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[Herald Interview] Acquity Group eyes partnership with top Korean firms

BEIJING ― Acquity Group is an unfamiliar name to Koreans, but it promises to fundamentally change the landscape of corporate Korea’s online marketing.

Exclusive brands do not want their brand value diluted by uniformly stacking their goods on the anonymous virtual shelves of eBay or Amazon, according to George Lu, chairman of Acquity Group.

Acquity Group is a U.S. company Lu founded in 2001 to specialize in brand e-commerce and digital marketing strategies.

Citing his company’s established reputation as the industry leader, Lu said Acquity could effectively boost the overseas operations of global Korean brands such as Samsung and LG.

“LG, we can help them a great deal in China and the U.S. Samsung, I think, would do better in the U.S. if they let us architecture the marketing.” he said in an interview with The Korea Herald at his Beijing office.

Lu also saw much potential in smaller and mid-sized Korean brands.

“For example, there’s Kolon. It’s a very good outdoor brand, but it’s only active in Korean market. We can take these brands and introduce them to the world,” he said.

But the concept of brand e-commerce, despite the nation’s high-level of technological advancement, is still new here.

“E-commerce without the brand experience and marketing is like a beautiful car with no gas. A brand experience, marketing without e-commerce is like a beautiful store with no cash register,” Lu explained.

Brand e-commerce tries to give consumers an exclusive online experience of brands in a world where people increasingly buy not just because of quality, but how much they can relate to.

“It’s whether they are cool and represent who you are that drives the consumers’ decisions,” he said. “For example, people buy Apple because of the brand, and because of the software it offers. That is how important brand experience is.”
George Lu, chairman of Acquity Group
George Lu, chairman of Acquity Group

Lu predicted that 10-20 years from now, brand ecommerce will be the next generation of e-commerce.

Already, more than 70 percent of global internet users, according to studies, are likely to research online before making an offline purchase.

In accordance with the new trend, two-thirds of the world’s top 199 brand marketing leaders said they will be shifting marketing finances to digial media, Acquity Group said.

The company currently manages over 500 brands in its burgeoning portfolio, including China’s largest sportswear brand Li Ning. Global brands include HTC, Motorola and Kohl’s.

With Li Ning, Acquity has entered into a joint venture in which it has a 50 percent stake. The firm plans to invest some $10 million into the joint venture this year.

The Chinese sportswear market, one of the fastest-growing in China, was likely to hit $300 million by 2016.

Li Ning has a particularly special place in Lu’s heart not only because it is a Chinese brand going global, but also because he believes in what the brand stands for.

The brand represents balance and agility. It also has a sense of exclusivity, which is what Acquity accentuated when it launched the U.S. Collection, available only online.

Lu said he expects Li Ning’s revenues from international business to reach $2 billion by 2018.

For Acquity Group, he targeted sales of $91.7 million for this year.

By Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldcorp.com)
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