At its peak, Guinness Book of Records declared the Psy’s Gangnam Style had received the most likes ever on a YouTube video. Gangnam Style hit one billion views on 21 December, 2012. The Youtube count at the time of writing January 13, 2013, is 1,173,693,451.
When we think of Gangnam style, we think of this amazing, naturally viral video that took the world by storm. I still like to think that, but I know, in reality, the success of Psy’s Gangnam Style, was a well thought out campaign by YG entertainment, who intentionally used the video to enter the US and UK markets.
YG entertainment had already set up a US office before Gangnam Style launch, booking in advance performances with other artists. A US record label deal was also agreed in advanced. Prearranged deals and announcements, rolled out and appeared as breaking news, in response to Youtube’s success.
If Psy was not an amazing talent and the video did not have the X factor, all the marketing in the world would not have pushed it to one billion views. Hey Psy’s passion is infectious, his kooky ways are liberating and his crazy dance style and out there personality, energises all of us.
The song worked across language barriers. It was bright and playful enough to appeal to all ages. It was packed with different scenes, changes in costumes and personality. At every stage the video takes an unexpected twist where we are rewarded with non-stop, high energy excitement. The dancers were high profile personalities, both in the news and celebrities of the moment, giving Psy some immediate credibility and appeal by association.
To launch on fertile territory, YG entertainment seeded its existing audience through its Youtube channel. YG’s engaged community of 2.5 million had been “warmed up” for the launch. YG house of existing artists tweeted about the Gangnam Style to amplify its success. On day one the video had 500,000 views and was number one on the Korean charts shortly after.
Launched on July 15, 2012, YG Entertainment built anticipation for the song through two tweets by @allKpop, the twitter account of the American based Allkpop.com, a music and gossip site.
Slowly media started to pick up on the video. Gizmodo, the self proclaimed “go to authority for digital culture”, ran an article, which was followed by an article in Europe.
Things started heating up when Gawker, the entertainment web site, covered the song and it received 19,500 likes, it then hit Sky News, CNN and Huffington Post. At this time, Youtube featured Gangnam Style as the video of the month and celebrities like Kate Perry endorsed Gangnam Style on twitter with her 25 million followers. By then Gangnam Style had reached that tipping point of being famous for being famous and everyone was talking about it.
What are the lessons from Gangnam Style for branding and marketing? I go back to early observations, community marketplaces, created through social media, are a becoming a critical platform to launch a brand. If you don’t have your brand community strategy in place, it is time you did.
1 Earliest notable reaction video by K-pop fans Katie and Mindy Anderson, uploaded to YouTube on July 18, 2012
2 Earliest notable parody by K-pop bloggers Simon and Martina Stawski, uploaded on July 23
3a Shared on the social news website Reddit, July 28
3b Earliest celebrity comment by Robbie Williams on his personal blog, July 28
3c Featured in the foreign tabloid newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, in Finland, July 28
4 First celebrity tweet by T-Pain, July 29
5 Picked up by Neetzan Zimmerman from the social blog Gawker, July 30
6 Picked up by the British political commentator Andrew Sullivan, who blogs about the video on The Daily Beast, August 1
7 Featured in CNN International and The Wall Street Journal, August 3
8 Nelly Furtado performs “Gangnam Style” at her concert in the Philippines, August 16
9 PSY performs “Gangnam Style” at Dodger Stadium, August 20. This marks his first public appearance in the United States
10 Katy Perry shares the “Gangnam Style” music video with her 25 million followers on Twitter, August 21
11 PSY appears on VH1 with Carrie Keagan and Jason Dundas, August 22. This marks his first appearance in a US television show
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