We recently spoke with JungHieh Shon, Chief Executive Officer of HanaroADCOM in Seoul, South Korea.
Shon has over 30 years of design experience and has been a Director of the Brand Design Association of Korea and Director of the Seoul branch of Korean Women Entrepreneurs Association since 2016, as well as a Director of the Korean Printers Association since 2017.
Over the course of our conversation, she talks about how brands can best engage with South Korean consumers, management lessons learned from the pandemic, her upcoming role as Chair of the Management & Customer Service jury at the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, and more
You’ve led HanaroAdcom since 1995. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry in that time?
Since the founding HanaroAdcom in 1995, Apple’s Macintosh, currently known as the Mac, became popular in Korea. Their editorial designing software changed the graphic design industry from manual to electronic publishing.
Design practitioners were looking for ways to convert Macintosh software to MS-DOS-based PCs, which used Windows. From 1997 to 2001, three years after its inception, South Korea was in a foreign exchange crisis. The market was very unstable due to the impact of the strong dollar, and it caused many companies to go bankrupt. All of the companies had to tighten their belts to survive, and I think I’ve learned how to overcome these difficulties in the process.
What advice do you have for global brands who want to build strong engagement with Korean consumers?
In today’s digital world, there are no barriers between countries except tariffs and government trade policies. In fact, in the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards, the differences among entries from many APAC countries were not that significant. If you go into detail, the concept and resources were a little different. Although they were all Asian countries, the culture of each country influenced how they presented their products.
In order for a brand to enter Korea, it must, first of all, have a basic understanding of the culture and etiquette of Koreans. However, Korea is already globalized, so you should not approach it with a Korean style unconditionally. Instead, it may be more effective to appeal to the unique characteristics of the brand. We need to understand the globalization that lies within Korean culture.
From a leadership perspective, what are some lessons learned during the pandemic that you use in the post-pandemic world?
The Pandemic has changed trends not only in Korea but worldwide. The rapid growth of the online market and virtual work environment enabled companies to communicate efficiently from different places. As a result, many companies that prepared online networks, including online portals, were successful, while offline-based companies were relatively sluggish.
Offline companies had to adapt abruptly to online services. Fortunately, as the Pandemic is resolved, offline companies are at a level where they are relieved.
We desperately realized how vulnerable we are to a sudden crisis, and we learned that we need to be prepared for how to respond when another crisis comes.
We endured the Pandemic by using online services, which were all-stopped offline, but when a crisis that comes to an all-stop online, such as a natural disaster or communication failure, we will always need to prepare for the crisis situation.
You’re Chair of the Management & Customer Service jury at the Stevie Awards APAC this year. What are you looking for from entrants that will make them stand out from the rest?
Most of the companies that exhibited have already been doing great service, and this year there were many good entries about how and how well they responded with new solutions in response to the pandemic.
It was based on the review and evaluation of how well everyone approached the minds of customers during the Pandemic under an uncomfortable and difficult situation.
Why do you think awards like the Stevies are important?
We are always yearning for praise and applause.
Being evaluated and praised for what I’ve done has a lot of impact on my efficiency in work and my attitude towards work.
Being awarded empowers you to move on without giving up on your work and motivates you to strive for better performance.
Many companies and creators around the world will be delighted to receive the Stevie Award and should feel rewarded and proud of their work.