Lessons from Korean Advertising: What Marketers Can Learn from the Hallyu Wave

Lessons from Korean Advertising: What Marketers Can Learn from the Hallyu Wave

Korean pop music, better known as K-Pop, has been dominating the global music charts for more than a decade. And while performers from other countries have gotten worldwide attention in the past, none have come close to the impact and longevity of K-Pop groups. You can attribute this to the sheer talent Korean pop stars possess, but a big part of it is also the brilliant strategies from Korean marketing. 

Korean marketing strategies: Hallyu at the center

The Korean pop culture phenomenon is often referred to as the Korean Wave or Hallyu, which started back in the 1990s, when Korean soap operas were gaining popularity all over Asia. In the 2000s and early 2010s, K-Pop started to gain a lot of traction worldwide. From there, along with the boom of online social media, K-pop solidified its spot in global pop culture, with millions of fans around the world backing up their beloved Korean stars at almost every waking moment.

A lot of things did come into play in Hallyu's success. The Korean government did put a lot of funding into its culture and tourism, and it takes a lot of training and preparation to be part of any K-pop group. There is a rigorous screening process for all Korean artists spanning across all forms of media, and the music industry is definitely no exception. All of these played vital roles in the country’s global cultural impact, but as well funded and well trained as Korean artists are, there was a specific way of marketing they used to grow that presence. They stuck to the basics. 


If you do a quick search on any active K-pop group, you are bound to find a whole array of different content. You have the main attractions, such as the songs, the music videos, and the live performances, but these come pretty standard with every artist in the world. What sets K-pop groups apart in the world of marketing, is how they branch out much further than that. You will see vlogs, memes, live streams, podcasts, practice videos, interviews, and more. On K-Pop social media pages, there is a constant influx of content every single day, and each of these posts gets millions of views, likes, and shares. In 2020 alone, there were over 6.7 billion “KPOP” tweets, and Korea came only third amongst all the countries involved in this Twitter revolution. 

K-Pop marketers don’t simply sell songs and tickets to world tours, they sell the group, and they sell the brand. If you ask any K-Pop superfan about their favorite member of their favorite group, you’ll most probably hear about how much of a great person their favorite performer is. You don’t simply pick that kind of information up from listening to a few songs. They are portrayed as human beings; as godly as they may seem compared to us, they have a favorite food, a favorite movie, and their own quirks that will inevitably connect to their audience. They have created an entire following, complete with its own ecosystem of lingo, terms, and inside jokes and information. And in turn, they have a network of ambassadors, ready to engage and share their content the moment it releases.  

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with the whole K-Pop thing, try to picture this: You bump into a dance practice video of a certain K-Pop group your friends follow. You’re amazed by how well they’re dancing, and get the idea that these guys are the real deal. Maybe, you might even share that video with your dancer friends. You then go through their other videos, and you see a boatload of content waiting for you, and as you keep clicking and clicking, you wind up watching the music video of the song they were dancing to. You click on it, and now you’re listening to their main product. K-Pop marketers follow the very basics of content marketing. It’s textbook, and it’s working in its full capacity.

Korean marketing in your area

You don’t need to be a pop star to tap into this style of marketing. In fact, over 86% of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers utilize content marketing, and although it costs 62% less than traditional methods of marketing, it is said to generate three times more leads.

Businesses who aren’t too familiar with content marketing should consider looking into K-Pop marketing, and observe their mastery of the basics. They should be doubling down on these strategies, as it is quite necessary in this day and age. And as you can see, it has massive potential.

Hallyu's lessons

Here are the most important lessons every marketer can take from Hallyu's success: 

  1. Create content establishing yourself as a leader in your field or industry. Even though you’re new, you have to let everyone know who you are, what you do, and prove how you can step up to your biggest competitors.

  2. Aim your content at a specific audience. Create a “fanbase” of sorts, one that has a reach further than your initial target audience. These are the people who may not be necessarily interested in your product, but resonate with your ideals and expertise. Now, if we were still talking K-Pop, this is where we try to get people to watch the vlogs, not necessarily try to get them to listen to your latest single. 

  3. Make sure all of your content is pointing towards your product or service. You are creating content to create a big community, and the bigger it is, the more chances for you to convert people to buyers.

  4. Consistently put out quality content and diversify your content creation to ensure a strong and prolonged connection with your trusting audience. Creating a big audience is great, but just as in K-Pop, you have to make sure they stay with you. They will keep you alive in the long run.

Hallyu is truly an amazing cultural event that is surely not going to end any time soon. But specifically for marketers, it is a shining example of what excellent content marketing can do for any business, be it a group of Korean pop stars or a company of HR tech specialists. Keep K-Pop marketing in mind when creating your marketing strategy, and who knows, maybe the next business “wave” can come from your organization.


-Written by Jack Cordero

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