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OPPA K-POP STYLE: What brands can learn from Gangnam Style.

Gangam style

Seong Jin Ki from Cheil communications says brands have a lot to learn from the popularity of Gangnam style and K-pop.

December 5, 2012 11:52 by



Try as you may to convince yourself otherwise, Gangnam Style isn’t going away anytime soon. Five months on, the imaginary-horse-trotting sunglass-wearing Korean pop-star’s YouTube video is still getting considerable attention. In fact last week, Gangnam style surpassed Justin Bieber’s Baby to become the most watch YouTube video in the world with over 880 million views.

Despite the language barrier—Psy’s Gangnam style has developed a significant following in North America: he was signed by Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun and has made appearances on Saturday Night Live, Ellen and performed with MC Hammer at the American Music Awards. In fact, Time magazine has even nominated Psy for its annual ‘Person of the Year’ award.

So what is all the fuss about? Social media commentators have tried to pin down the reasons for the virality of the video—is it the simplistic but easily replicated dance moves, the catchy beats or just the plain cheesiness of it all? The jury is still out on this one, Seong Jin Ki from Cheil Communications says brands have a lot to learn from the popularity of Gangnam style and K-pop.

‘K-pop agencies are really marketing agency and they cater to specifically the visual generation. The agencies do not just focus on the song but they are equally focused on the visuals-perfect figures, videos, dance moves. The videos have to be well made.

There are three dynamics for why K-pop has become so popular in the market and from which brands can learn from. The three D’s are doing, diversity and dear friend” says Jin Ki.

The Doing element refers to the transformation of fans from passive observers to active and passionate followers eager to participate in the brand—a transformation K-pop agencies have been acutely aware of, and it has played a pivotal role in shaping the K-pop idols personas and interaction with the fans.

The Diversity element refers to the distinctive characteristic of members of K-pop groups. Unlike Psy, usually K-pop groups consist of nine to 13 different band members each with their unique style and personality—something which opens up a world of marketing opportunities for brands.

The Dear Friend element refers to the way in which K-pop stars share their lives with their fans primarily through social media. Whether it is through Facebook, Twitter or a personal blog, K-pop starlets give out intimate details about the day-to-day like, and encourage their fans to do the same, making fan videos or posting pictures.

Yet at the end of the day, Jin Ki says the bottom line is hard work: “Before they become popular K-pop stars work for hours and hours for years training for their vocals, dance moves and physical training. And they continue to train just as hard after they become famous.”

It is a stretch to classify Psy’s Gangnam Style under K-pop label—if anything the song lampoons the more materialistic aspirations pushed by the industry. Psy, referred to sometimes as the South Korean Ricky Gervais, looks quite the opposite of the perfectly ripped K-pop idols. While he may depart from the usual standards of K-pop, there can be no denying that his success is tied to the discipline and tradition of the K-pop wave. The impeccable production value, the dear friend/ easy-to-imitate factor are undeniably handed down from the K-pop tradition and is something brands can take away from when trying to emulate the success and virality of Gangnam Style.



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