Gangnam Style” – What the No 1 YouTube Video Teaches Us About Smart, Low-Cost Branding

More than three quarters of a billion people – almost 825 million as of this writing – have watched the #1 YouTube video “강남 룸싸롱” since its release on July 15, 2012. That means that more than a third of all people on the planet who are on the Internet have laid eyes on that one video. Talk about powerful, low-cost branding! Wouldn’t you love to reach that kind of awareness and engagement with your own brand message?

If you’re one of the few people who haven’t yet watched this video, it’s a song by a Korean rap star called PSY who had, up to now, only been well-known in his native country. This single, four-minute video has launched PSY into international super-stardom in a matter of weeks. So, what can we learn from “branding Gangnam Style?”

Be catchy. The Gangnam Style song is clearly what they call an “ear worm.” It’s the kind of song that gets into your head and stays there. So, when working on your own brand messages, think powerful, memorable tag lines – phrases that are strategic but catchy, that represent what you want your brand to stand for, and that will stick in the minds of your customers.

Be “eye entertainment.” The Gangnam Style video is very visual and includes a variety of unique scenes in colorful environments. It’s attention-grabbing. Since our eyes are responsible for 70% of our human experience, visuals in branding are fundamental. Combine memorable, ownable visuals with your catchy strategic taglines, and your brand will have sticking power.

Be unexpected. One thing you have to say about the Gangnam Style video is that it’s not what you expect. PSY is hardly your average handsome, hunky rock star. He’s unusual, unique, and different. He’s funny and quirky. All of these elements make his video even more memorable because it’s not at all what we anticipate. What can your brand do that is unexpected?

Make an emotional connection. Watching the Gangnam Style video is an emotional experience. It reaches beyond your eyes and ears and engages you at a deeper level. All that, and the song is sung… in Korean?! I estimate about 95% of all the people watching the video have no idea what is being said! It just goes to show that the words you use in your marketing messages are important, but you build a powerful brand by making an emotional connection with your target customers. How well do your existing marketing materials connect emotionally with your current and prospective customers?

Inspire action. The Gangnam Style video makes you want to get out of your seat and move. Indeed, when PSY recently performed the song at the annual American Music Awards, the entire audience rose to their feet within seconds and began dancing. How can you inspire your customers into action through your own marketing materials?

Repeat, repeat, repeat. The melody and rhythm of the Gangnam Style song are very repetitive. To add to that, PSY has created his own dance style – the “horse-riding” step – that is also repeated throughout the video (and which has been parodied across the globe). Repetition and consistency are key to remembering a brand message and to helping solidify with customers what you want your brand to stand for. How repetitive and consistent is your own brand communications?

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