In a convention hall in Gangnam, roughly 1,000 business figures gathered to wait for the Lee Jang-woo Brand Marketing Show to begin. With a spotlight, the host, Lee Jang-woo, walks out to a thunderous round of applause from the audience. Lee, chief branding officer (CBO) of Imation, U.S.A., a professor of Business Administration at Ewha and head coach of the Lee Jang-woo Brand Marketing Group, then shares his knowledge about brand marketing and design, like he’s done a thousand times before. Most of the lessons come from Lee’s 27 years of field experience.
A CBO with great talent and knowledge, Lee’s career did not start as splendidly as it has become. He began working in 1982 at a multinational enterprise (MNE), 3M, in the sales department after being rejected from the maintenance department.
“Any ordinary person would have thought that I must have been satisfied with getting employed at a world famous MNE, but I still strived to be better,” said Lee, his face reflective as he considered the panorama of his past.
“I think studying is the best opportunity one can have to succeed, and only studying will make one more qualified to work,” Lee added. “To achieve my academic career, I believe time management was the key to success.”
To take advantage of education, Lee attended university, although he did not have a house and was in great financial hardship. He got a full scholarship given only to those with outstanding grades. “I worked and studied for my master’s and three doctor’s degrees at the same time. To show the professors that although I might miss classes a lot, I put my best effort into the subject,” Lee said. “I would frequently hand in papers and participate in classes.”
After being appointed as CBO at Imation, he added USBs to Imation’s lineup for the first time and branded them ‘Atom.’
“To compete with other USBs and EHDDs (external hard disk drives), I thought branding was very important, naming the USB and EHDD I designed as ‘Atom’ and ‘Apollo,’” said Lee.
“I have proposed numerous projects and designed many digital apparatus by myself,” he added. “In a market where competition is fierce, it is important to update and be innovative to attract consumers.”
Lee also spoke about MNEs in general. “An MNE is relatively experienced in many different markets and is more systematized compared to other Korean companies,” he said. “But they lack the competitiveness and quick decision making process that is essential when entering the Korean market.”
Lee said since Korean employees are more fast-paced, flexible and winning-spirited than foreign workers, students should try to emphasize such traits but improve Korean weaknesses, such as being less systematized. “I suggest that students [who want to work at MNEs] should have fluent English and be more cross-cultural than those who want to be employed at Korean firms,” Lee said. “Moreover, students should be willing to adjust themselves to different cultures and situations as there will be workers from numerous nations,” said Lee.
Other than English skills and be able to adapt, Lee also mentioned the need to be educated in many different fields of study by reading books and taking as many classes as possible.
Despite his successes, Lee is still not satisfied with his career. He has founded a company called Lee Jang-woo’s Brand Marketing Group. It is composed of business professionals who are willing to use some of their time to coach other firms about long-term brand marketing. The virtual networking company pays the business professionals very little.
“I want Korean firms to be as economically strong as MNEs around the world,” Lee said. “That is why I am coaching brand marketing for the first time in the world. By having regular free brand marketing lectures, I continuously seek to help Korean firms and get a win-win effect. “To give constant help, I also try to study and develop projects in cosmetics and fashion.”
At the end, Lee said, “I did not study and work only for my own benefit. I believe that my effort to blend brand marketing with design will help the firms and people to be successful.”