Week 13: Rebuttal – Kim Nayeon, Kim Min-jung

A part of Korean culture the other group proposed to promote was soju. They were targeting Germany, where drinking beer is casual and a part of everyday lifestyle. They proposed that they will lower the alcohol content of soju, which is normally between 18 to 21, for German customers who are used to drinking beer, which has much lower alcohol content. They also stated that they will sell soju with various flavors such as grapefruit, pomegranate, blueberry and so on in order to appeal to the Western customers. The last point they made was about somaek, the mix of soju and beer.

One strong point of their strategy is that they planned to sell the kind of soju with various flavors. Such drinks are largely famous among relatively younger customers, mostly in their 20s and 30s because the flavor is similar to that of cocktail and they can drink it casually with its lower alcohol content. Furthermore, since Germany is an alcohol-friendly culture, it would be easy to raise sales if the marketing strategies suit the culture properly. Germany is also the mother country of beer, and it would be helpful to introduce Korean somaek culture.

However, their proposal has certain shortcomings. For one, the alcohol percentage may be too high for Germans even if they lower it. Beer contains about five to six percent of alcohol in it, which makes it a casual drink. Compared to this, the traditional hand-crafted type of soju-current ones are diluted- contains 45 percent of alcohol, and if they lower the alcohol content too much, soju might lose its own identity. Also the marketing strategy they suggested, to hold a tasting event may not be suitable. Beer in German culture is more like water in other countries. The beer drinking culture could be traced back to 11th century, when hygiene was of great importance in human health. The medical expert in 11th century Germany, Hildegard of Bingen, said drink beer instead of water, according to many sources. Meanwhile, soju in Korea is more like a drink that people consume to be drunk, or for the effects that alcohol brings to human body. Plus, soju is a still drink, compared to beer which is a sparkling one. The taste is completely different, and it is not certain whether soju would satisfy German taste. Another defect in their strategy is that it is hard to define whether soju is Korean or not according to their proposal. For instance, printing out Korean letters on the labels of the bottles would have helped the customers to recognize that it is Korean-made. Many Korean brands such as Samsung or LG were taken as Japanese brands in the Western societies, even though it is said that they intended this because of the sales and image-making. In this case, they should have covered this because they are not selling a product, but culture here. For instance, the label ‘Sunhari (순하리)’ may seem cute in the eyes of foreigners, as some data suggested that the favorite Korean letter among foreigners was ‘ㅎ’.

To be successful in German market, they need to identify customers` needs and anticipations. Even if some say that Korean culture is well-known compared to the past, Europe is still not the case. Therefore, it is the key to raise awareness that Soju is a Korean product. There are some ways that they can verify people`s awareness of Korea. First is to conduct some surveys with a few simple questions. However, they need to be careful when they make questions. Giving out the questionnaires to the customers when purchasing is so obvious that respondents will notice the intention of the questioner. Thus the questions could manipulate the result of the survey. They also have to establish a strategy to lead soju to success while letting people recognize soju as a Korean drink. One of the most effective ways to measure demands is to participate in an exhibition. They could find out how many people recognize Soju as a Korean culture as well as promoting their products. In addition, various people visit exhibition not only ordinary people but also experts. It means that Soju can be accurately evaluated by experts and actively receive feedback from customers` point of view.

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