Gangnam Style: Dress classy and dance cheesy


My well-informed friends often tell me that I live under a rock as most of the times I have absolutely no clue about what’s happening around in the world. Be it Rebecca Black and her mind-numbing music, rage boy and the art of using his image to create your personalized memes, wedding procession to Chris Brown’s song “Forever”, Kony 2012, the double rainbow guy or Kolaveri di – I have always been the last one to find out about all these things.

But I am usually not bothered and have never felt that I was missing out on anything important. Except for recently when at a dinner party, all of my friends suddenly started dancing in a dance form I had never seen before. At first I was pleasantly surprised and couldn’t stop laughing but later on, even though I knew nothing about it, I unknowingly joined the group and started dancing with them.

Once we were done with the bursts of laughter, I asked my friends what the hell just happened. I was intrigued, I was curious and most of all I was shocked because I am not the sort of person who would generally be okay with making a fool out of himself. A friend of mine said its “Gangnam” and to avoid the indictment of living under the rock, I stayed quite. The very night I googled “Gangnam” soon after reaching home and a whole new world of fun, art and knowledge opened its door for me.


Being a student of marketing I am always day dreaming about how one day I will come up with a brilliant idea which will become a universal sensation. I am always looking at things, people and events from a different perspective; always thinking how this could possibly be a marketing stunt or how it could be utilized to market a brand. So naturally my reaction to Gangnam was the same. But like few other things in the past, I figured out that globally numerous brands are already planning to piggyback on the Gangnam craze while some brands of North Korea have already derived their own versions – mainly because of the incredible ability of the music and dance form to connect with the audience instantly.

I was thoroughly impressed with the uniqueness of PSY – the singer and performer in the Gangnam video. He has become a global sensation by using the anti-materialism theme in the time of a recession. He has appeared on MTV Video Music Awards, “Saturday Night Live,” the “Today” show and “Ellen”. Companies ranging from apparel to restaurants and beverages to electronics are already approaching the music genius to do their marketing. MTunes, with its property ‘MTunes AlterNative’, will be taking Gangnam Style ‘On the Streets’. The core reason behind PSY’s popularity is that he is iconoclastic, fun and, above all, sincere.

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According to Harvard Business Review blog, “both the video and PSY have found universal popularity despite bucking convention in terms of the language and the look of a global pop idol, “Gangnam Style” may turn out to be a one-hit wonder but by emulating the reasons for its success, businesses can become hit-generating machines”. But I don’t agree with the notion that PSY had made the video for viewers in North Korea mainly. If that was the case, he would have never allowed the song to intentionally lack copyright encouraging people to create their own online parodies, in essence their own Gangnum Style.

It is amazing to see how an artist could be so generous to actually encourage people for making their own versions and parodies.  But I guess this is one of the reasons behind PSY’s success.

He made his marketing a two-way communication and gave his audience the liberty to enjoy his music according to their own preference. Creativity-online reports that in Malaysia, an online photo shows a bag of “McShaker Fries,” supposedly from McDonald’s, with instructions to shake the bag “Gangnam Style.” McDonald’s, however, wasn’t behind the meme. “Our original McShaker Fries bag has not made any reference to the “Gangnam Style’ and McDonald’s is not in any way associated with this creative interpretation,” a McDonald’s Malaysia spokeswoman said.

Brands Love Copying Gangnam Style

From brands’ perspective, products such as Gangnam are rare opportunities and should be tapped into immediately. The fact that the video deals with anti-materialism theme should add appeal for any brand who advocates itself as affordable. Also, the fun, youthful and cheerful nature of the song will be relevant for any brand targeting the youth. Gangnam’s popularity is growing rapidly with the video having over 413 million views and more than 3.7 million “likes”, now it’s up to marketers to welcome this novel art form with arms wide open or to shun it away due to their narrow-mindedness but I guess only those who crave for innovation will be able to appreciate Gangnam as well and enjoy it.

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