Tuesday, 23 October 2012

‘Gangnam Style’ Marketing

South Korea’s rapper Psy, the performer of viral sensation ‘Gangnam Style’ song and dance, has just reached Australia. The insanely catchy video is approaching half a billion views worldwide and has become the most ‘liked’ video on the YouTube history. If you are as intrigued as I was to find out why, below are some of the marketing strategies behind it.

 Engage through co-creation

The South Korean audience was engaged early on with crowd sourcing of dance movements during the video production, which led to the now ubiquitous horse dance. This co-design strategy was also used in previous marketing communications such as the Tippex ‘a hunter shoots a bear’ campaign, which was one of the case studies examined in the internal marketing lectures (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ba1BqJ4S2M).

Lose control

The video was released without copyrights allowing people to own it, make new versions like the Oregon Duck http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mDpgzn7KuzE and spread them over the web. This enhances distribution and awareness as previously seen with other viral videos such as Gotye’s ‘somebody that I used to know’ and Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘call me maybe’.

Find a unique positioning

Psy cuts through the pop music clutter by embodying the anti-pop icon. In an industry where youth and good looks rule, his less-than-polished image and ‘freak-show’ style certainly make him memorable. His satire of the materialist obsessions of the residents of Seoul’s affluent Gangnam district also gave him an element of novelty, as this kind of social commentary had not previously been done in mainstream Korean pop music.

Apply learning’s from other markets in your country of origin

Perhaps not coincidentally, Psy attended the Berkley College of Music gaining exposure into American music's fondness of social commentary. The time abroad is said to have changed his perspective on his home country and influenced his apparently critical take on South Korean society. Likewise, many brands were born out of transferring foreign knowledge and practices into their home markets like in the Red Bull case, where energy drinks regularly consumed in Asia were introduced as a new category in Western markets.

Keep it simple

While the Western dance culture abounds with ever complex body movements like ‘popping & locking’, which require a seemingly robotic figure to enact, ‘Gangnam Style’ keeps it simple with dance moves any generation or culture background can pick up on. It is the modern equivalent of the ‘Macarena’ (sudden feeling of nostalgia).

Leverage brand awareness

Once you have reached high brand awareness, leverage it through brand extensions, or endorsements in the case of a personal brand. As a result of the ‘Gangnam style’ popularity, the software company owned by Psy’s father has doubled in value since July according to Reuters. Psy has also become the Novotel Seoul ambassador endorsing a lavish package for its guests, which includes a tour of the Gangnam district.

Universal message appeal

Even though most of his worldwide audience does not understand the song lyrics, they are able to relate to the universal messages conveyed by the video. Some resonate with the more futile message of poking fun at the commercial pop music industry and Psy himself. Others see a rather notable message highlighting social differences and a lifestyle that cultivates over-the-top ostentation. Hopefully, the latter message is the predominant one.

What are other marketing lessons that can be taken from this video?

Adriana Heinzen 
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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