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Global companies use localisation to win Korean hearts

Starbucks at Gyeongju’s Bomunro

Publication Date : 21-01-2013


Starbucks and McDonald's tap the local culture to offer customers a unique experience


It is a serene atmosphere with a Korean traditional teahouse-like interior where people sit down on top of flat cushions on a wooden floor.

But the drinks served are Starbucks coffee.

Korea’s first drive-through Starbucks opened in Gyeongju, capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, in September, with Silla designs everywhere.

The stair railing to the traditional tearoom on the upper floor is designed after the banisters around the historic Anapji pond where the royals and the upper class partied during the Silla era.

Pictures of historical relics such as the Cheomseongdae Observatory, Bulguksa Temple and the Sacred Bell of the Great King Seongdeok adorn the walls.

Outside, customers can order drinks from their cars using a 42-inch video screen system developed by Starbucks Korea.

“Tourists from in and out of Korea visiting Gyeongju are offered a special Starbucks experience combining the cultural heritage of Silla with cutting-edge, global coffee culture,” said Starbucks Korea spokesman Park Han-jo.

To celebrate the opening of the Bomunro store in Gyeongju, located near the Bomun Lake, the Korean arm of the global coffeehouse chain launched a fund-raising campaign to protect the region’s cultural relics.

The 400th Starbucks store in downtown Seoul’s Ima Building, where the royal stables were located during the Joseon era, is decorated with historical paintings chosen using information from national museums and advice from the Cultural Heritage Administration.

Like Starbucks, global companies that have successfully settled down and grown in Korea are using various localisation strategies in terms of marketing, sales and after-sales services to maintain customer loyalty and build a positive brand image.

They introduce products and services that are only available in Korea to meet the specific tastes of local customers and trot out localised campaigns that cater to the latest social needs.

McDonald’s Korea, for instance, was the first in the industry to open 24-hour stores in 2005 and begin delivery service in 2006 as part of efforts to tailor their provision to the local lifestyle of enjoying late-night snacks and delivery food.

As of late last month, customers in Korea can also order McDelivery online.

“Sales have grown each year since we started running the 24-hour stores and the McDelivery service,” said a public relations official of McDonald’s Korea, adding that several rival companies have since followed suit.

The world’s largest hamburger chain also sells localised menu items in Korea, like the bulgogi burger and Shanghai spice chicken burger, which became two of the most popular items here along with the Big Mac.

McDonald’s localised menus are successful around the world ― “McVeggies” with patties made of vegetarian ingredients and Indian spices in India; breakfast menu “Hamdesal,” a Philippine bread named pandesal with pineapple sauce, bacon and cheese in the Philippines; and “McBaguette” in France.


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