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What 5G means for brands

Eunice Min, Chief Content Officer at Interbrand Seoul, takes us through her journey at Interbrand, lessons learned, her perspective on how branding is evolving, how 5G technology is going to change the world we live in and how we interact with brands.

South Korea recently rolled out 5G networking capabilities, creating seamless, real-time connections to anything from anywhere. But this is not just about speed. What are the implications for the brands involved?

That’s right. 5G isn’t just a faster network. It’s a platform that will fundamentally change the way we live by enabling a true connection between everything. Although there are scenarios based on 5G capabilities about self-driving, telemedicine, smart factories and unmanned convenience stores, no one knows how much it will change our lives. But one thing is clear: 5G technology will create new businesses in every industry, ones that have never existed before and a brand of new icons.

Every innovation creates a winner who ultimately adapts to it. Look at companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix and Uber. These brands have two things in common. First, they were born from new technologies during a period of innovation. Second, the brands embraced that technology to propose a completely new way of life to people.

Something else to notice in the brand world is the inevitable rapid aging of brands that were born out of that technology. The only way for these brands to overcome their irrelevance is to become increasingly philosophy driven. While putting technology at the center of a brand cannot prevent aging, placing philosophy at the center of a brand can continue to enable it to flexibly expand, even as the technology keeps evolving.

One example is Airbnb, who places their ideology, “Belong anywhere,” at the center of their brand. Likewise, Uber places “Planet sustainability” at the center of their brand. These robust philosophies will ensure that brands like Airbnb and Uber remain competitive in their markets, even as the original technologies that put them there in the first place grow exponentially.

How does that affect the customers?

A huge platform, 5G brings together the lives of people on Earth. In terms of customers, the changes resulting from 5G are expected to be as follows: First, the physical limitations of experience and purchasing power are now gone. Regardless of the industry, businesses have come to exist in a “jungle,” where there is infinite competition, and customers have the potential to make infinite choices.

Second, the previous definition of “customer” no longer exists. The word “customer” is a passive one. Customers only choose one of the brands given to them. However, customers in the 5G era are no longer passive. They don’t end up choosing brands, but actively sharing their experiences with others. In the 5G era, when information is shared so widely at such a fast pace, their opinions have a strong influence above all else. Customers have now become powerful “influencers.”

And what does it mean for Interbrand? How do you think this could impact the way we work with our clients?

Now that unlimited connectivity has become possible, the management of brands has become even more difficult. Brands have to check their relevance more often and readjust themselves more quickly and pragmatically. Of course, engaging with customers is the key to all of these processes. The value of “Relevance, Responsiveness and Engagement” has become more important than ever.

I believe “Engaging” will become increasingly important, not only in the relationship between the business and the customer, but also in our relationship with the client. Long-term relationships should be at the core of our business, not a reliance on big accounts. For a company to realize their true relevance and responsiveness, more active engagement between us and the client is essential.

You have been at Interbrand for more than 10 years. What is the most exciting project you’ve had the opportunity to work on?

That would have to be the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Interbrand Korea was responsible for establishing the concept and overall visual presence. I worked on the concept of the Olympics and developing the slogan, “Passion. Connected.” Developing a slogan that represents a global event was a special opportunity for me, as it had to gain approval from the highest levels, like the South Korean president and the International Olympic Committee president. I will never forget the excitement of seeing the Olympics kick off with our slogan displayed all over the world.

The concept of branding is evolving. What’s your take on it?

Changes in technology during the fourth industrial revolution are shifting everything. Cars are being redefined to evolve from “means of driving” to “my private space”; television is progressing from “equipment for watching content” to “home IoT Center”; offline stores from “places of sale” to “product playgrounds.”

This evolution is the same for brands. When an iconic brand disappears from the market and a monopolistic brand that has a clear reason for existence survives, it drives home the point that what a brand needs most is to adapt to change and redefine its existence. When a brand asks, “Why should I exist?” it should redefine the answer from the perspective of the customer – not from the product.

UNIQLO’s HEATTECH exemplifies this approach. When we break down the product to its simplest form, it’s just underwear. But by escaping from its finite category and branding itself as “HEATTECH,” the product proves its reason for existence. When the reason for existence is clear and the product or service answers that need via customer participation in the branding process – the brand achieves immortality.

You released your book “Building the Brand” in February. Congratulations! How was that journey?

As a Verbal Consultant, I believe brand language is the core of branding. So, I wanted to communicate the importance of brand language and share effective methodologies. It includes the definition of brand language, effective development methods and many case studies that showcase these approaches. There are many brand strategy books that exist in Korea, but few of them delve into brand language.

After completing the first draft and contacting a few publishers, I was very fortunate to sign a contract with the number-one publisher in Korea. The book has been received well by critics and readers alike, with all major online/offline bookstores and major Korean dailies selecting my book as “The Most Recommendable Book this Month,” helping it become a bestseller in the marketing field. All this was possible because of the power of the brand, “Interbrand.”

I am well aware that all this has become a reality because I belong to the Interbrand team. Becoming an employee of Interbrand was the best decision of my life. And all my experiences at Interbrand are my most important assets. I’m continuously looking forward to the continued growth of Interbrand, and I will never stop trying to top myself with each subsequent project.

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