We’ve all heard the advertising maxim “sex sells.” In Korea it’s no different –though the technique is sometimes used to push products that one might not ordinarily equate with the word “sexy”.
In the land of kimchi and Kpop, scantily-clad stars are used to push products ranging from ice cream to dietary fiber. Even private education companies offer sexy “Goddess of English” tutors to inspire less than scholarly school boys.
Of all the sexy ad spots and promotions produced on the peninsula, arguably the sexiest of them all are the TV ads for a handful of popular brands of tea.
That’s right, tea.
Not the have a seat while the water boils and then wait until it steeps traditional sort of tea, but the bottled kind that is marketed largely for the weight-loss benefits it provides for the busy girl on-the-go looking to shed a few kilos.Popular Korean brands such as Namyang’s “17 Tea” or the Kwang Dong company’s “Ok Su Su – Su Yum Cha” aka corn silk tea, are marketed with the promise of zero calories, zero weight gain and an S-line figure or a V-line face like the ladies in the ads.
In lock step with Korean Tea Marketing Strategy 101, Coca Cola has entered the tea market –and they’re bringing the sexy in their ad spots as well.
And while the primary target market is women, you need not be a marketing guru to divine that the ads hold an obvious appeal to much of the male demographic as well.
Where it all began
The trend of sexy tea marketing in Korea was first made popular way back in 2005 by Namyang’s 17 Tea, a product named for its combination of seventeen healthy ingredients in one bottle.
To give a little juice to their ad campaigns, the company tapped movie star Jun Ji-Hyeon (of My Sassy Girl fame) for a series of sexually-charged spots –some bordering on the erotic.
Who knew tea could make you so frisky?
The 17 Tea campaigns lasted for several years and were, of course, wildly successful.
Jun Ji-hyun moved on to pitch products for companies such as SK Telecom, Samsung and Reebok to name but a few. In 2014 Ms. Jun reportedly earned upwards of $20 million for her endorsements.
The return to tea for Jun Ji-hyeon –working for the competition
Earlier this year, Ok Su Su – Su Yum Cha, signed the former 17 Tea girl with the hope that she might still possess some of her previous tea sex appeal.
The company recently released a series of ads featuring the original sexy tea star with slightly toned down visuals (she is married now after all) aiming to grab market share from the very company that hired her in the first place.
An odd juxtaposition perhaps when viewed through the prism of marketing logic, but we’re already mixing sex and tea here so what the heck –must normal rules really apply?
Coca Cola dives in to the Korean tea market
We’ll have to wait and see the numbers to gauge the effectiveness of Ok Su Su using Jun Ji-hyeon to grab market share, but there is not doubt there is good money to be made in the tea game. Otherwise, a giant like Coca Cola wouldn’t be upping their investment since they entered the market last year.
In 2014 Coke inked a deal with singer Hyolyn of Kpop girl group SISTAR, to appear in an ad campaign for the company’s Mate Tea brand –another “diet” tea that was first launched in Japan before hitting the shelves in Korea.
The Hyolyn spots went well enough that Coke signed the other three members of SISTAR as part of a new summer campaign.
And, in line with Korean Tea Marketing Strategy 101, Coca Cola is bringing the sexy in their campaign spots as well.
There is nothing subtle about Coke’s Mate Tea ads either in the visuals or in the ad copy –as the lyrics ask the viewer which sexy body they prefer of the four group members.
- Cycle Body! – Bora
- Pool Body! – Soyou
- Party Body! – Dasom
- Club Body! – Hyolyn
The campaign spot on YouTube also encourages viewers to submit their favorite body choice for a chance to win the actual clothing worn by the girls in the ad spots. (Not sure if that includes dry cleaning or not)
A release from Coke said: “SISTAR is known for their healthy, positive, bright, energy and ahead of the start of summer they have become the models for the brand.”
Adding that this year, “they will each show their four different colors.”
And, as you can see, a whole lot more.
Last year’s Mate Tea ad featuring Hyolyn’s solo tea spots. (Bordering on NSFW.)
So, what does the future hold for tea in Korea? Of one thing we can be sure; all you aspiring tea marketers out there who have considered taking a shot at this market, remember –you gotta bring the sexy.
Two more – Just for fun
This one, for Dark Black Bean Tea, is sexy and quite clever.
Not all tea ads are sexy of course –like this one, which pokes fun at K-Dramas.
Ahn Jun-hee contributed to this report