By Tom Noda
KakaoTalk, a Korean mobile messaging application, made its official launch on Thursday, Aug. 8, in Makati City, in an attempt to draw Filipino mobile users into the habit of using instant messengers for their communication needs.
KakaoTalk is the second Korean IM to hit local shores after Line, which has launched a massive local ad campaign in both the traditional and Web channels.
The word “Kakao” does not translate into something uniquely Korean; it is simply a take-off from cacao, the main source of chocolate. The phrase was chosen to convey the message that KakaoTalk could be addicting, just like chocolate.
In a press briefing, Kakao Corporation executives expressed optimism on the take-up of the new IM, noting that the Internet audience in the Philippines is the fastest-growing in Southeast Asia, increasing by 22 percent since March 2012.
Tim Jang, director of Kakao Philippines, said the company will strive to provide the right product at the right time to satisfy the needs of Filipino consumers.
“The [Philippines] has been especially robust in the past years and we are confident that KakaoTalk will do well in such a promising environment,” Jang said. “We are truly glad to finally launch KakaoTalk in the Philippines.”
As a free instant messaging application, executives said KakaoTalk provides not just free one-to-one and group text messaging, but also free voice calls supporting one-to-one or groups with as many as five participants.
From a mobile messaging service, officials said KakaoTalk has evolved into a multi-faceted platform that offers a range of content and services including business marketing, commerce, games, digital content, and fashion in Korea.
Building on its success in its home country, Kakao Corp. recently embarked on its global expansion by driving business operations and marketing activities in regions it considers with high potential such as Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and now, the Philippines.
The company said it hopes to foster a healthy mobile ecosystem in more regions around the world wherein various stakeholdersm including business partners, developers, and users, can flourish together.
In the Philippines, Kakao intends to focus on helping familiarize Filipino users with KakaoTalk, while continuously monitoring feedback in order to provide timely localized features that accommodate the needs of the market.
At present, KakaoTalk is available in 230 countries, servicing 13 different languages. KakaoTalk is available on iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows, Bada and PC.
As proof of its aggressive marketing efforts in the Philippines, Kakao earlier launched KakaoTalk’s first local TV commercial featuring Korean super group Big Bang alongside Filipino pop idol Sarah Geronimo.