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How to Build Your Brand the “Gangnam Style” Way

More than three quarters of a billion people – around 860 million as of this writing – have laid eyes on “Gangnam Style,” the #1 YouTube video sensation.

That’s only since its release on July 15, 2012.  That translates to more than one-third of all people around the globe who are on the Internet. Talk about an impactful way to build a low-cost brand!  Would you love to reach that kind of notoriety and engagement with your own brand message?

If you’re one of the few who haven’t yet seen this video, it’s based on a song by PSY, a Korean rap star who had only been known within his native country – until now. His engaging four-minute video has catapulted PSY into global mega-stardom in just a few weeks. So, what can we learn about brand building “Gangnam Style?”

Be catchy.

The Gangnam Style song is what I like to call an “ear worm.” It’s the type of song that, once it gets in your head, it stays there. So, as you work on your own brand messages, think impactful, easy-to-remember slogans – phrases that are on-target but catchy, that clearly state how you want your brand to be perceived, and that will easily stick in your customer’s mind.

Be “eye entertainment.”

The Gangnam Style video is a visual spectacle!  When you watch it, you see a series of unique scenes in colorful environments.  It grabs your attention.  Our eyes are responsible for 70% of our human experience, so visuals in branding are absolutely key. Memorable, ownable illustrations and pictures combined with catchy strategic slogans will create even greater sticking power for your brand.

Be unexpected.

The Gangnam Style video is definitely not ‘normal.’ PSY hardly qualifies as a handsome, hunky pop star. He’s different, a bit “odd.” He’s quirky, funny, different. All of that make his video even more unique because it’s not what we anticipate. What can you do with your brand that is out of the ordinary and unexpected?

Make an emotional connection.

To watch the Gangnam Style video is an emotional experience – it engages you at a deeper level, beyond just the eyes and the ears.  But what’s amazing about GS is that the language of the song is Korean!  That means that probably 95% of all people who watch the video don’t have a clue what the lyrics mean!  What does that tell us?  The words you use in your branding messages are valuable, but you create a powerful brand by making an emotional link with your audience.  Relate that back to your own brand: How well do your existing marketing materials connect emotionally with prospective and current clients?

Inspire action.

“Gangnam Style” makes you want to get up and move.  In fact, when PSY performed the song at this year’s American Music Awards, everyone in the audience jumped to their feet within seconds and started dancing. How well do you inspire your clients to action via your own marketing?

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The rhythm and melody of the “Gangnam Style” song are repetitive.  In addition, PSY has created his own unique dance move – the “horse-riding” step – that is repeated throughout the video, too (and that has spawned parodies all around the world).  Being repetitive and being consistent are both key to remembering a brand message and to helping strengthen within the customer’s mind what you want your brand to stand for. How consistent and repetitive are your own brand messages?

Leverage word of mouth.

Reflect on how you first heard of PSY’s Gangnam Style video… through a colleague at work, a friend, a family member?  I found out about it from a New Zealand business associate who lives in Australia.  That’s the beauty and the power of word of mouth (not to mention the internet!)  Just how impactful has this type of marketing been for Gangnam Style?  For perspective: The previous #1 YouTube video was Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” which reached 804 million hits in 34 months. Gangnam Style reached more than 830 million hits in 135 days! (That’s “Bye Bye ‘Baby’” for Justin.)  No matter how much money PSY spent to create his video, the money he’s making as a result must be exponential.  It goes to show that word-of-mouth is still the most-effective, lowest-cost marketing that exists. So, how do you make your brand communications something your customers can’t hold back from sharing with others?

Don’t forget name recognition.

As a marketer, I see one issue with the Gangnam Style video that is a branding faux pas: People watching the video can recall the name of the song but have no idea about the name of the artist who created it.  I personally had to do some online research to figure out who the singer was.  Good branding requires a smart, strong link to the name of your brand. No matter how great your communications and marketing materials may be, if your target market cannot recall your brand name, that’s not money well spent.

Avoid the “one-hit wonder” syndrome.

Another potential problem for PSY may be repeating this amazing success. Will PSY be a one-hit wonder, a flash in the pan?  Will he be able to create a second video that has just as much “sticking” power?  We’ll see what PSY has in store for us in the future.  In the meantime, it’s a great challenge to face, isn’t it?  It’s the type of challenge all brand builders would love to have!

Bottom line: You don’t have to empty your wallet to be a powerful brand builder.  Take some time to reflect on how you can create your own product brand, service brand, company brand, or personal brand using these impactful “Gangnam Style” approaches.

Brenda Bence is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.