To attract young customers, it's a matter of characters

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To attract young customers, it's a matter of characters

Image of Bang Si-hyuk, HYBE CEO, lies on top of egg tarts sold at HYBE Insight in central Seoul. [JIN MIN-JI]

Image of Bang Si-hyuk, HYBE CEO, lies on top of egg tarts sold at HYBE Insight in central Seoul. [JIN MIN-JI]

 
Companies are creating characters based on their executives in order to drum up business.
 
HYBE, the entertainment company that developed BTS, recently started selling egg tarts decorated with the image of company CEO Bang Si-hyuk, while Shinsegae Group in September introduced a gorilla character that is said by some to resemble Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin.
 
HYBE started selling egg tarts at the opening of HYBE Insight, a cultural complex and museum at company’s Yongsan headquarters in central Seoul on May 14.
 
The egg tart looks similar to an average egg tart commonly seen at bakeries. But on top lies a yellow piece of paper featuring Bang’s face based on a simple drawing by BTS member Jungkook.  
 
HYBE registered the character as a trademark in November.
 
Hybe CEO Bang Si-hyuk [YONHAP]

Hybe CEO Bang Si-hyuk [YONHAP]

 
A total of 500 egg tarts are sold daily. A box containing four tarts costs 9,800 won ($8). An individual can buy up to two boxes at once.  
 
The egg tarts have received attention online, with people sharing their experiences of buying the dessert.  
 
A commenter online warned others on Monday “to go quickly if you want to buy the egg tarts because they can be sold out early.” The commenter said she went there at around 3 p.m. Another person shared a similar experience on Sunday and asked the company “to raise the quantity of egg tarts sold,” adding that the reason she would go to HYBE Insight again would be “for egg tarts.”  
 
In September, Shinsegae Group’s Emart registered a gorilla character JRilla.  
 
JRilla, a Shinsegae Food's gorilla character, with Chung Yong-jin, Shinsegae Group’s Vice Chairman. [YONHAP]

JRilla, a Shinsegae Food's gorilla character, with Chung Yong-jin, Shinsegae Group’s Vice Chairman. [YONHAP]

 
The company said that the character resembles Shinsegae Group Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin.
 
Shinsegae Food, which runs No Brand Burger, now operates the character.
 
JRilla started gaining attention last month when a person dressed up like the character appeared at Incheon SSG Landers Field for a baseball game.  
 
The SSG Landers, formerly the SK Wyverns, is a professional baseball team owned by Emart.
 
Chung denies the resemblance between JRilla and himself, though he earlier posted about the resemblance between him and the character and thousands have posted about the likeness.  
 
One commenter wrote, “You shouldn’t be angry with your twin brother.”
 
Shinegae Food plans to create goods featuring JRilla and develop the character into Kakao Talk emojis.
 
To attract younger customers, “a company first needs to gain their attention by providing entertainment,” said Seo Yong-gu, a professor who teaches business at Sookmyung Women’s University.  
 
“Through character marketing, a company lets consumers experience, have fun and share that personal experience to make them feel like they’re actually communicating with the company,” said Prof. Park Ki-soo, who teaches digital culture and content at Hanyang University. "The company can build a fandom through that process."
 
Kakao’s Ryan is seen as a successful example of a character used for marketing. The charter was introduced in 2016. The company used Ryan, a maneless lion, to promote its business.  
 
BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]
 
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