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[Feature] Retailers go for self-produced shows, dramas as promotional outlet

With short entertainment programs and drama clips, retailers seek to freshen up brand reputation and advertise items

Convenience store chain CU’s web-based entertainment show “CUperman” thumbnail (BGF Retail)
Convenience store chain CU’s web-based entertainment show “CUperman” thumbnail (BGF Retail)

Once, getting a 60-second spot on prime-time TV was seen as the key to success for retailers.

Now in the era of social media, companies don’t need TV for exposure. They can even create 10-minute videos and drama series and air them on YouTube and other platforms.

At the forefront of this new trend is CU, a leading convenience store chain here.

Its self-produced entertainment show, “CUperman” has garnered an accumulated 2 million views via its YouTube channel, Facebook and Instagram -- in just a month. As of Wednesday, four episodes have been released.

Unlike most TV commercials that focus on a product endorsed by a celebrity, “CUperman” has a reality show format, with each episode about seven to 10 minutes long.

The series features Defconn, a South Korean rapper and television personality, who buys snacks and other items from a CU store and wanders around the streets in Seoul to resell them to random passersby.

While the new attempt has yet to produce a tangible impact on sales of the featured items, the company believes it freshens the chain’s brand image with young consumers, and will benefit the company in the long run, Yoo Cheol-hyun from the public relations department of BGF Retail told The Korea Herald.

Millennials and Generation Z, encompassing those born from the 1980s forward, have together emerged as a target demographic group for retail companies in recent years.

Yoo said CU was listed among the top 10 companies where college students most want to work, according to a recent survey by Incruit, an online job portal.

“That (the survey result) is something we could never have imagined in the past, and we believe these new marketing efforts helped create a new, trendy brand identity. And this will ultimately bring positive prospects for the convenience store industry,” Yoo added.

As of Wednesday, the official YouTube channel for CU had over 555,000 subscribers. The convenience store chain said it more than 400,000 subscribers just in the last one year and three months. 

E-commerce platform 11st’s YouTube entertainment program “Yeolil Sawon” thumbnail (11st)
E-commerce platform 11st’s YouTube entertainment program “Yeolil Sawon” thumbnail (11st)

E-commerce platform 11st also said its YouTube entertainment program “Yeolil Sawon,” roughly translated as a “Hardworking Employee,” had scored over 100,000 views in a week of its release on Monday.

TV personality Kangnam appears as an intern working for 11st, and from this the online shopping platform naturally exposes the working environment of the company.

“We started the web-based entertainment program to broaden our contact with the customers, including the MZ generation,” said Lee Young-jin, the head of the brand communication team at 11st.

“We want to approach the customers in a friendlier way, by showing the working environment of our employees, with entertainment factors.”

To make these programs, the retailers cooperate with content experts. For example, CU forged a partnership with Sandbox Network, a YouTuber management startup, and 11st is working with Studio Lululala, a content production company backed by local cable channel JTBC.

According to an industry official, the key to grabbing viewers’ attention is to be able to follow the popular trends of the customer groups, and show it in trendy formats.

Some retailers are going further to produce and release short web-dramas to attract younger customers.

Handsome, a fashion brand by Samsung C&T, produced and released “Handmade Love” on YouTube, starring Lee Soo-hyuk, in December 2020.

In the drama, the main character makes clothes for people to cheer them up, letting the company naturally promote their clothes.

From this marketing strategy, Handsome said it witnessed its online sales grow during the broadcasting period from Dec. 11 to Jan. 5 by 105 percent on-year, and the purchasing price of millennial and Gen Z consumers jumped by 149 percent.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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