One element of this campaign would have been impossible not that long ago: the owner of a Korean-style barbecue restaurant chain became the first restaurant owner to publicly endorse US beef. The sign on Yoon-Geun Lee's restaurant reads: "US beef restaurant Chamtowoo."
"This is a huge step for US beef and a significant sign that consumer confidence in our product is returning," said Jihae Yang, USMEF-Korea director. "Yoon-Geun Lee was very confident of the taste of US beef as well as its quality and price competitiveness when he opened a restaurant in late 2008 that focused on US beef."
One year later, Lee closed the side of his restaurant business that served domestic (Hanwoo) beef and focused on US beef, opening five more locations that only serve American product.
"Mr. Lee is willing to share his experience and confidence in US beef," said Yang. "This is unique because many owners of small restaurants are much too sensitive and concerned about the response of their patrons and will not aggressively publicize their use of US beef."
The ad featuring Lee's Chamtowoo restaurant will run in four prominent Korean restaurant trade magazines, which will reach the segment of the industry that utilizes an estimated 65% of the US beef imported into Korea.
The second phase of the Trust campaign also includes commercials that will run on four cable TV channels that target Korean homemakers, who make the majority of grocery purchase decisions for families. The ads show a happy Korean mother preparing and serving a meal of US beef for her family. The TV ad also will run on a 24-hour news channel that is shown on a large number of giant-screen televisions located in public areas throughout Seoul.
The campaign also includes advertisements at the busiest subway stations in Seoul emphasizing two areas that USMEF focus groups identified as areas of concern for Korean consumers: grazing cattle and wholesome grain-feeding. The ads are designed to counter the "factory farming" image that many Koreans have of US agriculture.
Export statistics confirm the rebound in S. Korean consumer confidence in US beef. Through the first nine months of 2010, total US beef (muscle cuts plus variety meat) exports to S. Korea are up 136% in volume and 181% in value over the same period of 2009, reaching 81,866 metric tons (180.5 million lbs.) valued at $383.8 million.