A commentary on Korean global business and popular culture.
Sunday, August 12, 2018
A Willingness to Change
A Culture Puzzle: Part 1
When a western company enters an overseas’ market such as Korea, gaps in understanding commonly surface. Most often the western brand and their team bring new ideas and an approach to the market.
This is nothing new. In fact, many of today’s success stories result from looking outside the box.
For example, when Starbucks entered Korea, they encouraged customers to sit and enjoy their drink… as well as converse with a friend, read a book, surf the web or catch up on homework.
Prior, the Korean model was for a quick turnover — customers in and out the door. This “stay” took some time to convince both the local Korean business partner and the customer. Today it is the norm and only limited by seating availability.
Still, when companies change hands, merger or are introduced to international markets, it brings in new or different procedures.
In my experience, it is not unusual for Korean teams to pushback — as most companies might with market entry until they gain insights.
To some extent, local norms, regulations, and laws may dictate how the western brand must adapt and localize. That said, most often with the pushback comes discussions beginning with the phrase, “But, in Korea,…”
Here we can find rigid thinking and risk avoidance overshadowing the openness to change. More so, western teams can feel that without fully embracing their brand or service’s nuances and business model, chances of success in the new market are reduced and may not even succeed.
Now the tricky part… All said when to localize and adapt to the local tastes, preferences, and trends versus when to hold to the western model requires cultural finesse, an open mind and critical thinking. This needs to unfold over time.
In Part 2 of the Culture Puzzle, I’ll look at Korean companies and their brands’ willingness to adapt and localize in their overseas operations outside Korea.