Secret Ingredient #2 for Creating Viral Content -- Korean Pop Dance Moves

Oct 11, 2012


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(Catch up on last month's secret ingredient Burnt Rubber here.)

Take some flashy Korean Pop dance moves, throw in a horse barn, bus, and elevator, and mix them all up with some banging beats, and the tasty result will be the Gangnam Style music video. With almost 430 million views in the span of two months, Korean Pop star PSY has destroyed most YouTube records. Park Jae-sang, better known by his stage name PSY, has gone from a successful South Korean artist to a worldwide superstar since July. Whether you have seen the plethora of remixes on the web, watched various TV personalities do their own sad renditions, or heard your friends contemplating dressing up as PSY for Halloween, it's safe to say you have probably seen the video. If not take a few minutes and watch it now .

Most of us are probably not very familiar with the popular music culture of South Korea, known as k-pop or kayo in Korean (??). But the cultural reasons for the success of this video are relevant to fully understanding why this video has become so popular and spawned a number one hit around the world.

The first reason why this video is a hit is simple: truth. Songs, videos, and books that have changed the world are all based on a nugget of truth. If you want to be a bit of a detective, you can find the full translation of the lyrics and read others' thoughts on what they mean. But in quick summary the song tells of a "Gangnam style life" which is a trendy, affluent suburb where the appearance of buying coffee is more important than what you actually own. My brother Bryan spent some time in South Korea teaching English and in a recent conversation he said, "There is this desire in Korea to stay connected as one but there is such a great divide within individuals based on one thing....money. If you look like you have money then you have money." The flashing lights, explosions, and fancy clothes are all part of the facade and probably a not so veiled political statement on how silly that makes the pursuit of the "Gangnam lifestyle" seem.

So what do social statements about suburban Seoul have to do with adding flavors to our viral cookbook? In order for content to be successful there must be an element of truth to it. Whether that is talking about your products or services or telling stories on a broader scale, honesty always shines through. Who better to tell the story of Gangnam's materialistic ways than PSY himself, who was born there. Telling true stories ibuilds trust with the end audience and those stories always seem to be more interesting.

Secondly, most viral content (contrary to popular belief) is not made overnight. PSY the South Korean pop star may not have been a household name until last month in the United States but his career in the Pacific Rim has spanned over 13 years. This most recent album is his sixth and he has had chart topping singles in Korea since 2001. While we may be hearing his work for the first time, PSY has been honing his craft for years -- all the way back to his days at Berklee College of Music.
We like to think that most viral content is the product of coincidence, not hard work, but the opposite is almost always the case. Because we live in a more connected world we have the opportunity to see more "coincidences" that are the product of lots of years of successes and failures.

So how do we "work" toward viral success for our content? Find folks who have worked on their craft and have them help you tell your story. Usually this means we need to pay for good content creators. While this may seem counterintuitive to creating viral work, it in fact exponentially increases your chances of something going viral. Red Bull and Old Spice have learned this recipe for their "viral" ads and realize they need to hire experts to create great content in order to increase the probability for a viral hit.

So whether or not you decide to dress as PSY for halloween this year, we can definitely learn from his chart topping success to help flavor our own content. Just remember to always base your content on the truth and bring in the pros to better your chances of creating a runaway success. Tune in next time for our #3 ingredient for creating viral content . Until then I will be dancing through the horse barn in my tuxedo.