There is an old saying, "It takes more than pearls to make a necklace." The advanced technology and the high quality of Korea's small businesses can be compared to those bright pearls. However, it is a pity that due to their relatively low brand power, their recognition in the global market is not very high which in fact leads to a lot of problems in export. Aiming to ease the difficulties of these small businesses, KOTRA is implementing a project of stringing the pearl-like small businesses into necklaces with the KOTRA Seal of Excellence. "KOTRA selects companies of high quality and technology together with global business capacity, and grants them the KOTRA Seal of Excellence," says Kim Sang-mook, the Director General of the Global Business Support Department and Brand Promotion Team.
The selected companies get to wear the "KOTRA Seal of Excellence Logo" and take advantage of it in overseas marketing, thus gaining credibility of foreign buyers and increasing export. From this project, which has been under progress since 2008, a total of 416 companies have been awarded as the KOTRA Seal of Excellence up to date, high-level companies who have passed strict evaluation to prove they meet the requirements in quality, technical advancement, and global business capacity.
With "green" being the talk of the town globally today, KOTRA, from the year 2010, is expanding the scope of the brand endorsement project to companies with the green technology. It grants the KOTRA Seal of Excellence-Green to companies with high quality and advanced technology in the green sector. If the export promotion effect from the Seal awarded companies is also shown in the 'Seal of Excellence Green', exports of Korean green products are expected to greatly increase.
Meanwhile, the KOTRA Seal of Excellence Project has been proved effective in many ways. Coming from a survey of 407 foreign buyers, the fact that price competitiveness has improved substantially, with those Seal awarded companies' preference and credibility increasing drastically, is one of the proven effects. Reportedly, preference has increased to 80.8% along with credibility increase to 84.9%, allowing us realize its great influence.
It is not a surprise that exports of the selected companies have increased greatly after the KOTRA Seal of Excellence. One example is an optical joystick manufacturer, CrucialTec. CrucialTec's sales for 2007 were just around 600,000 dollars, but after being selected as the KOTRA Seal of Excellence in 2009, their sales from export in 2010 have increased rapidly to 140 million dollars, may we realize its strong influence.
"Whether the KOTRA Seal of Excellence companies are qualified or not in meeting the requirements is a key issue to maintaining the credibility of the Seal. This is why we are carrying out follow-up supervision on the selected companies as means to improve the credibility and the distinction of the KOTRA Seal of Excellence and the Seal awarded companies," explains Director General Kim. These interim checkups contribute to the reason why Korea's small businesses polish themselves more and more to put up a better competition in the global market.
KOTRA has been supporting overseas promotion by publishing Newsletters which is weekly basis for foreign buyers, organizing major exhibitions, both domestic and international, as well as the public relations office for the KOTRA Seal of Excellence, assisting e-catalogue production for the awarded companies, and supporting overseas advertisement such as search word entries in major global portal sites, but Director General Kim Sang-mook says they plan for a more strategic overseas promotion focusing on the online sector this year. They will make good use of the 'words with no wings that can fly many thousand miles' nature of the online world to strengthen the overseas promotion. There are also plans to provide information by inducing online marketing as well as participation for exhibitions.
KOTRA will provide articles regarding the products of the Seal awarded companies as the KOTRA Seal of Excellence for 6 months in IT Times Online Real-time News section, and in the monthly issue of the print magazine.