Kim Rando, a Consumer Sciences professor at Seoul National University, is a famous author and a trend forecaster. Since 2007, Professor Kim has created a “trend acronym” based on his forecast of 10 Korean consumer trends for each year. What is interesting is that he always bases his acronym on the zodiac calendar. Since 2014 is the year of the horse, this year’s acronym is “DARK HORSES.”
D — Dear, Got Swag
First popularized by K-pop star G dragon, the “swag” style of pomposity will become even more popular in 2014. Consumers will prefer swag more than luxury items because the swag style represents their own personal characteristics and freedom.
A — Answer is in your body
The key to escaping from lethargy is to have a more active lifestyle. As more consumers are willing to spend money on activities that get them up and moving around, health-related businesses should prepare products or services that serve those needs.
R — Read between the ultra-niches
Niche markets will be further segmented into ultra-niches. Brands will need to respect the fact that small consumer groups can have a powerful influence, and they will need to further refine their products. If brands cannot satisfy a small number of consumers in an ultra-niche market, then they will never satisfy a larger number of consumers in a niche market.
K — Kiddie 40s
These 40-somethings are kid-like adults, also known as Kidults, who act like sentimental young boys, but are willing to pay large amounts of money for their toys. The Kiddie 40s group is an example of an ultra-niche with huge influence and potential for growth. Indeed, they have already created a $50 million industry in Korea.
H — Hybrid Patchworks
Borders between different industries are disappearing. A patchwork will emerge through the fusion of features across industries, creating new value in the stagnant economy. Hybrid patchworks will be a collection of advantages from each industry.
O — Organize your platform
A new business model that assembles different ideas, products, and technology — like Pinterest or iTunes Radio — will create added value and content. Within these platforms, consumers have the ability to customize and differentiate their profiles from others. It’s a powerful tool both online and offline.
R — Reboot everything
Rather than coming up with entirely new ideas, brands are reinterpreting old ones in a new way. Reinterpreting is a safe strategy and has less risk of failure. It offers new products for consumers who don’t like too much change and generally stay with the same products or services.
S — Surprise me, guys
Common marketing strategies and worn out stories will never interest consumers. These days, random situations and unexpected surprises are more likely to have an impact. For example, Frisbee, an Apple product retailer in Korea, had a wildly successful “lucky bag” promotion where customers could purchase a bag for $30. Some of the mystery bags had iPads or MacBooks inside, while some bags had nothing at all.
E — Eyes on you, eyes on me
As we all spend an increasing amount of time online, we are often unaware of the many hidden eyes that are on the internet. Online activity monitoring and surveillance was a big issue in 2013. Rando predicts that the number of online security businesses to protect personal data will increase in the next year.
S — Say it straight
Even though Koreans tend to keep their inner feelings hidden, the younger generation is starting to express their thoughts more frankly. There are fewer hidden meanings or metaphorical expressions in their words. They are straight-talking, and saying what they really mean. To reflect this trend, marketing content should present the attributes of products and services without any fluff.
To reach success with Korean consumers in 2014, brands should take note of the above trends. Consumers are responding to messaging that is fresh, different and surprising. They want to be made to feel special and separate from the general population. Once that niche-market is found, there is great potential for growth. 2014 will be active and energetic like a dark horse.
Written by: Soo-Min Lee