Why Gangnam Style Became So Popular – The Reasons Behind Its’ Horse-Riding Success!

Posted on November 28, 2012 
Filed Under General, Internet Marketing, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Social Networking, Social Networks, Traffic Building, Twitter, Video Marketing, Viral Marketing

PSY Gangnam Style“Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s jump up and down – Gangnam Style!” This has been the theme of many parties recently and this song & dance sequence has been replayed at so many events and so many occasions in the last few months, that its’ reached out to people in the remotest of regions who may have even had no access to the Internet! Such has been its success!

It was on the 15th of July, 2012 that the world was first witness to PSY’s Gangnam Style. From then on, the video has spread its wings far and wide to reach out to close to a billion viewers (845,851,259 as of 29 November, 2012)! The success of Gangnam Style showcases just how powerful the Internet can be in being able to “virally” spread your content across the globe.

How did it become so wildly successful? Why was it shared and liked so much? What did it do to reach out to so many people across the globe? These are questions that we want answers to so that we could also try and create our own unique Gangnam style success story in what we do. Here are 7 reasons why we feel the Gangnam Style video became such a resounding success:

1. Rocking Content – The content you have has got to be outstandingly good and stir people in some way for them to react. The Gangnam Style video had many such elements going in its favour:

             a. PSY the Personality – Who’d have expected a middle-aged plump faced guy to be the lead of a music video? And who’d have expected him to carry off such moves and such expressions (in the manner he did)? The video was made keeping his personality in mind – he could carry it off and he did it with flair! People love Psy and for him being who he is has had a large part in the video’s success.


             b. The Trademark Horse-Galloping Dance – The video wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for the unique horse-galloping dance that PSY so perfectly rendered in this video. It was unique yet simple enough for people to catch on to and emulate on their own. It was funny given the contexts in which he presented the dance. It was what no one would expect to see in a music video. The dance gave the video its unique theme and identity and it caught the fancy of many viewers.

PSY Horse Galloping Dance

             c. The Catchy Tune – The music had dance worthy beats and was catchy enough to warrant the attention of many viewers. It is in spite of the language barrier that the song has been so widely appreciated, and that speaks volume of how much people have liked the song for all its beats.

              d. Multiple Backgrounds, Multiple Costumes & Multiple Personalities – There were as many as 19 different background settings in the 4 m 13 s video! That’s plenty of setting changes to keep the viewer hooked on to the video. Also the video was cleverly edited to ensure that there was never too much of the same setting for more than a few seconds! Then there were the costumes – bright colors, multiple costume changes by PSY, the constant eyewear which has now become his trademark, the contrasting costume colors in some settings – all of it gave the video an extended visual appeal. Then there were the multiple personalities, some of whom were noted Korean personalities – a kid from Korea’s Got Talent, a couple of really famous Korean comedians, … – of course, to the unfamiliar viewer these were just multiple different characters that lent a different dimension to the video. All in all, it was the continual element of “change” that kept the viewer engaged. It takes a lot to keep our distracting minds engaged these days and the video was smartly designed to cater to our limited attention spans.

PSY Gangnam Style

2. The Intention was to be Outrageous & do the Unexpected – In this interview here, PSY gives a breakdown analysis of why he chose each locale and setting for his music video. The underlying reasoning was to be over-the-top, hilarious and do the unexpected. If you look at every scene in detail, you’ll see that each one has some unexpected element to it. So constantly surprise your viewer and do the unexpected!

PSY Lift Dance

3. The Readiness to Expand – YG Entertainment had made their intentions clear in February 2012 through various media interviews in South Korea that they wanted to make further in-roads into the US market and were contemplating various possible collaborations with several pop-stars. This inherent desire to move beyond just Korea put them in an “ever ready” position to leverage any opportunities that came their way. Their deal with Scooter Braun was done at the right time and also announced at the right opportunity so as to give the campaign a thrust in its’ later stages. Since they always had the intentions of breaking into the US market, they were well prepared to further market it when the opportunities arose.

4. Existing Base of Subscribers – YG Entertainment was already a successful music label in the Korean Pop arena and had subscribers in the 2 million range before the launch of this video. It had achieved more than 1.6 billion views for its videos over the years before this video and the majority of artists under the YG label had a Twitter account with a large base of followers.

Official Photos of YG Entertainment Artists

This huge base of loyal subscribers served as an effective platform for YG to seed the campaign and make it a highly successful one.

The media came into the scene much later after the campaign had been successfully seeded and popularized among its initial base of subscribers.

5. Media & Celebrity Endorsements – Behind the success of every viral video, there will always be multiple media outlets and industry influencers who have contributed in extending its’ coverage. The Gangnam Style was initially tweeted by multiple celebrities and then it also got coverage from CNN, Wall Street Journal and many other media outlets. With every further mention, the appeal of the video only widened.

The chart below shows the pace at which the video spread virally. Each point on the chart is marked by certain events that occurred in the media space which could’ve influenced the number of views.

Gangnam Style Statistics

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangnam_Style

*1: Reaction by Korean Pop Fans Katie and Mindy Anderson – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odOusOPkEGQ

*2: First parody on Gangnam Style Simon & Martina Stawski – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9J8U4YcosE

*3:  Shared on Reddit; Comment by British singer Robbie Williams on his blog

*4:  Celebrity tweet by T-Pain

Gangnam Style celebrity tweet

 *5:  Mentioned by Neetzan Zimmerman on the entertainment blog Gawker – Did This Underground Hip Hop Artist from South Korea Just Release the Best Music Video of the Year?

*6:   Andrew Sullivan talks about it on the Daily Beast

*7:   Featured on CNN & The Wall Street Journal – the video below is what CNN showed:

*8:   Nelly Furtado dances to the Gangnam Style at her concert in the Philippines

*9:   Psy performs at Dodger Stadium. This is his first public appearance in the U.S.

PSY Dodger Stadium

*10:  Katy Perry tweets about the video to her followers.

Katy Perry tweets about Gangnam Style

*11:  Psy makes his appearance on VH1, this being his first appearance on U.S. television

The number of viewers would just keep spiraling with each mention and it had a compounding effect because the video itself was shared by the people who watched it. Also, the more popular the video became, the more mentions it got by other celebrities and news outlets.

6. Psy’s Public & Media Appearances – With the incredible popularity of the YouTube video, it wasn’t long before PSY was invited to make personal appearances and perform his song on various media outlets in the United States. He appeared on VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live Show on August 22nd. On September 6th, he appeared at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards where he performed his song and dance alongside comedian Kevin Hart. On September 10th he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and there have been numerous other appearances as well. His pro-active approach to promoting his video and being available at all these events and shows has only boosted his popularity further and that of the video.

7. Flash Mobs, Wedding Dances, Parodies, Celebrity Dances, etc. – The effect this video had on society has been mind-blowing. There have been a number of flash mob dances across the globe that have broken into the Gangnam Style. Many weddings have danced to the Gangnam. There have been numerous Gangnam parodies on Youtube. Many celebrities have danced to this song on some occasion or the other. Sportspersons have broken into a Gangnam jig to celebrate their success. All this only had a spiraling effect on the success of the video.

The Gangnam Style has also been officially the “most liked” Youtube video as well. It’s been embraced and liked by one and all. Psy and his team have had phenomenal success with this video and surely more than they would’ve ever imagined. Can this kind of success story be studied and replicated by anyone else? To replicate a phenomenon of this kind will be difficult because it takes a lot more than just creating a product as compelling – you will need to have some ability to seed the campaign amongst a large base of users and also get the necessary influencers (like celebs, media outlets) to talk about it. However, you can never say never! We’re sure to see many more inspirational success stories that are viral successes in the times to come and its successes like these that reinforce our belief in the social web being one of the major drivers of success.

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