Naver algorithm will put Naver Blog / Cafe results above official websites. Other prominent Naver services are Naver News, Shopping and Q&A. An example of a Naver SERP is below. Follow the link to see a screen recording of a Naver SERP: https://punchkorea.com/how-to-do-naver-seo-factors-and-checklists-to-rank-in-korea/

Naver SERP

  1. Brand Search, which is unique to Naver and does not have a Google equivalent. CTR, conversion rate and ROAS can be much higher than other channels. A screenshot of a Brand Search ad is below. 

apple naver brand search

KakaoTalk

Where in most countries the most used messaging app is WhatsApp, in Korea the most dominant messaging app is KakaoTalk. Literally everyone (well, 93% of the population) in Korea uses KakaoTalk, the messaging app. Compared to WhatsApp, KakaoTalk has more to offer to brands to engage their clients and prospects. How can businesses do marketing in Kakao? The tools that organizations use most are Kakao paid ad services and KakaoTalk Channel. 

Advertising in KakaoTalk is very similar to advertising in Meta (Facebook + Instagram). You can make a new ad campaign either by 1) ad type or 2) ad goal. There are also different targets / audiences that you can choose from.

kakaotalk ad types
You could compare Kakao Channel (formerly known as Kakao Plus Friend) with (again) a Facebook Page. Some of the KakaoTalk Channel features are: 

  • Post content with copy, creatives and links
  • Send messages to Channel followers, “Friends” 
  • Chat with prospects (live chat and chatbot also possible)
  • Post 10 FAQs with auto replies
  • Run ads to get more followers
  • Start a shopping channel

A screenshot of a Kakao Channel is below.

kakaotalk channel

Follow the link to find out more about Kakao ads and Kakao Channel: https://punchkorea.com/kakaotalk-ads-channel/

Agency

In order to run ads in Korea, you probably need the help of an agency. What are the biggest ad companies in Korea in terms of revenue? 

Biggest agencies

According to Jobkorea, the top 10 Korean agencies in terms of revenue in 2020 were: 

  1. Cheil Worldwide
  2. Innocean Worldwide
  3. Daehong
  4. HS Ad
  5. SM C&C
  6. Oricom
  7. Nasmedia
  8. Motus
  9. SBS MNC
  10. BGF Networks

All of the biggest 10 ad agencies in Korea are part of so-called “chaebol” or family controlled conglomerates like Samsung, Hyundai or LG. Follow the link to find out to which chaebol each ad agency belongs: https://punchkorea.com/advertising-korea/. Unlike other countries, the so-called “Big Four / Five” ad agencies are not in the Korean top 10. 

What does a digital agency do?

The 8 most common digital marketing agency service are: 

  1. Social media
  2. Content / creative / design
  3. PPC
  4. SEO
  5. Mobile messaging
  6. Influencers / KOL (key opinion leaders)
  7. PR
  8. Email marketing

Follow the link to find out more about the most common digital agency services: https://punchkorea.com/korean-digital-marketing-agency/

Training / Course 

The most common digital ads channels in Korea are Naver and KakaoTalk. However, both Naver and KakaoTalk don’t offer official training courses or certificates (like Google or Meta) to become more experienced in either. However, both online giants have online resources with study materials. But, the training is only available in Korean and not (yet) any other language. Both Naver and Kakao have a business school: https://blog.naver.com/luckeyword / business seminars: https://bizseminar.kakao.com/

Jobs

To get a digital marketing job in Korea, you will need the right visa and to speak Korean. Many Korean companies only hire foreigners with TOPIK level 5, TOPIK is an indication of the applicant’s knowledge of the Korean language skills. Getting a TOPIK level 5 will greatly increase your chances of your future employer sponsoring your working visa. 

Even though Google and Meta are less used, it could still be a good idea to get certified. Because the algorithms of search engines and social media still largely use the same principles. It is also recommendable to read books or listen to podcasts about marketing / business. 

Q&A

How to do marketing / promote a product in Korea? 

  • Find out your competitive advantage, who are your competitors
  • Do market research, find your niche and audience (behavior)
  • Target your niche the right way
  • Craft a compelling appeal to your audience
  • Find the right local partners with native speakers

What are the marketing channels in Korea? The top 4 ads channels and infographic are below:

  • Digital, 7.5 trillion won
  • Broadcast / TV / cable, 4 trillion won
  • Print / newspapers, 1.7 trillion won
  • OOH / traffic, 0.8 trillion won

korea ads channels

Related posts

 

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