Gendered Tea-drink Advertising in South Korea

Lee Hyori Black Bean Tea(Source)

Granted, Marxism might not be the first thing one thinks of when one sees Lee Hyori’s navel. But as it turns out, it’s a perfect fit.

If you’ll bear with me for a moment, once a market is saturated, I learned at university in New Zealand, there is a inherent tendency for a company’s rate of profit to fall. But this can be offset by re-marketing and/or making new varieties of the original product, and accordingly my lecturer posited the plethora of varieties of Coca-Cola available in the U.S. as a reflection of the greater capitalistic development of its economy (read: saturation of its domestic market) compared to New Zealand’s, which then only had two. Indeed, advertising culture in New Zealand in the late-1990s, he suggested, was only akin to that of the US in the 1950s in its scale and intensity, no matter how brash and “American” New Zealanders regarded it.

It comes as a great surprise then, that even in the U.S. sports drinks are still “wildly skewed towards men”, and only within the last couple of years were drinks developed that took into account their (usually) lower-intensity exercise and dislike of the salty, high-calorie drinks available.

But one seriously wonders if equivalents will ever be available for Korean women. As the following summary of this 2006 study explains:

Diet advertisements in Korean magazines appear to promote more passive dieting methods (e.g., diet pills,aroma therapy, diet crème, or diet drinks) than active dieting methods (e.g., exercise). Results further indicated that women may be misled to believe that dieting is simple,easy, quick, and effective without pain, if they consume the advertised product. This study suggests that there is an urgent need to establish government regulations or policies about diet products and their claims in Korea. Magazine publishers alsoneed to recognize their role in societal well-being and accept some responsibility for advertisements in their magazines.

Korean Diet AdvertismentNaturally, I’ve discussed that study a great deal on the blog (see here for all the links), and it is primarily in that context that I want to examine the burgeoning Korean tea-drink market. But the economics of the industry still matter of course, and so this post is my translation of an article on the subject from the August 2008 edition of IM AD (아이엠애드; Korea’s only remaining advertising magazine), to be used as a resource for that analysis at a later date (or your own).

It’s rather long, so I’ve decided to provide each part in stages over the next week to give readers a better chance to digest them (particularly those interested in the original Korean). As you read this then, I will have just posted part two of three!

블랙빈테라티의 본격 웰빙 마케팅 Full-scale Black Bean Tea Well-being Marketing

음료 시장에서 탄산음료는 서서히 김이 빠지고, 과즙음료는 단맛을 잃었다. 차음료는 백 번을 우려도 남을 만큼 꾸준한 성장을 기록하고 있다. 또 동아오츠카의 블랙빈테라티는 시장에서 검은콩 음료를 새로운 트렌드로 만들어냈다. 그리고 이번에 진행한 온라인 캠페인은 신선한 ‘광고 테라피’라고 불러도 좋다.

While the market for carbonated drinks is slowly losing its fizz over time, and that for fruit drinks is losing its sweetness, the market for tea drinks remains as hot as the first time they are brewed, with the entrance of Donga-Otsuka’s ‘Black Bean Terra’ drink in particular creating a whole new trend. You could call the accompanying online advertisement campaign fresh “Advertisement Therapy” too.

음료 시장의 트랜드 ‘윌빙 + 디이어트’

Drink Market Trends of  “Well-being and Diet”

최근 한국의 음료 시장에는 몇 년 전부터 지속되고 있는 웰빙 트렌드에 맞춰 새로운 브랜드가 끊임없이 등장하고 있다. 소비자의 건강 증시 풍조에 따라 최근 3년간 탄산음료 시장은 6-7%대의 마이너스 성장늘 기록했다. 탄산음료는 2006년 월드컵 특수 등으로 반짝 성장률을 보였지만, 플레이버 음료 및 유성 탄산 브랜드의 매출이 급격히 줄어들면서 현재까지 하향 곡선을 그리고 있다. 과즙음료 또한 2006년 초에 출시된 ‘미녀는 석규를 촣아해’가 인기를 끈 것을 제외하면 대부분 주스 브랜드가 부진에 빠졌다.

Since the beginning of the well-being trend several years ago, new brands taking advantage of it haven’t stopped appearing. In accordance with consumers’ new focus on their health, the consumption of carbonated drinks has decreased 6-7% since 2006, although there was a brief spike in consumption during the 2006 World Cup. The consumption of flavored drinks and milky drinks has shown definite decreases too, and with the exception of the “미녀는 석규를 촣아해” drink popular at the beginning of 2006, the consumption of fruit juice drinks has stagnated.

Black Bean Thera Tea이처럼 대부분의 탄산/과즙음료가 마이너스 곡선을 그렸던 반면, 차 음료는 시장에서 지속적으로 성장하면서 지난해에도 전년 대비 30%에 달하는 신장세를 기록했다. 2000년을 전후로 녹차 제품은 차 음료 시장을 주도하고 있었다. 지나치게 달거나 자극적인 탄산/과즙 음료에 비해 담백한 맛을 지닌 녹차는 고정적인 소비자층을 형성하면서 2004년 당시 차음료 시장의 80%를 차지할 만큼 인기가 높았다. 하지만 녹차가 가진 떫은 맛은 10~20대 소비자들에게 어필하는 데 한계가 있었다. 또한 웰빙은 물론 다이어트와 미용에 관심이 많은 20대 여성이 시장의 핵심 소비자로 떠오르면서 맛과 성분을 개선한 혼합차를 선보이기 시작했다.

Like this, most carbonated and fruit juice drinks have a minus growth curve, but on the other hand the consumption of tea drinks grew by 30% in 2007. Green tea was the most popular tea drink around 2000. Compared to excessively sweet and stimulating carbonated and fruit juice drinks, consumers began to prefer plain green tea drinks and so a market was formed, comprising 80% of the tea-drink market by 2004. But green tea is very astringent, so it had limited appeal to consumers in their teens and 20s. Hence companies have started to develop new, more pleasant blended tea-drinks to be marketed to women in their 20s, who naturally have a lot of interest in dieting and their appearance.

처음 혼합차 시장에서 두각을 나타낸 것은 남양유업의 ‘몸이 가벼워지는 시간 17차’ 였다. 이후 광독제약이 ‘광동 옥수수수염차’를 내놓으면서 경챙은 가열됐고, 현재 옥수수수염 원료 제품만 30여 가지가 넘는다. 한 가지 눈에 띄는 점은 이들 제품의 공통적인 특징이 노화방지와 피부미용 효과가 있는 한약재를 비롯, L-카르티닌 등 지방 연소 기능이 있는 성분을 첨가해 젊은 여성들에게 폭발적인 호응을 얻고 있다는 사실이다. 또 각 업체들은 여성 연예인들 활용한 스타 마케팅에도 공을 들이고 있다. 이들은 전지현 (남양유업), 김태희 (광동제약)와 김아중 (해태음료) 등의 톱 모델을 자사 브랜드 이미지와 접목시켜 여성 소비자들의 구매욕구를 자극하고 있다.

Originally, Namyang’s “Make Your Body Lighter Time 17 Tea” stood out in the blended tea drink market. But a little later, an intense rivalry developed between that and with Gwangdong’s “Gwangdong Corn Cob Roots” drinks, and now there are as many as 30 products with that ingredient on the market. One noticeable point is that all these products contain both some traditional Korean medicine, which helps to prevent aging and maintain skin’s youthful appearance, and also L-Keratin, which helps to burn fat, both of which make these drinks have a very strong appeal to young women. Each company is putting a lot of effort into using famous stars to market their products, such as Jun Ji-hyun for Namyang, Kim Tae Hee for GwangDong, Kim Ah-joong for Haetai, and each hopes to have them and their images firmly associated with their brands by consumers.

독자적인 시장을 형성한 검은콩 음료

A Market for Black Bean Drinks Has Been Formed

외연의 확대는 여기서 그치지 않은다. 지난해부터는 곡물과 한약재 등을 섞은 혼합차 시장에서 검은콩이라는 단일 원료를 부각시킨 제품들이 출시되디 시작했다.

This market has not stopped expanding, and from last year, companies have started developing new blended tea drinks mixed with grains and/or Korean medicinal products. It was in this context that drinks with black beans as the sole ingredient were launched.

지난해 5월 해태음료는 검은콩을 ㅇ뤈료로 한 ‘차온 까만콩차(이하 까만 콩차)’를 선보였다. 한때 일화의 ‘햇살 가득한 까만콩차’가 브랜드명과 용기 디자인 흡사해 미투 (me too) 마케팅 논쟁이 일었을 정도로 검은콩 음료는 단기간에 시장에서 영역을 확장해나갔다.

Jun Ji-hyun Son Dam-bi Tea Advertisments(Source)

The market share of Black Bean drinks has increased rapidly, resulting in many cases of “me too marketing”. Haetai’s “Cha-eon Dark Black Bean Tea” (Dark Bean Tea) for instance, introduced last May, was quickly involved in heated competition with Ilhwa’s similar-sounding “Dark Bean Tea full of Sunshine,” which even had a similar design of bottle too.

까만콩차보다 한 달 앞서 동아오츠카가 론칭한 ‘블랙빈테라티’ 역시 블랙음료 시장을 빠르게 장악했다. 100% 검은콩을 우려냈음을 강조함과 동시에 차카테킨과 L-카르티닌을 함유한 제품 특징으로 기존차 음료의 핵심 타깃인 20 대 여성을 확보한다.

Donga-Otsuka’s “Black Bean Terra Tea” was launched one month before Dark Black Bean Tea, and also quickly established a foothold in the market. It is made entirely of the juices from crushed and squeezed black beans, and its catechin and L-keratin make it especially appealing to its core market of women in their twenties.

사실 무주공산과 다름없던 블랙음료 시장에서 결과적으로 ‘생존’과 ‘성공’을 동시에 달성한 브랜드는 까만콩차와 블랙빈테라티 뿐이라고 할 수 있다. 이 둘은 제품의 내외적인 측면에서 대동소이하면서도 명확한 차이를 보이며 경쟁하고 있다. 까만콩차가 국산 서리태만을 사용하는데 비해 블랙빈테라티 서리태와 서목태를 섞어 맛이 서로 다르다.

Actually, the black bean drink was entirely new, and so the only brands which came to survive and succeed were Dark Black Bean Tea and Black Bean Terra Tea. These two products are very similar, but do have some differences. Dark Black Bean Tea is made from Korean seoritae beans, which are blue inside, while Black Bean Terra Tea is made from seoritae beans and seomogtae (Rhynchosia Nulubilis) beans, and so they taste different.

Ji Hyun-woo Tea또 까만콩차와 영화배우 정우성과 지현우를 CF 모델로 선정해 고정 타깃인 여성뿐 아니라 차 음료시장에서 소외되다시피 했던 남성들을 아울렀던 반면, 블랙빈테라티는 이효리를 브랜드 모델로 선정해 젊은 여성층에게 제품 홍보와 마케팅을 집중시컸던 점 역시 차이를 봉ㄴ다. 물론 오프라인 여역을 토대로 한 무료 시음행사와 가종 이벤트 전략은 두 제품 외에 대부분의 음료 브랜드에서도 볼 수 있는 전통적인 프로모션 형태이다.

Also, Dark Black Bean Tea has used Jung Woo-sung and Ji Hyun-woo (right) in its commercials, indicating that its target consumers are not just women but also men who reject the notion that only women drink tea drinks. On the other hand, Black Bean Terra Tera has used Lee Hyori to market itself exclusively to young women. Of course, just like for other drinks, offline they are also used to market their products in various free-drinking events and so on (end).

보이는 라디오, 끌리는 캠페인

Visual Radio: A Campaign That Draws You In

Lee Hyori Black Bean Tea Online Campaign


이번 블랙빈테라티의 온라인 캠페인 (블랙빈FM 이벤트)은 브랜드 론칭 1년여 만에 처음 진행된 것이다. 이전까지는 웹사이트 내에서의 자체 홍보 외에 TV CF와 오프라인 프로므션 위주로 마케팅을 실시했다. 온라인 캠페인을 담당했던 다츠커뮤니케이션의 허정 대리는 “블랙빈테라티의 경쟁 브랜드는 크게 차 음료와 검은콩 음료로 분류된다. 하지만 17차를 비롯한 대부분이 스타마케팅에 의지해 온라인에서는 이밴트와 제품 자체의 홍보에 주력했다면, 블락빈테라티 캠페인은 코어 타깃은 1929여성들이 즐길 수 있는 다양한 콘텐츠를 만들어 자연스럽게 브랜드 인지도를 높이는 것이 목적”이라고 설명했다.

While the Black Bean Terra Tea drink was launched over a year ago, “this Black Bean FM Event” was the first time it has had a big online campaign; previously, minor website promotions, television commercials, and offline promotions were the main methods of promoting the drink. As Heo-jeong, representative for Dartz Communications (in charge of the online campaign) explained, “Black Bean Thera Tea’s competing brands can be categorized into either tea-drinks or black-bean drinks. But while most (including 17 tea) concentrated their efforts on either star-marketing, online events, and promotions of the products itself, the aim of Black Bean Terra Tea’s campaign was to focus on more varied events, so as to better increase brand awareness among its core target of 19-29 year old women.”

실제로 블랙빈 FM이벤트는 이름에서 드러나듯 라디오 동영상과 CM송을 캠페인의 킬러 콘텐츠로 활용하고 있다. 보이는 라디오는 브랜드 모델인 이효리가 DJ로 출연해 미용과 패션, 다이트 등의 다양한 소재로 진행하는 형식으로 구성돼 있으며, 유저들은 라디오를 ‘시청’하면서 댓글을 등록할 수 있다. 때문에 TV광고 제작 당시에 이미 촬영됐었던 이 영상은 마치 사이트에서 실시간으로 유저들과 대화를 나누는 듯한 인상을 주기도 한다. 허정 대리는 “사이트의 커뮤니케션 콘셉트가 ‘젊은 여성들끼리 수다를 떠는것’이었기 때문에 그들의 주된 관심사를 이효리는 통해 전달함으로써 자연스럽게 브랜드와 모델레 대한 호감도가 증가할 수 있었다”고 말했다.

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As is obvious from the name, the Black Bean FM Event’s killer content was the use of radio, videos, and advertising jingles, or a “visual radio.” In addition to model Lee Hyori performing as its DJ, it also consisted of information about various things such as beauty, fashion, and dieting (and so on), which users could register and leave comments about. As Heo-jeong explains, the choice of Lee Hyori as a model naturally encouraged discussion of these topics among young-women – the core of the site’s communication concept – and because of this, a Black Bean FM Event video that gives the impression of Lee Hyori interacting with the user was produced for the website in advance of the TV commercials. Thus, the strategy greatly increased the chances for brand recognition to rise amongst young women.

CM송을 활용한 ‘블랙빈테라티 CM송 콘테스트’ 이벤트 또한 눈에 띄는 부분이다. 최근 CM송을 활용한 이동통신사 광고가 화제를 모으고 있지만, 음료 광고에서는 보기 드문 사례이기 때문이다. 이미 TV 광고와 사이트의 인트로를 통해 CM의 원곡을 감상한 유저들은 이벤트 페이지에서 힙합과 R&B, 트로트 등 4가지 버전의 CM송을 모두 감상한 후 순위를 매긴다. 이벤트에 참여한 유저들은 추첨을 통해 경품을 지급받게 되며, 동영상을 다운로드 또는 스크랩해 미니홈피와 블로그 등에 등록한 경우 재차 경품 기회가 제공된다. 허 데리는 “블랙빈테라티의 CM송을 버전별로 반복 감상함으로써 소비자들에게 브랜드와 제품에 대한 긍정적인 이미지를 형성하게 된다”고 설명하며 “콘테스트 동영상의 다운로드/스크랩을 유도한 전략은 소비자들 스스로 웹사이트의 홍보는 물론 블랙빈 FM과 이벤트 내용을 바이럴하는 ‘MGM (Member Get Member, 일명 ‘권유마케팅’으로 불리며 고객을 통해 또 다른 신규 고객을 확보하는 마케팅 방법)’ 효과를 거둘 수 있었다”고 덧붙였다. 이외에도 지난 5월 1일부터 한달간 진행했던 ‘CF모델 까메오 이벤트’ 역시 소비자들의 적극적인 참여를 유도했다.

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The “Black Bean Terra Tea Advertising Song Contest” event was also a prominent feature of the website. While using advertising jingles is common for advertisements on mobile phones, it is very rare for tea-drinks. But here, users who have had already heard the jingles used in Black Bean Terra Tea’s TV advertisements and website could listen to different versions of them in different music styles such as hip-hop, R&B, trot, and so on, and personally rank them. They could also enter into a lottery and win prizes, and increase the number the times they entered by downloading videos and posting them on their blogs and websites. As Heo-jeong explained, “through being able to listen to the various versions of the jingles, users acquired a positive image of the brand and the product” and ” the viral PR strategy of getting consumers themselves to download and post videos to their own websites, known as ‘MGM,’ (Member Get Member, also called ‘Persuasive Marketing,’ a method by which customers attract new customers themselves) was very effective.” Besides this, from May the 1st there was also a month-long ‘Commercial Model Cameo Event’ which similarly encouraged consumers to actively participate (end).

And the third and final part, which discusses cross-media marketing, will hopefully be up later this week. In the meantime, if this post has piqued your interest in gendered advertising in Korea, then you may also enjoy this post on the evolving images of women in soju advertisements.

10 thoughts on “Gendered Tea-drink Advertising in South Korea

    1. Sorry, I was going to post the commercial itself once I put up part two of the article, which is more specifically about the marketing campaign for the Black Bean Therapy drink. Until then, you can see it for yourself here.


  1. Hi!

    I’m somewhat a new reader of your blog (not that I haven’t read much of it at the moment, just came across it a few days ago).
    I’m learning Korean language in college, planning to live in South Korea a few years from now if I do things rights -fingers crossed.
    Your article I find really interesting especially since I’ve noticed that here in France some brands (I have two in mind) are starting to go in that direction of marketing one type of tea towards women, rather young let’s say from their early twenties, using the “ligne” or “silhouette” argument (both refer to the figure).
    Being my self a woman in my early twenties I can clearly see that those beverages haven’t really succeeded in starting a new trend amongst female consumers. Some significant differences I guess between the French and Korean markets would be that French people don’t drink as much tea as Koreans and that health-wise (I don’t know if this rather passive diet component is really healthy or not) French people are more likely going to consume fruit juice or vegetable juice since during the last four years or so the Ministry of Health is harassing broadcasting companies to include healthy tips and recommendations in every commercial for food or drinks -especially those for children.
    What amazes me is that as a consumer I can’t quite associate tea with the idea of maintaining my figure, or even less to losing weight. I guess it appeals to Korean people because they’re familiar with ancient medicine or at least it speaks to them.
    Anyway, this topic really intrigues me as all of the topics on this blog.
    Looking forward to reading some more!
    (sorry for my English, bare with me please!)


    1. haha, ever tried gatoraid? it tastes like pickled kool-aid, and yet people guzzle it as a workout aid. I might also add that many of the Korean “energy” and hangover recovery drinks taste exceptionally foul, but there’s a market for them, too. People will consume all kinds of things that taste bad if you can convince them that it has some other benefit.


  2. Haha, you just reminded me of a pair of male friends from school, where the Korean guy scolded the American for drinking “a woman’s drink” when he chugged his 17차. My American friend hadn’t seen any of the Korean adverts, and didn’t find the packaging particularly gendered (and despite reading Korean fairly fluently, he totally missed the implications of” 몸이 가벼워지는 시간” printed on the bottle). My friend ignored it all, and still drinks it to this day, pronouncing it the best bottled tea on the market*
    I think Miso has made an important point, in that Korean’s are particularly receptive to thinking of tea as a “health” drink, and attributing to it power to help in weight loss and other body goals. Although the history of perceptions and popularity of tea here has had lots of historical ups and downs, it has traditionally been regarded as having medicinal properties, and modern science generally reinforces these beliefs. As a matter of fact, I’m trying to think of another drink that would be similarly ingrained and marketable in the US, and failing to come up with something.

    *ok, I will spend a moment giving into my inner nerd and point out that few of these are actually “tea” which is only from the camelia sinesis plant. These are all technically “tisanes” a general term to cover brewed/steeped beverages.


  3. Just a quick note to say thanks for all the comments, and I’ll try to catch up with them all as soon as I can. I shouldn’t have posted the article without…ahem…translating all of it first sorry, but I thought I’d have more time this week!


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