Originating from South Korea, Korean pop or KPOP has a long history of evolving music and culture. It has developed its own genre and set of rules that are completely different from the Western market. Since 1992, it has steadily broken language barriers and has gone beyond borders with the help of fans all over the world. And it will re-establish your way of thinking about how music is made and how it is used as a product. So, how does a niche KPOP market suddenly become globally competitive?
The KPOP Marketing Strategy
KPOP idols are considered the main products of an entertainment company. It takes years to complete their training that not only includes singing and dancing, but also survival in a competitive showbiz environment. Their private lives are also carefully hidden from the public to maintain their clean, wholesome, and professional images. It all stems from a system that regards idols as brands.
Another marketing strategy is the efficient use of social media. Since 2010, the KPOP industry has diligently followed digital trends. Even with their private lives intact, KPOP idols have found ways to share their own content on social media platforms like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Most of the time, KPOP groups share a single social media account to concentrate their fans in one place. This has been deemed effective as seen with groups like BTS and TWICE. Recently, entertainment companies are now developing new platforms and space for their artists’ interactive content like Weverse.
In terms of promoting music, entertainment companies designed a “comeback season.” It aims to generate curiosity and anticipation to both fans and casual audiences. They release teaser videos, photos, and even countdown timers. One example that excites fans is the comeback clues like seeing their idols change hair colors or dropping weird captions on their social media accounts. Overall, it is a fun and complete experience for the consumers.
How KPOP Merchandise Sells
KPOP is known for its wide variety of merchandise. Usually, a singer only has physical albums to sell. But in KPOP, there is an established culture of “belongingness.” That is why fans are needed to be part of a specific fandom. If you love EXO, you need to be a part of ‘EXO-Ls’. If your bias group is BLACKPINK, you need to be a part of ‘BLINKs‘. And within a fandom, there’s a subculture and a unique identity. The best example would be the use of lightsticks.
As long as the brand image of the KPOP idols are strong and recognized, selling KPOP merchandise would be easy and natural, especially for fans. Entertainment companies do not need to go for extreme marketing methods because there are groups of people who would do it for them. Here are three of the biggest influencers of KPOP merchandise:
The KPOP Content Creators
KPOP content creators are mostly found on Youtube or Blogs. Usually, they are considered “professionals” or just simply knowledgeable about KPOP as a topic for discussion. Here are some content creators that you can check out and discover their specific contents:
InternetsNathan creates commentary videos about how KPOP groups were formed, controversial and hard-to-answer questions about KPOP, and analyzes entertainment companies’ business moves. Viewers will get to dig deeper about the ins and outs of the KPOP industry. Getting to know more about the product you love, in this case, KPOP idols, will help you develop added trust in what they are selling. Another similar channel with more fact-based comments is The Asian Theory.
Seoulbeats is a blog that focuses on reviewing musical content from KPOP artists. They explain how the songs were produced and incorporated in a KPOP group’s comeback overall ‘theme’ that is shown on music videos and official photos. More of Seoulbeats’ content also emphasizes the nature of the KPOP culture and entices its readers to experience it for themselves. If you want to get more content like this, you can also visit Asianjunkie or Kpopalypse.
ReacttotheK is a KPOP reactor on Youtube. Since the phenomenal rise of KPOP in the late 2010s, many reactors on Youtube started popping out. And fans are quick to know who is real and who is not, with some who just want to gather views. But reacttotheK is one of the sincere ones, so you will get to enjoy their positive and true opinions on KPOP content. These reaction videos will give you an idea on how different POVs (point of views) see the content, which will make you appreciate it more.
The KPOP Fans
Contents from creators are just one of the few ways on how the branding of KPOP idols moves in different platforms. They are not paid by entertainment companies, but they feed on a market that will do pay them in some way. You can say that it is a kind of indirect marketing.
But if you talk about direct KPOP marketing, the fans or the whole fandom do it for the KPOP artists. Entertainment companies do their work as is, but the marketing is launched to smaller networks with fans’ efforts. One of the best things that they do to promote KPOP products is through unboxing videos. Here are KPOP unboxing video creators and discover why they are effective and pleasing to watch.
Meg R is a multifandom or being part of different KPOP fandoms. With this, fans from other fandoms could check her channel out, which opens her for a more comprehensive reach of audience. This type of content is “satisfying.” KPOP merchandise is major commodities in KPOP, so entertainment companies put a lot of effort in design and quality. Fans who cannot afford it yet might settle to just watching unboxing videos. But another purpose focuses on marketing, like what could fans expect from the product.
Sugabey is also a multifandom but focuses on BTS merchandise. Most of these unboxers find ways to not just show the product but also make the videos fun to watch. Sugabey is one of them as she exudes a bright personality and never fails to edit her videos creatively.
As you can see, these KPOP unboxers do not have many subscribers compared to commentators and reactors. They are just fans who want to support their idols through the promotion of their merchandise, even if they don’t get that many views. Ohseungheesgf is also a multifandom but goes to support even underappreciated KPOP boy groups.
The KPOP Idols
Of course, the best influencers for KPOP merchandise are the KPOP idols themselves. During comeback seasons, idols would promote their albums, both digital and physical, on different Korean variety and music shows. You can watch Weekly Idol or Idol Room variety shows as they focus on KPOP idols’ comeback, with detailed marketing of their song, album, music video, and dance routine. Sometimes, they also give out signed physical albums for free!
Aside from physical albums, KPOP idols also find ways to promote their merchandise. You can see your idols are actually using them, as the items are mostly practical, like t-shirts, bags, and accessories. They either wear them during concerts, an official schedule, or just on casual days. Here is one example from BTS V wearing their Wings concert merchandise.
One more thing that idols do to promote their merchandise is fan interactions, either physically or virtually. Sometimes, they do unboxing videos, too, on V Live or other streaming platforms. There is no limit to how KPOP idols could produce and sell merchandise as long as they retain their fans through their love for their craft. Inspiration could go a long way, and entertainment companies are using it to expand their business. It is a win-win situation for both the producers and consumers.
Experience the KPOP Culture
You will never know how to make sense of the KPOP culture until you experience it. Seeing it from the outside, it is like capitalism taking over teenage girls, but it is not. It is more like a give-and-take relationship. KPOP idols are producing music and entertainment content for fans to take inspiration, a sense of belongingness, and even just simple happiness of possessing merchandise.
Now that business trends are developing fast each year, the KPOP industry is keeping up. There are better ways to purchase and collect KPOP products with the help of online shopping platforms. They aim to give you an easy and convenient buying experience for your desired KPOP merchandise. One example is DELIVERED KOREA. The choices of goods and processes (personal shopper, consolidating, and worldwide shipping) of shopping are very diverse, whatever fits your liking. What a way to maximize your KPOP culture adventure!