Gangnam Style – An Unlikely Phenomenom

At some point, the phrase “Gangnam Style” will have entered our vernacular in such a way that those of all ages will know that it means “irreverent,” “catchy,” “fun,” and most of all – “viral.” Gangnam Style was carefully crafted and engineered to appeal to a wide audience, yet still managed to remain true to the irreverent nature and offbeat overtone that made it unique. The Gangnam Style video, from South Korean pop star Psy, combines several elements that most businesses can use to increase their odds of a viral increase in recognition. The public is constantly searching for products, services, and causes that are accessible, human, and relatable. Using the Gangnam Style video as framework, the core elements of using PR to cause a business to “go viral” will be examined.

What’s So Cool About Your Brand?

So, PSY is not exactly what you’d expect from a music label that has churned out trendy and cool South Korean pop stars for years. Psy is baby-faced and hardly athletic (though his dance moves belie these factors), dressed in conservative clothes, and is beyond his years in terms of the average age of a contemporary pop star. This makes him more relatable to the masses, and allows us to root for someone who breaks the mold in terms of the traditional dance/pop star. From a PR standpoint, pitting your product against the traditional leaders in the industry may invoke the same level of disbelief in terms of ability and may have the audience rooting for the underdog. Similarly, your brand doesn't have to be traditionally cool to allow for a cool PR launch. Think about the Old Spice campaigns of the last few years with the “Man your man could smell like” line. Deodorant is pretty uncool, to say the least, but Old Spice used some of the basic PR fundamentals of:

  • Knowing your audience and whom you want to eventually target. Old Spice was not a deodorant that most young men reached for, but the aforementioned campaign went viral and has provided a substantial lift in the younger demographics. Also, many women do the shopping in the household, and the entire campaign speaks equally to women with the idea of improving your man through better products.
  • Understanding that your brand doesn't have to be cool to have a cool campaign. Psy is decidedly “quasi-cool” at best and has the most video views of all time on YouTube.
  • Establishing the human connection to make the interaction accessible. For instance, Dodge launched the “God Made a Farmer” commercial during the 2013 SuperBowl. This video was stark, simple, and touched a chord among viewers of all ages. It has been viewed over 15 million times on YouTube over the past eight weeks.

Get The Celebs to Endorse Via Social Media, and Viral Recognition Begins

Celebrities have commented on, endorsed, and shed light on their interest in the Gangnam Style video since it debuted. As the video gained traction, it was interesting to note the spike in views right after a celebrity comment. It is important for any business to get product in the hands of those that are most influential in our society. While the percentage of these folks is miniscule compared to the size of the buying public, the impact of one good or bad review is incalculable. Take any book on Oprah’s list, any shoe design worn by the next hot young starlet, or the next cause endorsed by a celebrity. While a celebrity endorsement is not always necessary to cause your company to go viral, the PR of having a top star drinking your brand of water, wearing your running shoes, or getting actively involved in your charitable cause is a surefire way to increase your business’ odds of going viral.

Star Wars Versus Gangnam Style

We seek to promote brand awareness in a world that has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Businesses have the ability to promote products and services in ways that were only dreamed of twenty years ago. The ability to rapidly increase public awareness is real, and the interactive manner in which a brand identity can be formed means that any savvy company must know how to reach people today. Take the comparison between the original Star Wars movie released in 1977 and the Gangnam Style video. Since 1977, 163 million tickets to the theatrical release have been purchased, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 million copies of the movie purchased for home viewing. That took 35 years. In just nine months, Gangnam Style passed the 1.4 billion-view mark. This doesn’t take into account how many times two, three, or even ten people were watching the video together. Companies must take advantage of the social media outlets available today to ensure a viral launch to their new business, product, or service.