Oppa Gangnam Style

Whether you think it’s biting but oh-so-funny social commentary or Asian pop fuzz, “Gangnam Style” has been in the headlines recently and shows no signs of stopping. Since July it has garnered over 100,000,000 hits on YouTube, making it the most watched video EVER, surpassing the likes of Katy Perry, Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber. It’s also been tweeted more than 780,000 times and received 260,000 Facebook Likes, and counting. Let’s not even get started on the tidal wave of memes, parodies, flash mobs and other bits of obsessive repetition that has made its creator, Korean gwang-dae rapper PSY, pretty much a household name.

It’s like every brand’s dream come true.

So the question is, what sort of lessons can we learn from the Gangnam-Style craze? What can brands do to emulate the success of this unlikely K-Pop phenomenon?

Here are a few things you can think about.


Create your own invisible horse-riding action.

The key dance step (or movement, if you want to be picky) of Gangnam-Style is an invisible horse-riding manoeuvre that wouldn’t look out of place in a rodeo. The point is that it’s a simple action anyone can do; it doesn’t take much for a 3-year-old or an 83-year-old to cross their arms in front of them, and make with a galloping action.

So, does your brand have something unique yet easy to understand that people can latch on to? Is there a gesture, finger sign, body movement, greeting or other visible, physical feature that is memorable? No? Then create one.


Have a sense of humour.

Above all else, Gangnam-Style is funny. It doesn’t take itself seriously, and makes fun of everything from rap video conventions to Korean dramas and the hyper-rich (Gangnam is the “Beverly Hills” of Korea). It also helps that PSY himself is a portly Korean gentleman with a sort of put-on poker face, engaging in odd, quirky activities. It’s the stuff memorable jokes are made of, and that makes it both shareable and easy to talk about.

How serious is your brand? Not in the “I’m always serious about my business” way, but in its personality and attitude? Is your brand self-conscious to the point that it becomes aloof and distant? Having the ability to laugh at yourself makes your brand accessible and real. Plus, putting a smile on your audiences faces? Always a good thing.


Have a story to tell, and tell it well.

Wait, Gangnam-style has a story? Of course it does. Here’s just an extract:

“PSY does something in his video that few other artists, Korean or otherwise, do: He parodies the wealthiest, most powerful neighborhood in South Korea. Sure, he uses physical humor to make it seemingly about him, a man who wants to project glamour but keeps falling short. All of his mannerisms, from the curled upper lip to a sinister neck-stretching move, come from the repertoire of a rich playboy, and in his hands, they become a little laughable. But ultimately, by declaring ‘Oppa [essentially, ‘big brother’] is Gangnam Style,’ he turns the lens on Gangnam, getting specific about power and privilege in a country where a single district has long dominated in almost every arena.”

The result? A gazillion hits and a viral presence most brands can only dream of.

So, what’s your story, and what’s the best way to tell it? Figure that out, and you’ve pretty much got your brand figured.


So, ready for your Gangnam-Style brand? We’ll definitely be watching.

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