What can Kim Jong-un Teach us about Marketing?


North Korea, that faceless little brand that enjoyed brief popularity in the 1950s, is remaking itself, and we should pay attention.

Part of the “Axis of Evil” family of brands, North Korea has been viewed negatively by most international markets. It has traditionally been a non-producing Mao and Pop shop with limited offerings of hot propaganda and cold peasants, and slight penetration into the Chinese market.

That began to change when CEO Kim Jong-Il took over and put his genius to work. After doing a SWOT analysis and brand immersion, he identified his brand’s essence and it was—to nobody’s surprise—Evil. While Evil can be seen as a negative, Kim gained marketing momentum from it by brand extending into the Crazy category. Throughout the 2000s, shelf space in the media filled with North Korea Brand Evil and Crazy. Consumers found an appetite for it and began eating it up.

With the death of Kim Senior two years ago, the brand fell into crisis. Consumers began to think North Korea could no longer deliver the Evil they had grown to love. Their misgivings weren’t helped when new CEO, Kim Junior, came onto the scene with the eminence of a Teletubby and no insane rhetoric to boost confidence in the brand’s Evilness.

But, within a few months:

“We’re no longer content to compete alongside existing brands,” Kim Junior boasted. “We’re going to blow away the competition.”

We outsiders have only gotten a peek at what his campaign consists of, and what we’ve seen are some mighty impressive pieces with explosive potential.

Thanks to Kim Jong-un’s gutsy new push—and the added credibility of brand celebrity Dennis Rodman—North Korea Brand Evil and Crazy (Now with extra Crazy) has boosted its awareness among consumers 1000%. If the rest of the brand effort is on target, we smug major marketers must ask ourselves if North Korea brand will replace more venerable brands in the Evil category.

My answer is, NO. While a brilliant campaign to raise awareness, Kim Jong-un’s much anticipated “launch” will fizzle, the world will forget and North Korea Brand Evil and Crazy will give shelf space back to the major brands from Asia, The Middle East and points west.

–John Graham, Copy Director @ Creative Dimensions