South Korean Snapchat, Snow, Captures Asian Imagination

Posted on August 20, 2016 by Media Culture

In America, Snapchat is the place to find young people, lots of fun filters and messages that self-destruct with less-than-usual record of their ever being created.

Lots of Snapchat clones

Asia, however, is ripe with Snapchat clones that are similar, but subtly different. American smartphone apps may be universal in concept, but it seems to take a special Asian twist to see real success with the same ideas in far-flung markets—or at least the domination of apps like Snow, Line and WeChat appear to indicate.

Snow features filters that are more appealing to its Asian audiences, allowing users to add bottles of a Korean liquor called soju or images of Korean pop stars. South Koreans who love fried chicken can literally watch it rain down with a filter made just for them. Other culture-specific filters in Snow include Japanese sumos and sushi filters.

Since September, Snow has had roughly 30 million downloads, according to its parent company Naver. The Korean app is gaining traction in China, as well, where Snapchat is blocked. A similar program from Naver, Line, is available to Japanese markets.


The app template is changing

There was a time not that long ago when an American company would build an app like Snapchat and then take it global, but the wild success of Snow may be an indication that this is no longer going to be a given trajectory for startups.

Instead, companies like Naver, who are more familiar with their local markets, may find a way to build a smarter, faster program very similar to one that is making huge waves in America or Europe. Adding a local twist that creates an immediate hook for the close-by audience is key to the success of these types of companies. As long as they’re providing the same level of service, they’ll remain competitive.

Bringing Asian apps like Snow to American markets is as difficult as doing the reverse. There are massive language barriers and cultural morays to overcome, as well as legal issues to overcome in countries like China where specific restrictions on internet access are common. Even so, the huge blockbuster Snapchat is currently giving it a try, advertising to fill positions for a “language ambassador program” in South Korea and Japan, where the app would directly compete with Snow.

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