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Understanding the South Korean Market : Influencers


Korean Influencer Marketing
Understanding the South Korean Market : Influencer

 

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Introduction

In South Korea, the digital media realm thrives, as nearly the entire population of the country consumes digital media daily. The vibrant and dynamic landscape is marked by a diverse array of platforms and apps that cater to both international and local audiences.


These platforms, from globally recognized giants like Instagram and YouTube to locally popular services like Kakao and Naver, form the backbone of Korea’s unique social media ecosystem. Each platform cultivates a distinct type of influencer, whose content and audience are tuned to the specific nature of its medium. 


Understanding the variety of influencers across these platforms is crucial for any brand looking to enter the Korean market. Influencers in Korea exist in a wide range of industries, from beauty and lifestyle to fitness and technology. Each type of influencer shapes trends within their industry and plays a significant role in affecting consumer behavior and brand perception.


The influencer marketing industry in Korea is continually evolving. With a population that is very technologically advanced and digitally connected, influencers are essential in connecting brands and consumers. With the growth of social media platforms, there has been increasing trust between audiences and influencers, as consistent viewership cultivates loyalty. From a digital marketing standpoint, tapping into this realm of influencers requires a deep understanding of the role influencers play in the market. 





Since 2017, the global influencer market size has been on a steady increase, and it is projected to continue increasing throughout 2027. There also is a projection of increased budget and spending allocated to influencer marketing, implying the importance of influencer marketing in Korea.


Given that influencer marketing and digital marketing as a whole are continually growing, it is important to understand how to navigate the influencer realm.



 

Different Types of Influencers by Platform


The most significant key point is that different kinds of influencers have different kinds of audiences, targets, and purposes. We can further explore this below by analyzing the top 3 influencer platforms in South Korea currently.


Instagram

  • Goal: Brand visibility and interaction

  • Specialty: Wide range of influencers (micro, macro, mega)

  • Content Form: Reels, stories, IGTV, posts

  • Content Type: Short, concise reviews; product-placement; photo-only content

  • Target Audience: Millennials and Gen Z

  • Price Range: Low-mid

Naver

  • Goal: Discoverability through target keywords on Naver SERP

  • Specialty: Blogs have longer life-span than social media posts

  • Content Form: Blogs

  • Content Type: Detailed, lengthy written reviews and recounts of personal experiences

  • Target Audience: Wide range of age groups

  • Price Range: Low-mid

YouTube

  • Goal: Interactions with high levels of audience trust

  • Specialty: Monetization and precise tracking/analytics

  • Content Form: Long-form videos, YT Shorts

  • Content Type: Detailed product reviews, tutorials, unboxings; vlogs, live streams

  • Target Audience: Teens to 60+ y.o.

  • Price Range: Mid-high


With an understanding of each platform and the goals that they achieve, the next important factor determines how Koreans think of different kinds of advertisements included in content made by influencers.



 

What exactly do Koreans think about Influencer Ad Content?



Koreans’ opinions on content that contains paid advertisements by influencers varies based on their knowledge of if the content includes an ad. Over half of content consuming Koreans check to see if there are paid ads included in the content as well as do not mind the advertisement as long as it is labeled properly. This suggests that Koreans prefer honesty and do not appreciate advertisements “hidden” within content.  



In terms of product advertisement, approximately over one third of Koreans will go through with purchasing products after seeing influencers talk about and promote them. This can be broken down into different age groups, as each age range acts upon influencer product advertisements differently. While some may believe that influencer marketing is only effective for younger audiences, as we can see below, this is not the case for Korea. Influencer marketing is effective for a wide range of consumers – specifically, consumers ranging from teenagers to Koreans in their 50s have all made at least one purchase from influencer product advertisements, if not a number of times more. 


It is evident that influencer marketing does in fact have an effect on consumers and their purchases, and furthermore, there are different factors of advertisement content that lead to higher purchasing rates than others.



 

Factors of Influencer Ad Content that Lead to Purchasing


There are many reasons why Korean consumers will go through with purchasing a product advertised by an influencer. It is important to be aware of the top factors that contribute to this in order to benefit and maximize your company’s influencer-audience reach.



The top most contributing factor is coverage – Koreans most appreciate when influencers talk about and describe in detail the product’s features and benefits. Following this factor is influencer deals and discounts – Koreans like to purchase when they are able to buy the product at a lower price due to a deal from purchasing through the influencer. Other important factors include high trust in the influencer and trendiness of the product.


By observing the top most influential factors of product advertisements, ads can be created and well-crafted for specific audiences and for maximizing purchasing rates.



 

Influencer Marketing Success Stories: Case Studies & Examples


To better understand the influencer marketing realm in Korea, the following are tangible examples of the great effects influencer advertising can have. These cases are from various industries within Korea, as well as various collaboration strategies that have all been proven effective.



 

Case Study 1 : Affiliates, Ambassadors, and Two-Way Communication

  • Industry: Fashion industry

  • Brand & influencer: W Concept & @hyunz00 on Instagram (113k followers)


Example of how influencers taking on the role of brand affiliates or ambassadors can further expand audiences and potential consumers for the brand. Having an influencer in part be the “face” of the brand can strongly help brand image. Audience loyalty can carry over seamlessly. This allows for two-way communication, meaning free-flowing communication between influencers and consumers.


This provides crucial consumer feedback for the brand. Creates a strong association between the influencer and the brand/products. @hyunz00 is a fashion influencer who has a partnership with W Concept, a Korean electronic commerce retail company. @hyunz00 has a short-form content series with W Concept on their Instagram, where she produces interactive content. This brings W Concept to the attention of her pre-existing audience, creating more traffic on W Concept’s Instagram.



 

Case Study 2 : Product Development Collaborations

  • Industry: Beauty industry

  • Brand & Influencer: FILLIMILLI & LeoJ Makeup on YouTube (1.3 million subscribers)


Example of how influencers can collaborate with brands to create their own product.

LeoJ created a makeup brush with FILLIMILLI. This is a mutually beneficial collaboration, as FILLIMILLI consumers can discover LeoJ as a makeup YouTuber, and LeoJ fans can discover FILLIMILLI as a makeup brand.


Brands can collaborate with influencers in this way in order to benefit both parties.

Additionally, working with a well-liked influencer can improve brand image, brand awareness, as well as brand recognition if the relationship is strong enough. A total of 27,000 units were sold on the day of pre-launch alone, achieving sales of 600 million won (440K USD).



 

Case Study 3 : Sponsorships and Celebrity Appearances

  • Industry: Food industry / Entertainment industry

  • Brand & Influencer: Eclipse Plus & 조현아의 목요일 밤 (647k subscribers)


Example of product placement and brand-influencer association. Jo Hyun Ah is a singer who hosts her own casual talk show on YouTube. She very frequently has guest stars on the show who are popular and famous singers and celebrities.


She has a partnership with Eclipse Plus, the mint/gum company. Her talk show always includes drinking and eating with the guest stars, and so she naturally introduces Eclipse Plus, talking about how it is a great product for when she wants to feel refreshed, particularly before she sings or exercises. She frequently has many Eclipse Plus packages presented on her table during her talk shows.


This increases brand awareness, as the audiences of these videos are not only limited to fans and viewers of Jo Hyun Ah, but also fans of the guest star singers who appear on the show. This expands Eclipse Plus’s potential consumer pool as it places the product in front of significantly more eyes of Korean consumers.


 

Conclusion

Proper knowledge of influencers and platforms can greatly affect your brand image and recognition, and boost sales. As a brand, it is crucial to choose wisely what kind of influencer to work with, as this can significantly contribute to your brand entering into the Korean market and ultimately your company’s success.




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