Seoul introduces public marketing concept into administration, taking first step to raise city’s brand awareness
The competitiveness of a country stems from that of its city. Also, it is not too much to say that the brand value of a country is formed by that of its city. In that context, the role of Seoul City and other metropolitan cities for South Korea’s brand value is quite considerable. As the capital city of Korea, Seoul has played an important role in boosting the nation’s brand awareness. In addition to the role of increasing the nation’s brand recognition, Seoul has been benchmarked by other cities and provinces in managing their brands and making efforts to stand on their own feet. How has Seoul become the top city brand of Korea and grown into a metropolitan city comparable to other major cities in the world?
In the mid-1990s, Seoul City took the first step to increase its brand awareness by applying a concept of public marketing into its city administration. In particular, the city launched a large-scale campaign to raise its international profile in the wake of the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. At the time, the campaign took place under the catchphrase of “Hi-Seoul” for the first time, and the city placed its advertisements in major airports in Tokyo, Beijing, and Hong Kong. Also, Seoul offered support for journalists who came to the city to cover the World Cup and aired a video program introducing the Cheonggyecheon stream, which runs 5.8 kilometers through central Seoul.
In 2006, Seoul City stepped up its efforts to increase the city’s brand recognition, by launching a set of overseas campaigns under the vision of “World’s Top-Class City, Seoul” with two slogans “Refresh your Soul in Seoul” and “Be @ Seoul.” At that time, a survey on the image of Seoul found that the city was mostly viewed as the capital of Korea. For the year, the city started a relatively big ad campaign in Asia and strengthened various marketing activities in Europe to capitalize on the 2006 Germany World Cup. So, 2006 was the first year when Seoul carried out consolidated marketing worldwide.
Another turning point for Seoul’s overseas marketing came in 2007, when the city set a goal of improving its tourism competitiveness and making the city a “clean and attractive city.” In addition, Seoul adopted a new slogan of “Soul of Asia” with the aim of making Seoul a center of Asia. Based on the new initiative, Seoul City mapped out a variety of strategies for public relations to help the city draw more tourists by linking the city’s identity to its brand awareness.
Such efforts have paid off. Since then, the image of Seoul has been changed from a perception that its image lagged behind those of major cities in Japan and China. Also, Seoul’s dynamic image as a “young city” gained appeal from around the world. At the time, Seoul City achieved a goal of making itself a city where traditional and modern culture co-exist by promoting the Korean Wave or “Hallyu” of modern pop culture in collaboration with the central government’s efforts for the Hallyu of traditional Korean culture.
In 2008, Seoul City took a giant step in its overseas marketing by significantly increasing the budget for overseas marketing efforts to 40 billion won (US$35.6 million) from 5.3 billion won in 2007. The sharp rise came as the city judged that boosting tourism in the city would significantly help create jobs and attract foreign currencies. And then, the city launched a campaign to build its unique brand image, compared with those in other cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore. As part of the effort, Seoul City invited the English Premier League football club Manchester United under a sponsorship program. In 2009, Seoul started localizing its overseas marketing campaign by adopting a new slogan of “Infinitely yours, Seoul.” What’s more, the city placed ads on global media companies such as CNN and launched promotional campaigns in online social networking sites to build relationships with people around the globe.
Many experts say the aggressive brand campaigns overseas by Seoul City achieved positive results. According to a survey of 1,600 local people in China, Japan and Thailand, conducted by AC Nielsen, a global marketing research firm, Seoul was selected as the first or second city where they most wanted to visit within a year (second in China, first in Japan, first in Thailand). In particular, most Chinese and Thai people surveyed said they came to like Seoul after watching advertisements for Seoul on television or the Internet. The survey found that 92.8 percent of Chinese people surveyed, 72.2 percent of Japanese people, and 91 percent of Thai people had viewed the ads. In the first 11 months of 2009, the number of foreign tourists visiting Korea surpassed 7 million people, up 14.4 percent from the same period a year ago.