Benchmarketing Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video to gain wider publicity

Psy – Gangnam Style

I’m pretty sure that almost everyone has watched Psy’s Gangnam Style video somewhere on the web (now that we mentioned this in class, I know everyone has watched it unless people weren’t paying attention!). The video has gone viral, hitting more than 400 million views and setting the Guinness Book of Records for the most likes on YouTube. The song has also topped both the Billboard music chart and iTunes chart despite the fact that all the lyrics are in Korean and there are no subtitles written for non-Korean natives. How could this be possible?

Well, there are several factors that made this viral video catchy.

1. Flashy visuals: From beginning to the end, Psy appears in various settings dressed up in a handful of colorful outfits. There is no time for the viewer to be bored, and the audience is caught being drawn into the video to see what comes next. Although Psy is nowhere near “handsome” or “pretty-faced” like most other artists, he was able to gain popularity through his “unattractive” looks and cocky attitude – which may in fact seem more attractive (reverse psychology maybe?).

2. Addictive music/Entertaining dance moves: The melody of Psy’s song is mostly repetitive and the moves shown in his video match with the current trend of the electro-dance genre. Many American celebrities have also performed this dance on stage which led Psy to gain even more fame in the US market.

3. Compelling message: Although the video seems too funny to actually depict a message, the lyrics of the song entails an anti-materialism theme that pokes fun at men who try to fantasize their lives as part of the “elite.” In a period of global economic recession, the story has helped to make the video more appealing to the wider public.

Applying these concepts to the business world

So, how would a brand/company create an ad that would 1) go viral and 2) gain interest on both hemispheres of the world? When I used to work in the marketing communications team for a tech company, the biggest dilemma our team had was to create one global ad that would be suitable for all markets. From my own experience at work and through watching this video, a few thoughts came into mind.

1. Embed non-culturally-specific humor in the ad: Psy’s video contains an emotional denominator that could be accepted across various cultures – humor. These days, I watch many ads on TV and find that a lot of the humor is for mainly for locals, and those outside of the US would find it difficult to understand the “inside joke.” I guess Psy made his video entertaining by using body language, which could be understood universally.

2. Be easy and share your brand:  Many artists these days license their songs so that they could earn more profit through official downloads, but this is not very helpful if you were trying to gain wider publicity in the long run. Studying Psy’s video, I came to learn that he withdrew the copyright of the clip so that viewers could easily own and share the video personally. You may not reap any benefits at the current moment, but releasing the copyright of your brand identity may help you to become more popular down the road.

3. Appeal to the public with an emotional message: Some of the most popular advertisements that have gained wide publicity include messages that give the viewer a reason to care. As for Psy, his theme may not be very evident to non-Korean speakers, but his message eventually was shared amongst the public, leading the video to be something more than an entertaining video to watch and share.

It’s too bad that this video was already shared in class today, but I’m sure the contents of this blog would be easier to understand now that it has already been discussed! The following is just an interesting video that I saw regarding viral videos. Hope you enjoy!

Kevin Allocca : Why Videos Go Viral



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6 Responses to Benchmarketing Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video to gain wider publicity

  1. Qingwei says:

    Thanks for sharing your insights into Gangnam mania. New York Times has a new report about Psy this morning with the title ” His Style is Gangnam, and Viral Too” and the lead began with a comment “There are global culture phenomena and then there is Gangnam Style.” Just as we discussed in class, pop culture from other countries rarely survived in the US and not to mention having the chance to become a mania. But Psy made it. The first time I saw the video I felt the urge to learn what Psy was singing about. Then I went to Wikipedia and learned about the lyrics. I thought the story and sarcasm revealed in the song might be the reason why it was so “sticky” in Korea but this obviously failed to explain why it got international sensation. This inspired me to think about how to go viral on social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. While languages vary from country to country, music and dance moves transcend borders. Catchy rhythm, funny dance moves and universal humor can ignite passion and resonate with people around the world. I observed many posts and video which went viral on Chinese and American social media platforms and they seemed to share one thing in common. The content of the posts and videos are highly imitable. The choreography of Gangnam Style makes it not only funny but easy to imitate and even to be adapted to different situations. This might shed light upon why in some public places there are even prohibition signs banning Gangnam Style imitation for safety concerns.

  2. dkennard says:

    Wow, after watching this video for a second time I am so intrigued. It is a great example of how the world we live in today is SO small. The fact that a music video like that can become a global phenomenon is beyond me. Gangham style goes to show that it doesnt matter who you or where your from in the world with the right idea you can reach masses. I decided to comment on this blog because today I was walking home and I saw a man’s shirt that said “I do it Gangham Style” with a picture of Psy doing one of his dance moves and I asked where he got it from and he said the Crenshaw mall.

    The fact that Psy is gaining enough attention in America that stores are selling shirts with his face on them speaks volumes of the creativity he possessed when making this video. This made me think of other YouTube hits and Justin Beiber was the first to come to mind. Not many people remember this now but Justin Beiber’s career started off with him making videos online as a young child in Canada and posting them on YouTube. His voice, dancing, and innocent look made him a YouTube legend which eventually led him to be signed to a label. Now he is one of the most successful young singers in the Hip Hop world and has kids all around world screaming his name!

    Do you guys think Psy can end up having a similar type of success? So far it seems very possible, he has already set YouTube records and has shirts in American malls so I would not be surprised if he is not endorsed or signed to a label or brand in the near future. The only problem is he is a Korean artist how will he continue to captivate an American crowd with that type of music? Maybe he is indeed just a one hit wonder in America. Only time will tell.

    • saijiali says:

      In respond to Devon, Psy studied in Berkley music school in Boston, so I guess he is somehow influenced by the American music style. He has been around for around 10 more years now but I have only started to know him recently. I would credit this phenomenon to the development of online social networks and the change on people’s online behavior. I always feel like when something is controversial, it has the potential to go viral. Because people tend to make a lot of parodies. But my question is: people spent time and money on making a parody, but what will they benefit? what are they looking for? is it for the popularity? for the attention? or for something else? I understand that the parody made by Greenpeace was for Unilever’s attention.
      But what about the parody that we saw in class that were made by Italian? the one with the Photoshop? I kept thinking of this question but I guess there were just trying to make fun of it? I am not sure. Overall, I guess it will always be hard to predict what will be popular online because there are so many uncertain elements in today’s environment and we will never catch the stereotype.

  3. Amy Duan says:

    Frankly speaking, I don’t like Gangnam style and when it becomes viral among Chinese social media, I even’t didn’t click on it. I don’t like it but I try to understand why it is so popular. I feel the style of this song is a mix of exotic Korean style and universal dance clubbing style, it’s easy to learn, simple, repeatable, catchy–sticky might be the right word.
    No one cares about what the song means, they just love the rhythm and the dance in the MTV. So the message is really simple and spread fast. It is also easy to imitate and make parody of it.
    There are a lot of things I don’t like because it’s kind of meaningless…however a lot of them are popular just because of its meaningless:)

    • attwoodd says:

      I agree, Amy that a lot of viral videos are meaningless. But I don’t think this one is.

      In my opinion, it is not just that the video can be copied easily and has a catchy tune that makes it popular. In Psy’s video, extreme wealth and luxury become a joke and look ridiculous. There is something about its imagery that is overtly political and timely as our economy crashes down and the top 1% of society keep their clothes, horses, jets etc. It is no coincidence that there has been a mit romney-style parody.

      In conclusion, I suppose we need to think about what makes things viral very carefully. Usually they tap into a zeitgiest, like economic disparity, that we should be able to unvocer. Hopefully, we can also think about the need to respond to what is relevant as marketers, as it will certainly make our communications better.

      • tumacder says:

        Thanks all for the comments/questions/insights. It is in fact a wonder whether Psy will be able to sustain his popularity in the US music market. In Korea, Psy made his debut in 2000, and strangely enough he was able to really engage the audience whenever he launched a new album. Most of his songs have a techno-ish vibe and his lyrics always involve some sort of satire, which was probably his songs were always so popular. I would predict that Psy is highly likely to launch a new album/song in the US with an English song since he did in fact graduate college in America. If he is able to engage the public with lyrics that do relate to the people, I do think that he will be able to make it in the US market.

        As for those who do not like the video, I guess Psy has still succeeded to grab their attention since antipathy is also a form of interest. Psy’s main goal here was to “stick” and to increase his awareness around the world, and the results on media definitely show that he has reached his core objective.

        Regarding people’s purposes of creating parody movies, I was taking another class in Comm Mgmt and someone wrote a research paper on why people share, and I guess it could be similar to the purposes of people making parodies. Her research showed that people want to be in the spotlight and sharing content brings them self-satisfaction. They also get the benefit of having positive associations just like how people like to post interesting things on Facebook/twitter. I guess in this case, creating parodies would do have the same benefit. There’s no “real” purpose in their actions, but it’s just the gratitude and contentment people get from sharing something fun.