Samyang is the name brand when it comes to instant noodles in Korea. Founded in 1961, they were the first manufacturer of Korean instant ramen and pioneered the instant food industry for the country.
Their recent launch of Buldak Fire Noodles – an excruciatingly spicy variety – struck a chord with a surprising, new market: Millennials and Generation Z consumers in America.
The noodles went viral in the States and quickly dominated the overseas instant ramen market. Buldak Fire Noodles began appearing in challenges, “Mukbang” videos, and megastar social media profile mentions including rapper Cardi B.
Samyang wanted to identify new ways to engage with this newfound foreign audience. While they had a deep, longstanding knowledge of the Korean market, they turned to waymakrs for help creating a social media strategy that would resonate with and engage a targeted American demographic.
Connecting with an international audience also required a content approach with the proper tone of voice that would capture attention and appear authentic. An increased effort to engage with overseas consumers would not only expand market penetration and sales but revitalize the Samyang global image.
Assessment & Opportunity
We conducted analysis on Samyang’s existing brand awareness, content strategy, and social media engagement in light of both current and target demographics. Considerations included how to use messaging and design to properly position the Samyang brand while creating excitement and interactions with American youth.
Our research identified Samyang’s differentiators for the American audience. Instant ramen noodles have long had popularity and a large market in the U.S., but the established players were outdated, unengaging, and bland in both flavor and branding. Their main attraction: a quick, easy meal consumers could buy in bulk for a buck a bowl.
Samyang Buldak instant noodles offered several unique traits: intense flavor and a soupless format innovative to North American targets who expect their ramen to be mostly salty broth in every cup.
This bold new vision of the instant noodle presented a key opportunity to reposition Samyang’s brand as bold, vibrant, and exciting to North America’s biggest consumers of instant noodles: Gen Z and millennials.
Approach & Strategy
Samyang’s products were innovative – and its brand needed to reflect this to target buyers in its cross-channel social strategy.
We took a three-step approach to rebranding Samyang as bold and exciting to North American audiences: fresh design, engaging voice, and feature photography.
Our team of designers simplified brand and product design elements, repurposing the busier Korean-style design aesthetic into a minimal approach. Colors were consistently used through social content to underscore Samyang’s brand identity.
All social media graphics were designed with consistent elements making it clear to online audiences that they were engaging with Samyang content. Elements such as consistent logo placement, color palette, and use of the Hochi character were carried throughout the new campaign content for improved brand recognition (see before and after images below).
Font also played a part in conveying the brand’s personality. We incorporated several key fonts to show Samyang’s fun, creative, and engaging sides and created consistency without redundancy for users scrolling a feed.
Content strategy objectives paired with the design refresh to actively show readers that Samyang was an exciting, confident, and witty brand. We crafted copy in a tone of voice in line with the brand persona with bold, engaging quips relatable to younger American audiences.
Copywriting strategy included a deep study of word choice beyond English use in formal marketing. Engagement and bold vocabulary selection benefited from our team’s thorough understanding of American idiom, slang, and word play. Campaigns incorporated localized words like “noods” as a shortened expression of “noodles” and “fire” as a clever wordplay to mean both “spicy” and “amazing”. These nuances are difficult to pick up unless you are North American or a native English speaker.
We also changed the Samyang approach to social media captions. Length was simplified to connect a specific message with a single brand element. Captions were also crafted to convey a sense of both excitement and adventure implicit with the experience of eating Samyang products targeting millennial and Gen Z readers.
Food is the core of the Samyang brand, so photography efforts focused on visually demonstrating the brand’s delicious, mouthwatering foods.
Industry leading talent was called in to take food concept photos with an extraordinary attention to detail. Teams spent hours on each shot to make sure every garnish and noodle placement was precise to capture the best shots.
Competitive analysis showed brands with less focus on food in social media graphics. For example, in the below competitor photo, the noodles look mushy, there are garlic clove debris in the photo, object placement is off, and the image is unbranded.
Our photography approach sought to show Samyang foods as excellent and impeccable, allowing consumers to perceive the brand as elevated. This attention to detail makes Samyang’s social media pop with a vibrance and boldness that resonates with the audience.
Ultimately, the photography emphasizes what they can expect from the food itself. It returns the emphasis of Samyang’s SNS photos to the true hero of Samyang’s story: the noodles. Nothing else matters when the food is in the spotlight.
Our new campaign launched across Samyang’s North American Instagram and Facebook accounts to near overnight success. Across all social media, the brand experienced a drastic 980% uptick in engagement rates and an amazing increase to 26% follower growth in just 5 months.
Millennials and Gen Z actively voiced their appreciation of the content, confirming that our strategy and translation efforts were deployed successfully in this Korean pioneer’s new frontier. We created a vibrant, bold, playful brand image with entertaining designs, relatable language, and focused photos showing U.S. audiences saw how eating Samyang can spice up their life.