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The time of concept-directing : Concept Marketing

The word ‘emotional’ in Korean is ‘Gamsung (감성)’. ‘Gaemsung (갬성)’ which becomes ‘Gamsong’ is not a  misspelling of ‘Gamsung’, but it is a word that is in common use by consumers who have been making a sort of  self-presentation. Consumers are directing a fun, rare, or empathic concept which they call ‘Gaemsung’. Consumers of 2019 are enthusiastic about their image, want to be changeable, and are consuming concepts, not functions. In this article we will look at what concept marketing is, trends in concept marketing, market changes and future directions.

What is concept marketing?

Concept marketing is not practical, reasonable consumption based on price and quality. It isconsumption that focuses on pleasure and playfulness that  freely expresess the customer’s personality. Concept marketing produces content that can be recognized at a glanceby the digital generation rather than having a story structure of a narrative arc. If the concept is clear, consumers don’t care even if the quality is poor. The primary purpose of the concept is to stand out the most. The ability to grasp the concept that suitsr me and to place the right item, that fits my concept, in the right place has become important. Actually, the original concept has been  used for a long time, but directing the concept is no longer limited to professional creators; it’s also for general consumers.

One reason for the emergence of concept marketing is the floating generation and marginal sensibility.

First, there is a floating generation. Today, IT technology, ultramodern devices and SNS are leading the trend. The floating generation that makes free use of these things is the 10th to 20th generation. The Floating Generation was born between 1995 and 2010, and is commonly referred to as  Generation Z. Because the Floating Generation, the origin of the trend, responds to intuitive and sensual things like videos and images, they put more importance on first impressions, feelings and brand concepts in their consumption. This caused the emergence of concept marketing. Also, products and brands recognized by the Floating Generation have spread to the upper generation, and the Floating Generation serves as an accelerator for consumption. An example of concept marketing in the floating generation is the advertisement ‘Baedal Minjok’. It broke the 15 seconds-long rule, which was the long-standing practice of video advertising. In addition to the 7 seconds-long ad, the 3 seconds-long ad appeared. With the shorter length of advertising, it has become important to be more intuitive, to include only the core. ‘Today’s chicken is good’ was the only advertising copy about the fried chicken from ‘Baedal Minjok (배달의 민족)’ in June 2018. However, three seconds of video footage of freshly fried chicken with sizzling oil maximized the appetite with audiovisual. The advertisement became a hot topic with 4 million views on YouTube alone.

Another reason for the emergence of concept marketing is marginal sensibility. When stimulation is low, it is sensitive to the change of the stimulation level. However, the higher the level of stimulation, the more unresponsive it becomes to change. This phenomenon is called marginal sensitivity reduction. If this phenomenon is applied to consumption, it is easy to recognize that high-quality products are seen as better after the use of low-quality products. However, if high-quality products are already being used,  the use of higher-quality products will not seem significant. This has led consumers to place intuitive concepts at the top of their list of priorities in  markets that are saturated with products of superior quality and functionality. Therefore, the identity of the concept that we want to produce and the brand of the product we wanted to purchase becomes important. With existing use of the newly released mobile phone, people think there is nothing to lose in  quality and nothing to improve. Even when new products are released, consumers do not feel the need to replace them in terms of function. Therefore, companies set the concept as a priority when advertising mobile phones, and apply the advanced function descriptions of mobile phones into the concept. For example, the iPhone has previously only supported one-to-one Face time, or one-to-one video calls. However, in December of 2018, the addition of group FaceTime function naturally was presented as a concept in advertising. In the commercial, the men wearing Elvis Presley's costume indirectly introduced the iPhone's group FaceTime by creating the concept of singing his hit song together in their respective places.

Examples of concept-marketing

There are various fields of concept marketing. The first field I will tell is photography. The first example of photography is Shinsegae Loves Spring Festival. Shinsegae Department Store's headquarters installed a 2,500 blossom Flower Wall on its first floor in March 2018, with the theme of Shinsegae Loves Spring. People had their pictures taken with flower walls in the background. The department store was decorated like a spring garden, its shopping bags are also newly introduced with spring flower designs, and the music from the store is also composed of spring related music. Park Sun-min, a sales strategy manager at Shinsegae Department Store, said “We will give customers visiting the department store a spring feeling and dominate the spring market in advance through variety of events and generous shopping benefits.” This allowed consumers to visit the department store naturally by directly linking marketing to consumers' desire to upload photos to SNS after taking photos with a unique background.

The second example is Sangyeok-dong Photo Studio. While many photo studios close down because of  the spread of smart phones with high-performance cameras, the Sangyeok-dong photo studio is attracting consumers with its unique concept. The Sangyeok-dong Photo Studio is an analogue concept photo studio opened in Sangyeok-dong, Buk-gu, Daegu in 2017. Itssconcept was a retro-wedding photo theme and a theme from the Gyeongseong era, which was enjoyed by young couples and friends. The interior was filled with antique furniture for the Gyeongseong Era, and the retro-wedding set made people feel the atmosphere of an actual 70's wedding hall. Noh Woong-hee, the head of the Sangyeok-dong Photo Studio, said that he was wondering if he could take a different picture. He incorporated the background of his favorite period dramas and movies into his studio. After the opening, the photo studio in Sangyeok-dong opened its second store in Busan with explosive reactions from customers. In addition, in July 2018, he opened a Hongdae Branch in Seoul, reaching a target of around 78 million won through crowdfunding jointly invested by a number of shareholders. In addition to the existing concept, the Sangyeok-dong photo studio plans to make many alternatives available that fit consumers’ tastes, such as adding the drama 'Reply 1988'.
The third example is Tent with Mood light and garland at Han River. As more visitors visit the Han River in spring and fall, tents are actively rented to many visitors. Tent users choose their favorite decorations, such as mood lights and garlands, and it has become popular to decorate their tents according to their own taste. Also, visitors take pictures in the tents and upload them to their SNS. It is popular among young people who decorate tents with colorful mood lights and garlands, bring their laptopsand set up a screen to create a movie theater atmosphere. Tents are used for concept marketing, not just for preventing sunlight and providing a place to sit down.

The second field is advertising, and the first example is Hana Tour. The trend of travel products are also evolving with a concept that takes into account travelers’ tastes or contains empathic stories. In December 2017, Hana Tour put out an ad called "Momma 愛 Discovery (엄마愛발견)," a package with the concept of mother and daughter travel. It is a campaign advertisement designed recently to encourage women in their 20s and 30s to travel abroad with their mothers who are in their 50s and 60s. The campaign presents a true story of a mother and a daughter, a touching story of travel to a strange place, getting closer to each other and discovering things about each other they hadn’t known before. The video exceeded 17.5 million views in November 2018. The concept of expressing sorrow to mothers had a great appeal to daughters who cannot take care of their mothers. As the concept of travel that speaks for traveler’s position is being activated, it can naturally cause publicity among travelers.

The second example is CU. In August 2018, the CU named three cakes using slang ‘Geupsikchae (급식체)’, which refers to the excessive abbreviations used by middle and high school students. It was a marketing campaign that targeted the Floating Generation. CU's cake not only attracted the popularity of the floating generation, but also stimulated curiosity for the 3040 generation,  with a sales volume exceeding 1 million in just three months. The language-play advertising copy was a good way to attract the attention of the floating generation because it was done quickly and sensibly. A CU official said the goal was to catch the eye by using the buzz word among the 1020s, a major consumer of convenience store desserts. In addition he said that the response was so good that there was a proof shot boom occurred on SNS.

Limitations of Concept Marketing
However, there are limitations of concept marketing. The first limitation is controversial advertising phrases. Advertising phrases are used to explain the concept of a product effectively. In some cases, however, focusing only on concept expressions without considering the controversy over advertising phrases can have a negative effect. In October 2017, the company Dove posted a social advertisement on Facebook, which sparked racial controversy. The advertisement said that the black-skinned women took off their black shirts, turning them into white-skinned women in white shirts which are similar with their skin new color. The message Dove tried to convey was that people could be clean by using Dove, but it was criticized as racist advertising. As the criticism intensified, Dove immediately stopped the advertisement and apologized saying they had not been careful about presenting black women. Even if it’s a phrase that reflects the concept of a product well, the controversial advertising phrase may make people’s perception of the product worse.

The second one is Bold Attempt out of traditional Brand Concepts. Companies are striving to expand their brands, but sometimes they fail to try out other concept items away from the brand image they already have. As a case in point, ZIPPO is the leading brand of  lighters in the United States. ZIPPO lighters became popular because is a Benzine lighter that kept burning on even in a strong wind. However, ZIPPO released its women's perfume 'ZIPPO THE WOMAN' in 2016, which was unlike the concept of its own brand. They made lighter-shaped perfume bottles, which failed because of the existing brand concept. The public thought that the perfume would smell more like gasoline than a good scent. Erratic products which have nothing to do with imprinted brand concepts are more likely to confuse consumers and ruin the company’s basic image, so companies should be careful when they makes products.

For a better concept marketing
For better concept marketing, there are some things that companies need to be aware of. First of all, companies need to have accurate concepts with consumer participation. With the advent of the era of producing concepts, precise concepts are needed rather than sloppy marketing. Companies should not aim to create universal products and sell them to as many people as possible, but should have a clear concept for a clear target audience. This is because targeted consumers can get together and develop into a small mania group, and their word of mouth can create a larger market. Also, consumers are no longer passive in accepting products from the market: they actively they choose products that suit their concepts. In response to this phenomenon, Philip Kotler, a management scientist, defined the year 2019 as Market 3.0 , which means that consumers actively create the market. In other words, consumers do not just passively participate in the market, as in Market 1.0 and 2.0 of the past. He insisted that in  Market 3.0, customersshould be moved through communication and participation, as well as meeting customer needs. Also, he said “Especially for those who want to produce their own unique concepts, communication and participation can be an opportunity to increase their brand involvement.” This means that the addition of communication and participation requiresmore time and effort for consumers to get information about the brands when purchasing goods or services. As we can see, it is important to create opportunities for consumers to participate in order to spontaneously recognize the concept that fits one’s own among many concepts.

Second, companies need to have empathic concepts. To maximize Brand conceptual features, empathy with consumers is more important than anything else. What companies should be wary of is that they should not try something completely new or too far beyond the reach of consumers. If companies don't catch a change in consumers' sensitivity and follow the unusual method without understanding the context, companies will be turned away by consumers. This is because a concept is more about emotion than reason, rather than intuition and understanding. According to the theory of behavioral economics 'the theory of choice based on reason', which explains consumer choice, consumers  tend to rationalize their reasons for purchase on their own, and they tend to choose brands that can easily be explained to others. For consumers, the basis of consumption selection is not the low price, not a famous brand, but a feeling, subjective satisfaction, concept and taste, so the concept should be something that can create  empathy.


As consumers increasingly put priority on concepts, concepts are becoming more important criteria than low prices and good performance for consumption. As a result of this trend, a variety of business areas are thriving that cater to the taste of consumers. Companies need to develop a special concept that allows consumers to shine on themselves and to gain empathy with others. This is when the customer's choice depends on concept.

석수연  ssy827@naver.com

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