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Companies See Unlikely Competitors in Changing Market

Posted May. 20, 2009 03:05,   


Song Min-cheol, brand manager of Jinro’s Chamiseul soju, a Korean traditional liquor, feels nervous whenever he hears about the introduction of a new TV. He says he closely checks the price of the new model as well as picture quality.

“As the picture quality of a TV set, including LCD, improves every day, office workers who used to go drinking together after work return home right away to watch dramas or movies,” he said. “As more LCD TVs are put in households, soju consumption will continue to decline.”

Korea’s industrial map is being redrawn. Gone are the days when the theme park Everland was pitted against Lotte World and Namyang Dairy took on Maeil Dairy.

The era of boundless competition between sectors has been ushered in as soju battles LCD TVs, while game software makers compete with TV dramas.

The Dong-A Ilbo surveyed managers of the top brands in 10 sectors closely related to consumers, including liquor, mobile handsets, games and food Wednesday through Friday last week.

One of the survey’s questions was, “Who are your competitors,” but none of the managers replied having no competitor because his or her brand was the best.

○ From market share to time share competition

NC Soft, Korea’s No 1 game software maker, is in agony because of American soap operas.

Executive director Lee Jae-seong said, “Whereas TV dramas in the past were producer-focused content that flew one way, games entertained young people in their teens and 20s by banking on their interactivity,” adding, “American soap operas, however, have introduced the concept of ‘season’ to reflect consumer demand in real time, and emerged as a rival to compete with us over leisure time of people around the world.”

Nike suffered a deep slump in the past. After record-breaking growth for five consecutive years from 1994 that resulted in a three-fold increase in sales, the company started to see revenue slow.

The company’s conclusion following a thorough market survey was, “Pay attention to Nintendo.”

So what happened? As a growing number of youngsters chose to stay home to play Nintendo games, sneaker sales plunged.

Dr. Lee Byeong-gwan, an industrial psychology professor at Kwangwoon University in Seoul, said, “Nike’s case effectively suggests a new map for competition in the 21st century in which a two-dimensional race for market share in the same industry is transforming into a race among other industries to carve out a bigger time share of customers.”

○ Focus on intangible values

E-Mart, Korea’s largest discount chain, singled out Samsung Anycall mobile handsets as its archrival. Why is a large discounter competing with a mobile handset brand?

“As large discount stores have become an essential part of the people’s daily lives just like mobile handsets, brand is getting increasingly important. Intangible values of the Anycall brand have huge implications for E-Mart,” an E-Mart source said.

Then who is Anycall’s competitor? Marketing staff at Samsung Electronics declined to make an official statements, but mentioned Buddhist temple stays and book reading as potential rivals.

“The mobile industry has now gone beyond the scope of IT gadgets, and is now competing over content,” a Samsung source said, adding, “Intangible contents that consumers are now paying attention to has become a buzzword in the mobile communication sector.”

Woongjin Coway, a leading domestic maker of water purifiers and air cleaners, is scrambling to learn the customer strategies of SK Telecom and Singapore Airlines.

“Since customer satisfaction is directly linked to brand power, we’re trying to benchmark (SK and Singapore Airlines), which are tops in customer satisfaction,” Woongjin Coway said.

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