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The Social Media K-Pop Fever

March 22, 2012 | Filed under E-commerce & Fashion Trends, Social Networking Tips

A new kind of Korean pop music has been taking over the American airwaves recently and it goes by the name of K-Pop.  While on my recent stay in Asia I experienced this  new wave of boy bands and pop music first hand. Not only are these groups huge in their own country, but they’re also turning their success into international fame.  In Korea the term is “hallyu” which translates simply into Korean wave, or an influx of Korean culture into different foreign markets.  It started in the 1990s with massively popular N*Sync and Spice Girls style boy bands and girl groups, and slowly over the years they’ve begun to expand their fanbase into different Asian markets and eventually into America.  Everyone from The New York Times, to Gawker, and even The Guardian have written recent stories about the growing K-Pop phenomenon.

                                                                                 Girls’ Generation

If you take a closer look, K-pop has actually been making huge strides in America over the last year or so.  Girls’ Generation, one of the most popular K-Pop all girl groups, performed on the The David Letterman Show, and they also recently signed with Interscope Records to release their latest album in the US.  Another girl group, Wonder Girls, even made a TV-movie for the TeenNick cable channel, which goes to show there’s definitely an expanding interest for K-Pop in tons of different American venues.

Last year one of the largest K-Pop production companies SM Entertainment hosted a sold out Madison Square Garden performance for their diverse roster of stars, some of which even covered American pop songs like Kesha’s “Tik Tok”, which is definitely an aesthetic parallel to the visual and musical component of the genre.  Although K-Pop is popular in the US, it’s not as widely covered in the mainstream media, so the ardent fans are using Social Media and other platforms to really expand the fanbase and share in their adoration of this cult-like phenomenon.  K-Pop music videos are some of the most widely watched clips on all of YouTube, with the recent Girls’ Generation #1 single “Hoot” racking up 2 million views on YouTube within 24 hours of it’s release.

Musically K-Pop shares tons of different similarities with Western Pop, Electronic Music and Hip Hop culture.  A lot of the tracks are a perfect pastiche of over the top trance and electro with modern R&B and Hip Hop tropes thrown in for good measure.  Famed East Coast Rap producer Swizz Beatz even recently partnered up with the Korean entertainment group O&Media to a create a cross-pollination of influences across the two diverse markets.

In a recent interview with MTV he talked about his admiration for the work ethic and marketing strategies within K-Pop culture, which is something he said was sorely lacking in American pop music: “They still do artist development [in Asia], where back here in the States, the labels and our culture lacks artist development,” he said. “Nowadays, an artist can go into the booth, put out a song the next day, and that person thinks that they’re a superstar. But within the K-Pop movement, artists actually go through artist development. They take music classes that allow them to be ready for when they do become that big star.”

Aesthetically K-Pop artists blend a huge mix of eclectic influences into their visual amalgam.  Many of the K-Pop girl groups have styles reminiscent of the classic Fruits magazine candy colored Harajuku style with different contemporary stylistic changes and nuances, while the boy bands, especially the massively popular Big Bang, has a really diverse and far reaching palette that often times mimics and remixes popular western fashion trends.

Big Bang Album Art for “Alive”

At certain times they’re resembled classic but punky Ralph Lauren yuppies, to rocking old school Nike and Reebok sportswear, and recently they’re gone a little bit into the Lady Gaga route, with androgynous retro-cyberpunk costumes, mixed in with a little Harajuku avant garde street style and fully customized getups, awesomely displayed in their recent video for their single “Bad Boy” which oddly enough was filmed under the JMZ subway tracks in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (which is definitely another nod to their influence and appreciation of Western culture).

While I was in Asia I was so excited to see this K-Pop movement in all of it’s awesome poppy and eccentric glory from billboards to clothing stores, and even MTV Asia, and then coming back to the states it was interesting to see NYC and other markets really embrace this amazing new style of pop music.  It’ll only be a matter of time before K-Pop has completely taken over the American charts.

Resources:

New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/business/global/using-social-media-to-bring-korean-pop-music-to-the-west.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/25/arts/music/shinee-and-south-korean-k-pop-groups-at-madison-square-garden-review.html

Gawker:

http://gawker.com/5892072/the-real-perfect-new-pop-song-is-this-k+pop-hit-bad-boy

The Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2011/apr/20/k-pop-sweden-pelle-lidell

MTV News:

http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1680335/swizz-beatz-k-pop-venture.jhtml

Social Media in Asia 101

February 27, 2012 | Filed under Digital & Tech Trends, Digital Marketing Tips, E-commerce & Fashion Trends, Social Networking Tips

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on a project in Asia and during my travels I’ve learned a few interesting things about the Social Media landscape in Asia.  For starters, the Social Media consumption in Asia is greater in some markets than it is in the US.  Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines widely use Facebook, and the mobile internet market share is also much larger in these countries than the global average.

Countries like China, Japan and Vietnam use different but similar platforms such as Weibo and Renren (in China), Mixi (in Japan) and Zing (in Vietnam), and Google+ is also slowly gaining popularity.  It doesn’t have as much penetration as the larger more established platforms, but brands like Cathay Pacific and Uniqlo are among the first to create their own Google+ pages.

Overall, the Social Media behaviors vary in these countries because of their inherent cultural differences.  One of the main reasons is because Asian culture is more shy and reserved, and it’s usually considered rude to promote yourself directly.  Some of the main ways Social Media in Asia is utilized is through pop culture re-mashing, sharing photos of yourself out socializing with friends, learning about products online, and sharing tips instead of self-promotion and touting how great you are, which is definitely more common with Social Media in the US.

Even though there are some similarities, each country has its own specific behavior and Internet content usage patterns; here are some of the highlights of the Asian Social Media market:

  1. Photo sharing – Photo sharing is HUGE in Asia; literally any occasion deserves photo sharing. The general audience doesn’t use tools like Instagram as much we do in the US, but instead they directly upload them into their Facebook pages.  Although Instagram is slowly making strides in the Asian market.  A great example is Candy Mafia, a Thai pop group, who avidly use Instagram, and pop groups in general have a huge Social Media presence. Beauty and Fashion sharing is also extremely popular online; I’ve seen users taking pictures of their new possessions from Louis Vuitton to their North Face collection. There are also entire Tumblr sites dedicated to sharing picture collages of pop stars and TV shows, along with a variety of different gifs.
  2. Social Media Games – Social media games are used as stimuli to drive new users and gain reach within existing users, while actual content sharing is more popular among the more experienced users.
  3. Bulletin board systems underpin popular Social Media behavior in China; more than 80% of their Social Media content is based on bulletin board systems.
  4. Product Reviews – Online product reviews are increasing their influence on purchases in India, particularly for consumer electronics.  55% of Indians that read online product reviews have purchased products based on feedback. Consumer durables / electronics are the most common products that are purchased based on reviews (64% of purchases).
  5. Tweeting: Among the Asian market, Japanese Internet users are the most avid bloggers globally, posting more than one million blogs per month, which is significantly more than any other country in the region. Japan’s adoption of Twitter also continues to grow, with unique visitor numbers increasing in the last year from less than 200,000 to more than 10 million. 16% of Japanese Internet users now use Twitter, compared to only 10% in the U.S.

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