Becoming a Brand?

A good way  for any business to retain customers is to generate brand recognition.  Brand recognition brings with itself a status that parents can carry around like a badge.  The problem with branding is it can easily bite you in the ass too.

When I first opened my school, I asked people around and they immediately said “Ohhhh looks expensive!”, even though prices in Korea are regulated ….  I thought that image might have been in my advantage but it seemed to work against me.  Since people had the perception of me being “too expensive” they didn’t bother inquiring.  When schools advertise, they have to add their prices in their advertising, it is just that no school does that, and no punishment is given, at this point.  It is also dangerous to do that since you might actively start a price war with your competition.  Koreans are very good at starting rumors, especially bad ones.  As a foreigner, you will have absolutely no recourse against this problem.

This is probably why franchises do better in South Korea.  Since the brand recognition is there.  But most of us silly foreigners don’t get that part, and are convinced we can do better.  We do better, but your customers don’t know that.  Certainly not at first.

It took me three years to get my “brand” recognized on city level.  It is when I reached my peak that my brand recognition started to backfire.  I had two negative incidents with 2 different teachers not too far apart ( +- 6 months) which turned my brand into a negative added value.  I am still trying to turn back around the negative implications of those incidents.

The customers I have know this, but the customers I don’t have (and would very much like) don’t.  They rely on past information.  It is very difficult to expunge these bad ideas when you are a foreigner.  You have zero control over information spread in your area.  Going viral, as they like to say, is a two-edged sword.

Koreans Trust The Gossip.  The Gossip train is run by mothers who are not pro-actively seeking the truth.  They are very much ingrained with a herd mentality.  What the truth is don’t matter, what everybody else is saying matters.  Exasperating when you are swinging on the wrong side, Exhilarating when you are on the right side.

You want to get that early success, you need to get that Gossip Train work in your favor, but beware, you make a faux-pas, it could well bite you in the ass.