Wednesday, October 28, 2015

And the winner is... I.SEOUL.U (not Seoul?)

Earlier this year, I joined the Seoul Branding effort because I love this city and I wanted a better signature than 'Hi Seoul' to represent it.

I prefer such expressions as 'signature' to 'brand' because Seoul doesn't need branding. As Roy Disney famously said, "Branding is something you do to cows. It makes sense if you're a rancher, since cows do tend to look alike".

Anyway, it couldn't get worse than this...:

... could it?

I knew that I had to brace for the worst when I received an email, last July, giving the team its first true 'mission'*: doing some SNS PR for PARK Won-soon's trip to China...

Still, the crowdsourcing effort across the capital did bring a lot of suggestions (over 16,000), including decent ones: even if the old 'Infinitely Yours, Seoul' had been dumped, such newbies as 'Find your Seoul' sounded promising.

Since I was out of town during most of the process, I don't know how the 3 finalists made it: the utterly unhashtagable "I.SEOUL.U" looked and sounded like an insult (as in I.EXPLETIVE.U), and "Seoulmate" like a dating site for corporate designers of the eighties. If Seouling didn't make much more sense, at least it mirrored the city's elusiveness, and anyone could make anything out of it, without being forced into a Relationship in capital letters.  

  • Note that, as often the case here, nothing seems to have been done to protect the 'brands' or their URLs (typically: will Seoul City move its Facebook page from, or wait for its next avatar?)...
The winner was decided by the combination of 3 votes (50% for the first, 25% for each of the other two), starting with a popular one open to everyone and closed a few days prior to yesterday's event, where a poll of 1,000 citizens (who turned out to be 1,140) and a panel of 9 experts voted with an electric device guaranteeing the one voice one vote ratio. The first vote brought 121,000 ballots (76,000 online, 45,000 offline), and there's no way to tell how many people voted how many times - in my case, once, and online.

Yesterday, I came to Seoul Plaza to vote as a Seoulite who barely speaks Korean, and only slightly better English, but with a personal experience in each of the city's 467 neighborhoods, and a professional experience in branding. Which made the choice even more cruel. I opted for 'seouling', since I've already been seouling for over almost a quarter of a century - whatever that means.

The winner, I.SEOUL.U, claimed only 36.5% in the open ballot, but 59.8% of the citizens present yesterday. I bet many voted for a team rather than for a logo, and I even saw one of my neighboring clapping ajumma change her mind after watching what turned out to be the best video and the cutest team. The fact that 100% of the expert panel supported I.SEOUL.U made me wonder, as a giant flag with the winning logo was unfurled over the audience just minutes after the verdict, if similar flags had been prepared for the other finalists...

Seoul Brand: citizens vote for I.SEOUL.U (NB worst brand but best video tonight)
To wrap up this democratic fest, PARK Won-soon danced on stage in a mini musical. I left in the cold Seoul night when the first k-pop group popped up.

Now get ready for the I.SEOUL.Uization of your environment: a CCL (Creative Commons License) makes sure it will spread everywhere, and the city plans 'brand sculptures' for this December.

Happy Halloween indeed.

---20151029 ADDENDUM---
Speaking of Seoul brand's latest avatar: I.SEEOUL.U?

Seoul Village 2015
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* Before that, we'd been asked to suggest names for the team (I proposed to keep a simple 'Seoul Friends').

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