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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

LG Admits Defeat with New Branding Campaign

Hiya sports fans! We're back after a long hiatus. Sorry for being gone, I'm sure we were missed.

Today comes news that LG, Korean maker of just about everything (a chaebol that has department stores, mini-marts, chemical companies and of course a consumer electronics division) has finally acknowledged that it can't compete with the likes of Sony or Samsung. At the same time, they've given up on trying to market their products as being technologically sound, decent or even remotely non-crappy. That's right, LG has decided to don the velvet sweatpants ("You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world 'I give up.'") and launch a $100 million "emotional" branding campaign.

Said an LG spokesman:
“Although we don’t spend as much as Samsung or have the brand heritage that Sony has, there is a good opportunity for the LG brand,” he said. “We are addressing the market with a different strategy with an emotional approach, instead of focusing on picture quality or this function or that function.”
So there you have it, global business as an exercise in low self-esteem. Based on my experience back in the day at LG's Seoul HQ, this isn't surprising. This type of thinking is inherent in the business culture of  a Korean chaebol. Remember also, this is a country where Samsung is spoken of in reverent tones usually reserved for the almighty and they can basically do no wrong. The mid-level suits at the other companies such as LG go through their lives with a serious "second-class citizen" mentality due to never having made it into the ranks of the Samsung elite.

In the new "campaign," LG will talk about "‘Life’s Good’, freedom and infinite possibilities, all those kind of emotional attributes, for a broad range of products.”

This "emotional" approach may work for an established company that already has a brand image and solid profile (in the rest of the world, not just Korea), like a Coke or a BMW. Will it work in the outside world (read: the intended real market for such a campaign) where we don't have much of an idea, image or brand consciousness of LG at all?

Perhaps the bulk of the $100 million will be spent at home in Korea where the company leadership will see the branding everywhere and assume the campaign is working and LG's image has changed (the Westmoreland-in-Saigon form of blinkered leadership). Anyway, that really is not much money for a company that sells its products in 90 countries. How much impact will the velvet sweatpants campaign really have anywhere?

Thanks for reading.
Jonathan Gardner

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