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How to send a drink with your cell phone

June 04,2007
Emoticons used to be text-based but are now used for promotional purposes. Provided by the companies
Emotion icons, or emoticons, previously the truncated jargon of digital gossip, are making their way offline in corporate promotions.
Kim Mi-seon, a 24-year-old employee at a travel agency in Suwon, sent her boyfriend, an office worker at another company, an encouraging instant message with a small emoticon of a vitamin drink. She paid 700 won for the little icon, and her boyfriend exchanged it for a real drink at a nearby convenience store.
Emoticons have evolved from sometimes childish expressions of affection or dismay to a means of real-life gift-giving.
SK Communications, operator of Cyworld, Korea’s largest social networking Web service, began selling these gift-emoticons, called “giftcons,” last December through its instant messenger service NateOn. “Giftcons are so popular about 10,000 are sold on a daily basis,” said spokesman Myung Sung-nam. “We had about 20 different products late last year, but that increased to 45 recently,” he said, noting that ice cream, coffee and health beverages were the most popular items.
The icons are so successful that the company is talking with Microsoft Korea about providing them through MSN Messenger as well.
“Emoticon marketing is a creative idea that suits the Internet age,” said Yoo Pil-hwa, chairman of the Korea Marketing Association. “It still has experimental characteristics because it is in an infant phase, but its influence will grow.”
Toy company Funny Eve made five emoticons for MSN Messenger in February prior to the launch of its new toy, Panda Dog. “We distribute emoticons before the release of a product so that consumers will feel friendly towards the character,” said Ji Soo-yeon, a Funny Eve official.
Kwang Dong Pharm recently followed up its hit Vita 500 emoticons last year with icons for its Corn Silk Tea. The CJ Group has 14 emoticons for its major brands. When users type “drinking” or “company dinner” in the chat bar, a soju bottle will appear or a dancing figure of “Condition,” a hangover drink.
Bayer Korea even released a puppy-shaped emoticon called Dami last month to promote anti-parasite drugs for dogs.


By Song Ji-hye JoongAng Ilbo [wohn@joongang.co.kr]



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