South Korea is the world’s 10th biggest economy in terms of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) last year, suffering relatively little economic harm from the pandemic.
Koala’s global insights in all three of its markets has found consumers are facing similar challenges all around the world when it comes to looking for products.
“[South Korea] is a sophisticated, affluent and very globally-aware market, like Japan. Particularly Koreans in their 20s and 30s, they’re ready to experience the latest fashions and products from around the world. Koreans work really hard, so wellbeing and sleep is a huge focus for them,” said Firth.
Koala products are designed in Australia, but last year the company made the decision to move the majority of manufacturing offshore to China, citing a lower level of investment in technology and innovation in Australian manufacturing.
The brand continues to be designed in Australia and is planning on expanding its range to feature designs heavily influenced by the Australian landscape and colour palette.
“[The new range is] all about bringing ease and comfort into people’s homes, but all of it is going to be [tailored] for the individual markets so they’ll have unique differences in Korea and Japan,” Firth said.
The e-commerce brand is continuing to enjoy the boom in online shopping and will remain focused on the D2C channel, having permanently closed its physical showroom in Australia as a result of the pandemic. However, Firth said there are plans to engage South Korean consumers with exciting physical pop-ups.
“We will have temporary physical pop-up stores and spaces where consumers can get to know us a little bit more as a brand, and see and touch the products in person,” he said.
“It feels like that’s a necessary step, especially in a brand new market. We’ve seen that succeed extremely well in Japan and it’s something we continue to do [in that market]. When we launch the new range in the coming weeks, we’ll be doing a lot of physical, pop-up retail experiences.”
‘The all new Koala’
It’s been a big week for the brand which also launched its ‘Sleep it simple’ campaign to introduce three new mattresses, as well as unveiling a new brand identity and website to better serve its Australian customers.
Firth says the ‘Sleep it simple’ campaign is about stripping out misleading industry jargon.
“Koala is a brand with integrity and that’s why, for this launch, it was important to call
out just how simple selecting a mattress should be. For too long, the mattress industry has run rife with gimmicks and language that’s just plain confusing. So, Koala set out to challenge this,” he said.
The new brand identity has been a year in the making in partnership with creative agency The Royals and centres around an apology for the industry’s complicated approach to a good night’s sleep.
“Our new brand identity embodies a refined, grown up Koala without losing what makes the brand unique. Combined with our brand new website, upgraded technology stack, and our incredible new mattress range, we are so very proud to introduce the all new Koala,” said Peter Sloterdyk, Koala’s chief marketing and technology officer.
The brand identity was first revealed to customers through a ‘We’re Sorry’ message before leaving the audience in the dark for two days prior to launch.
Leanne Glamuzina, Koala’s VP of marketing Australia, said it was the perfect way to create excitement and engagement with the brand.
“Koala’s marketing has always been charming, clever and honest – with a dash of cheeky Aussie humour,” she said.
Campaigns need to be tailored to specific markets though, as the Aussie humour will not always translate well overseas. Koala has individual creative teams for each market to drive campaigns.
“We own a unique personality in each market, and we’ll continue to do that, but we are evolving our brand strategy to ensure there’s greater consistency while still allowing us to be unique,” Firth said.
“We will still be young at heart and witty in Japan and Korea, just with a different take so that it connects to the consumers there.”
While the B Corp has a lot to focus on right now, including maintaining its high environmental and social standards, there is always one eye toward future growth.
“It’s about doubling down and giving these [latest projects] an incredible 12-month runway and then [regarding] future growth, expanding further internationally is definitely on the cards, but I think we’ll focus on South Korea first and foremost.”