K-pop has been penetrating the West and the rest of the world for years now.
I’m sure you’re wondering how they did it, right?
Because there’s got to be a reason, aside from the music, why they are becoming more mainstream, not just in the West but all around the world.
Well, the answer is their marketing strategy.
Kpop marketing strategy is something entirely different from the West so we’ve made a list of those seemingly small but impactful ways they do to market their music and themselves.
#1. SUPRISE THEM WITH A COMEBACK
First and foremost, most of these K-pop acts announce a comeback or release when the fans least expect it, taking their audience by surprise.
This creates a good enough buzz for casual listeners to wonder what’s going on.
Most releases are surprised through the release of a teaser poster but why not try to spice it up a little bit?
We have BTS’ more the one-hour long video that they live streamed as an announcement of some sort for the release of their second all-English single Butter.
They left the fans wondering what was going on as they watched a live stream of butter melting which created a worldwide buzz.
Another is soloist JAY B’s video post on twitter which was a screen record of a phone opening to its calendar where the date of the album release was scheduled.
What was cool about this, however, was it also revealed a schedule. This made fans keep talking about their excitement since they didn’t not know what they will be getting for these dates.
#2. HAVE A CATCHY LOGO
A new design for your logo would also be a good marketing strategy.
When you’ve revealed your logo, fans would predict the feels, theme, and more of the album you will eventually be putting out. This may not have been a thing in the past, but current Kpop groups do.
In the example we have here, the main element of the logo is the letters “R” and “V” which stands for the group Red Velvet. The first logo is for their sixth EP, Queendom and as you can see it gives off that royalty vibe.
Then we have the second logo which was for their latest comeback Feel My Rhythm which boasts a title track sampling Bach’s arrangement of Air on the G String, hence, the G clef on the recent logo.
Most Western acts do not put effort into this but I think that you should really start doing this. A little change on your main logo would not hurt. It just symbolizes the music era you and your fans are in.
Plus, it’ll be easier to distinguish albums and merch.
#3. RELEASE A TEASER POSTER
Teaser posters like this are a great way to market your upcoming release. It’s like a sign saying “Welcome to a new era”.
It doesn’t have to be very grand though.
Just like this teaser poster here by the K-pop girl group Billlie. They are known for their lore-vibe comebacks so this poster of a cat just adds to that anticipation of what to come.
You can do this with your releases too. Give your fans an inkling of what they can expect from your album and leave them wondering for a while.
#4. MAKE AN ALBUM TRAILER
After a teaser poster, why not follow it up with an album trailer.
This is a small video clip that reveals the feels of the songs on the album. The example we have here is from the debut of Seulgi, a soloist, with her 28 reasons.
The album trailer is like a short movie with its high production and great acting. It really sets the mood for the fans and the artist’s image as they enter the new era. Watch the album trailer here and see how it’s done.
#5. PLAN A COMEBACK SCHEDULE
Plan a comeback schedule that shows the date and what would be getting for that day. This is a must if you really want to create that excitement and buzz around your release.
If you release a schedule poster, fans would be anticipating the dates you’ve jotted down on it. It’ll be a good strategy to build up that excitement until the release date.
To spice it up a bit more, you can put dates with no specific agenda written there. You can replace it with question marks like Key did for his Gasoline release, or you can blur it out.
#6. RELEASE YOUR MOOD SAMPLERS OR CONCEPTS TEASERS
Mood samplers and concept teasers are what mostly comprises the schedule you have planned for this release.
And I suggest that every mood sampler and concept teaser that you release should be the best of the best.
They should be of high quality because this will build that excitement and buzz. You have to surprise them, not just your fans but other people as well, with the video production and the photography of your samplers and teasers.
They’ll both generate buzz as well as further set the mood of your album. And Wendy’s sampler and teaser for her debut album Like Water is just one of those successful ones.
#7. CREATE A HIGHLIGHT MEDLEY OR ALBUM SPOILER
Current Kpop groups are calling it highlight medley, but it’s just the same with the old album spoilers of older groups.
And when we say album spoilers, this means you spoil all the tracks of your album.
And that’s why it’s now called a highlight medley. It’s a medley of all the album tracks’ highlight parts. Bambam’s high-quality riBBon Highlight Medley is one of those who amassed attention from outside his fandom.
Aside from the songs being good, fans and the general public loved the high quality production of the video. Each song had a different feel and so the artist filmed with different sets, clothes, and camera work too.
It exceeded fans expectations which led to more buzz and excitement for his debut.
#8. RELEASE MUSIC VIDEO TRAILERS
Before the release of the album and the music video for the title track, a music video trailer must be put out first.
This creates an additional excitement for the actual release. It reveals snippets of the song and what the fans will be seeing in the music video.
When choosing scenes or clips you’ll be adding to the trailer, you have to make sure that it’s one of the best parts so that fans and non fans would be intrigued and caught in your upcoming music video, just like BTS’ trailer for Yet To Come.
#9. MAKE A BIG REVEAL OF YOUR COLLARBORATIONS
Another awesome way to garner attention for your release is to make a big reveal of who you are collaborating with.
Artists have been collaborating left and right for years and years and it’s not something new.
Most of the audience you will be getting from this would be the fans of your collaborator. But if you make this collaboration a big deal. If you create that anticipation around it, then you will surely be gaining not just their fans’ attention, but also other people’s outside both of your fandoms.
Just like this collaboration here between Bambam and Seulgi for the pre-released single Who Are You. Before the big reveal in the form of an MV Teaser, his fan’s didn’t know it was a song with another artist. Until the poster above was revealed teasing a collaboration.
Fans who saw this were ecstatic and made noise all over Twitter as they wondered and guessed who the artist was.
#10. PREPARE COUNTDOWN POSTERS
Aside from teaser posters, video trailers, highlight medleys, and more, you can also prepare for countdown posters.
This is not a must, but fans would love to know you are with them, waiting with them for the release.
It’s not just the “waiting with them” sentiment though, because you can definitely do that with a tweet or post counting the days or hours before release.
What makes this better than just tweeting would be the fact that fans get to have new pictures of you or your group.
#11. KEEP YOUR FANS BUSY WITH YOU
Another thing you have to release is a schedule of your activities during and after the day of release.
Fans are already pumped up, and knowing that you’ve got some activities for yourself and for them would really raise that excitement more.
I’m sure you’ve got promotional activities lined up for you to promote your album or single, so why not put them down like a timeline for the day and share it with your fans.
#12. INCORPORATE YOUR FANDOM
Artists are everything to their fans just as fans should be everything to the artist they are stanning. To know that your favorite artist cherishes their fandom is something that fans love to hear and see.
You might have noticed the massive fan bases of a lot of current Kpop groups. Well, that’s thanks to the artists who openly appreciate their fans.
It’s a strategy, fans know it, but if the act is sincere, who cares about strategies, right?
Here are some ways from the Kpop boy group GOT7 to incorporate their fandom:
It’s not the actual people but since IGOT7 is shortened to ahgase which is a korean word translated to “baby bird”, they added a bird into most of their MVs.
They did the bird hand sign in their choreography when the lyrics went “For you”
- Including them in the song
It’s just not writing a song for them, but also including them in the song, and it was achieved by the group by doing an acronym of their fandom’s name in the bridge part of their b-side Firework.
#13. LOCALIZE YOUR CONTENT
Another way to strengthen your fanbase, aside from incorporating them into your art, is when you localize the content you put out.
When we say localize this means you put out content that your fans would be able to talk about within the fandom and those who know you best.
A great example of this is Stray Kids Thunderous Trailer which boasts of references and inside jokes of both the group and the fandom.
Fans were like hunting for easter eggs as they spotted those scenarios like Felix checking his pulse and Changbin creating a fuss upon hearing the celestial-like music playing.
#14. MAKE INTERNATIONAL FANS FEEL INCLUDED
When you’re an artist, your fans will never be limited to just one country, one race, and one language. Every artist will always have international fans and one way you can make them feel included as a musician is to release the song in at least the English language.
Since you’re already an artist that releases songs in English, you can try to translate your song into a foreign language, record, and release the version.
You can even do it with multiple languages, just like GOT7 here who had four different versions of their title track Lullaby. They had the original Korean version, then the English, Chinese, and Spanish versions as well.
You can also have a mixture of languages just like what Kpop band DAY6 did with their track Stop the Rain which was a mixture of Japanese and English lyrics.
#15. ALBUM PACKAGING CAN BE A SUCCESSFUL ADVERTISING FEATURE
It has the potential to be a successful advertising feature if you do it right.
Here’s a cool album packaging from Kpop soloist Zico with his first EP Gallery. The packaging is designed as a frame that would be holding art in it, a perfect thing to display on the wall.
#16. MAKE THE ALBUM UNBOXING MORE EXCITING
For Kpop fans, photocards are what makes the unboxing of an album exciting. These photocards are collected and completed like a pokemon card collector would do.
Most albums contain only one out of 4 or more photocards. This can be viewed by your fans as a waste of money so if you want to try this, try having less variation.
However, it’s not the only thing there is to be excited about. Most Kpop groups have inclusions that have never been included in other album releases like sensory cards or glow cards.
#17. CREATE A DISTINCT IMAGE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR MUSIC
When Kpop groups debut, they always have this concept that would be their image for most of their careers. Some do it willingly, while some are obligated by their company.
We have here the kpop girl group Twice which is known for their cutesy image. To match that image, most of their songs and choreography are upbeat, happy, and cute.
Another would be the girl group Mamamoo which is known for their great vocals, so most of their title songs have them hitting high notes.
If you create that kind of image for yourself and your music, music fans, not specifically your fans, would know who to turn to when they need the kind of music you make. But you don’t have to confine your songs to one image, though.
We have Red Velvet who’s known for their Red and Velvet concept. Red represents the cheerful, cutey, summery concept, while Velvet represents the darker, more RnB side of the group.
You can try having this type of image too, this way fans will have a variety of music to listen to.
#18. MAKE LISTENING AND WATCHING YOUR MUSIC AND MUSIC VIDEO AN EXPERIENCE
In order to make them an experience, it would be best for your songs and music videos to tell a story.
You can have a trilogy album like Monsta X’s The Clan Trilogy which started off with them being lost, then feeling guilty, and then finding happiness in the end.
You can just have your music videos connected to one another, though, just like what BTS did for their earlier comebacks.
#19. CREATE YOUR OWN UNIVERSE
This is mostly the same with you creating a storyline for your music and your music videos.
What makes this different is that your image is also a part of this. An example of this would be EXO with Exoplanet and Aespa with Kwangya.
From that created universe, you can then create your image around it which in turn helps create your sound.
#20. HAVE AT LEAST TWO RELEASES
Lastly, you have to have at least two releases.
This keeps that fire burning for the fans. You know humans, they’ve got a short attention span.
This means that the longer you make a comeback or another release, the higher the chance of them moving on to another artist. If you’re already an established one, then you won’t have to worry about this one.
Fans would love it if you do that though, so it’s really up to you.
And it ends here.
Whew! That was one hell of a long list, right?
But you cannot deny that it was very insightful. There are a lot of things that you might not have heard of in the usual Western artist marketing strategy.
Well…you better study it more, and dive into it.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.