K-Pop Goes Viral – Gangnam Style!
By Adam O’Neill, Mindshare
Unless you’ve been hiding out in a cave for the last couple of months, by now you would have seen the K-Pop sensation Psy and his music video – Gangnam Style. Based on a satirical look at wealth in-equality in Seoul it’s spread like crazy through online media and enjoyed growing popularity crossing into news, talk shows and advertising campaigns. At the time of writing the clip had reached over 221m views on YouTube within 2 months of being released on 15th July.
Korea is a country which has developed rapidly in the past half century, emerging from a war-torn landscape, invaded by most of it’s neighbours. Today Korea stands as the 4th largest economy in Asia and home to some of the world’s largest brands in their categories. More recently the film and music culture (Halyu) has begun replicating these trends
Managed by Korean entertainment company YG Entertainment, Psy as he is called, the name coming from his first rap album “psycho world” released in 2001. Psy is a 34 year old Korean who grew up in Gangnam and claims the motto “dress classy and dance cheesy”. Most of Psy’s viewers have come from the USA with recent appearances on TV chat show Ellen teaching Britney Spears how to dance. Earlier a Psy parody had featured on Jay Leno in a skit imitating Mitt Romney trying to attract younger voters. There have even been US NFL players doing the dance as a touchdown celebration. Just this week Rolling Stone Magazine did an interview asking Psy to explain the making of Gangnam Style, of which Psy references that most scenes were done as a joke or parody of other celebrities. All of the major US News networks have picked up on the craze and people seem to be imitating it like parrots. YG has also used the song to cross promote other artists such as Waveya whom have over 18m hits of their own version of the song.
Gangnam Style reached Number 1 on YouTube Most Viewed videos of the month in August it’s also Number 1 on iTunes lists in US, Canada, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand. The trend continues to break new records as mainstream media add awareness.
It’s not easy to point to a single reason why the video has been so popular, perhaps it’s the silly dance, the catchy tune or scenes of Korean girls wearing, well, not much. The parody is not lost on itself in an entertainment industry which takes itself so seriously. What could we take out of this as Marketers? Humour works. Keep the concept simple and easy to understand. Try to include something catchy and memorable, in this case the music and dance takes care of that. Celebrity cameos work and don’t be afraid of cross promotion. Obviously sex sells, and lastly perhaps sometimes we just take ourselves too seriously?