The world is on fire for everything Korean right now, and the trend continues its upward trajectory. And the fascination hasn’t gone unnoticed by brands using consumer and market intelligence to stay hip to emerging trends. Shake Shack is one such brand that is channeling consumers’ K-pop love – and it’s leveraging the phenomenon to bring some unique contention to the ongoing chicken wars, while making the most of its consumer market research.
Here, we’ll take a quick dip into what’s driving the Korean craze and how brands are drawing upon the inspiration to design winning influencer marketing strategy, with a focus on:
- Why the world loves Korea
- Shake Shack selling kimchi
- Brands courting K-pop icons like Blackpink and BTS
And for a quick primer, here are a few stats we uncovered before we get going:
- Korean pop music, or K-pop for short, first entered the mainstream in 2009 when the Wonder Girls became the first group in the genre to make the Billboard Hot 100 with their crossover hit “Nobody.”
- South Korean singer Psy helped K-pop become an international sensation with his runaway mega-hit “Gangnam Style” in 2012, which became the first video on YouTube to top one billion views. The song hit the top of the charts in over 30 countries and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Hallyu, a Chinese word meaning “Korean Wave,” is the term used in reference to the rising global popularity and export of Korean pop culture and its dominance in leading brands influencer marketing strategies.
That said, let’s take a peek behind the infatuation and see what all the fuss is about.
Why the World Loves Korea
Korean culture has swept the globe and is growing in influence every year. And its momentum at this point is like a runaway rail car on Saturday morning cartoons. Interestingly enough, however, it’s not an accident that things have turned out the way they have. Quite the opposite, actually.
The reality is that what we are witnessing today are the fruits of a masterful national rebrand initiated by the Korean government. After the Asian financial crisis in the late ’90s crippled their economy, heavily dependent on heavy industry, the Korean government decided to diversify and launched an initiative focused on building a new export – Korean culture. It’s influencer marketing strategy 1.0, which has translated well in our 2.0 online world.
Countries often have a ministry of culture that performs consumer market research and promotes tourism and the export of culture but to call Korea’s initiative a success story is an understatement. They helped the movement gain its footing, finding early international success in soap opera-ish K-dramas and then funding early K-pop groups. By the time Gangnam Style hit the scene in 2012, there was no going back.
Nowadays, everything Korean is brought to you by the letter K. There’s K-pop obviously, then k-fashion, k-beauty which promotes skincare and makeup, and the ever-quirky k-dramas. And the top Korean influencers draw some staggering social media engagement, like Jisoo from the all-female group Blackpink.
And showing its ability to stay abreast of emerging trends, the government invested in its own esports infrastructure, and its very own influencer marketing strategy, which helped pave the way for today’s esports boom. They formed the Korean Esports Association (KeSPA), which has now turned the nation into one of the world’s premier esports networks.
And since Korean culture has become so ubiquitous, it’s a smart move for brands to get in on the love – and we’re seeing it happen!
Shake Shack Selling Kimchi
On January 5th American fast-casual restaurant Shake Shack announced the launch of their Korean-style fried chicken sandwich and Korean Gochujang Chick’n Bites. The offerings were initially rolled out in their South Korean Shake Shack locations and launched stateside after a warm reception.
Their creative take features a sweet and spicy gochujang glaze and is topped with kimchi slaw that they source from family-run Choi’s Kimchi Co. in Oregon.
It’s a smart move on two fronts, actually. Not only does it play upon the Korean wave sweeping the globe, but it gives the brand a unique contender in the rapidly escalating chicken sandwich wars. Everything Korean feeds the consumer behavior purchasing trend of the moment.
And it’s not only K-Pop, but also popular Korean YouTubers taking note and driving traffic, like Strictly Dumpling, who has 3.58m subscribers:
Wendy’s launched a new chicken sandwich in late October, and both KFC and McDonald’s recently announced new offerings set to drop in February. The competition for supremacy with Popeyes and Chik-Fil-A is about to hit a fever pitch – which means Shake Shack’s addition couldn’t be timelier. And its consumer and marketing research couldn’t be more on-point.
And they’re will be heaps of consumer and market intelligence to be had amongst the new additions as there’s just something about chicken sandwiches that makes people swoon.
Shake Shack’s distinctive offering stands out among the crowd, and even though it just launched, the early feedback looks favorable.
Brands Courting Blackpink & BTS
K-pop supergroups Blackpink and BTS are two of the hottest bands in the genre right now, and audience analysis of brand mentions from any of the members all but guarantees enormous engagement. And that’s precisely what Pepsi is counting on with its recently announced “Go All In For What You Love” campaign featuring Blackpink.
The group’s members, Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa and Rosé, will be featured on limited-edition Pepsi products and heavily featured on social media with fan surprises and giveaways. The aim is to increase brand awareness on social platforms throughout the APAC region, confirmed via social media data analytics. And, given Blackpink’s soaring popularity, is sure to be a spectacular influencer marketing strategy success. Having a social listening tool to confirm this phenomenon helps!
And there’s almost not enough superlatives to adequately explain the success of BTS. The seven-member group debuted in 2013, and at this point, everything they touch turns to gold as every consumer market trend analysis proves. They have a laundry list of brand collabs under their belt from Starbucks to Baskin-Robbins, and everything in-between.
Hyundai is currently in partnership with BTS to promote its sustainable mobility brand IONIQ. The collaboration pairs the sustainability conversation’s popularity with BTS’s charm and visibility to spread awareness of their line of EV and EV-hybrid vehicles. It’s a super-smart way to get the word out because when BTS speaks – everybody listens.
K-pop and the greater influence of Korean culture is an emerging trend that continues to evolve and impact audience analysis. Brands will do well to keep up to date on their consumer and market intelligence as it pertains to the space to spot brand opportunities and initiate creative collaborations with top influencers to support influencer marketing strategy. Top brands are catching the wave – and you can too.
Is your brand driving social media analysis and engagement to its full potential? Be sure to reach out for a demo, and we’ll help you set the stage for a vibrant – and tasty – 2021!