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Branding is the focus as Kakao reshuffles

May 29,2018
Four months into Kakao’s leadership change, the company is still evolving.

The operator of Korea’s most popular chat app, KakaoTalk, recently reorganized its branding leadership structure.

The company merged its brand strategy department and communications department to form what is known as the tentatively-titled brand communication department.

The department will focus on two different types of communication ? media relations and direct communication with users.

“The latest reshuffle is for the sake of beefing up the Kakao brand and its external communications,” said a Kakao spokesman.

To better communicate with Kakao users, the media strategy team, under the brand communications department, will produce its own content, including videos, and use other social media, such as YouTube and Facebook, to circulate the content.

Kakao’s various social media accounts used to be run by different departments.

Kakao’s renewed focus on its branding came after it hired a brand manager as one of its co-CEOs. In January, the company appointed Joh Su-yong, 44, head of the Kakao Brand Center and chief creative officer, and Yeo Min-soo, 48, executive vice president of advertising, as co-CEOs.

Joh, a renowned industrial designer and brand specialist who ran his own brand consulting firm, joined Kakao at the end of 2016 and assumed the job of managing the company’s brand center, which was established in September last year. Last week, Kakao Friends, a subsidiary that specializes in characters such as Neo and Apeach, acquired the CEO’s eight-year-old consulting company JOH for 29.3 billion won ($27.2 million).

“The core pillar of Kakao Friends’ business lies in offline communications with users through goods based on the Kakao Friends characters,” said the company in a release.

“The combination of JOH’s brand consulting power and Kakao Friends’ retail capability is expected to create synergy.”

“Companies that the market is paying attention to tend to consider their brand a key asset and strictly manage it,” said a Kakao insider. “Now that we have dozens of subsidiaries under the Kakao umbrella [through mergers and acquisitions as well as spin-offs over the past couple of years], more efficiently managing the Kakao brand and publicizing its services has become crucial.”

The company is also in the middle of overhauling the user experience and interface of its chat app, which with 43 million users is often described as Korea’s “national messenger.” Kakao’s new management has accepted number of suggestions to improve the user experience.

In a major software upgrade last Thursday, Kakao added several new features.

One of them enables users to reply to a specific message by tapping the message, similar to how the @ button works on Facebook’s comments section.

It’s useful when the flow of conversation is fast and a user does not want to miss a question, Kakao explained.

Users can also now delete messages, photos and other files from chat rooms. Previously, users had to leave the room to delete photos, videos and documents to free up space.

KakaoTalk friends that are celebrating birthdays now have a Gift Shop icon next to their name so users can easily send them online gifts.


BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]