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State of the Nation: Korean culture is riding a wave of popularity but can marketers successfully ride it?

By Nicole Roe | CEO

January 24, 2023 | 6 min read

The global explosion of K-Pop and Korean content has led to a wave of interest and curiosity in the country and its culture. In our latest State of the Nation series, Publicis Groupe Korea's chief executive officer Nicole Roe ponders whether global brand marketers can tap into the Korean Wave.

Korea

2022 was a year in which the global popularity and power of the Korean Wave continued to grow. Explosive interest In Korean dramas/movies and K-Pop led to curiosity about the country itself. Cultural trends in Korea are now becoming an important keyword for global brand marketers. McDonald’s BTS Meal and Heineken’s ‘Squid Game’ post shows that global brands are already paying attention to the news and content created in Korea. So what are the trends that will hit in 2023?

Nicole Roe, Publicis

Re-kreation

In Korea, where everyone is serious about fashion and beauty, there were several Korean-born fashion concepts and trends that were popular in Asia in 2022, such as ‘Vivid’, ‘High-Teen’ and ‘Newtro’. Recently, a new concept has been emerging since late 2022 that reinterprets tradition: the so-called ‘Middle Ages European Style’. This concept is gaining popularity among Gen Z. It’s enjoyed by taking pictures together with a full set of colourful dresses, elegant hats and crowns that literally look like European aristocrats in the Middle Ages. Recently, the concept was seen in the music videos of K-Pop artists ITZY and Red Velvet. Studios, where people can borrow medieval dresses and take pictures, are fully booked, and L’Escape-style hotels with the same mood are gaining popularity, showing how this new concept has arrived. The visual impact of K-pop music videos and Korea’s passion for ‘re-kreation’ will continue to be a huge driver of trends across Asia (and beyond) in 2023.

Bite-sized k-dramas

Short-form content on platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts will rapidly expand its influence in 2023.

According to survey results in Deloitte Korea’s “VCC Marketing 2022” report, 72.5% of Korean consumers said they had experienced searching for information on specific brands and products through short form, and 58.9% said they had actually purchased products through it. It is said that the average monthly usage time of TikTok, which is the primary platform for short-form content, is 23.6 hours, higher than YouTube.

For example, Korean CVS (consumer value stores) brand ‘CU’ is uploading a short form drama called “CVS Antiquities” on its YouTube channel. It set a record of 100 million views in 39 days after its first release. Not only brands but also K-pop celebrities are actively using short-form formats. The popularity and influence of content that delivers key information quickly within 10 to 15 seconds, rather than long and descriptive videos, will continue to grow this year.

From streaming to web series

In addition to content aired on the likes of Netflix, Disney+, and Apple TV+, there is another type of content that is rather more popular in Korea – a relatively short entertainment show called “Web Series”.

Popular Korean web series include “Nego King”, “Workman” and “Turkey’s” with many different genres and concepts being created through numerous YouTube channels. The biggest reason for their popularity is that web series invite different celebrities to each episode to create content together.

While many videos on YouTube exist to provide information, web series are different: they each have a clear concept and purpose that are useful to viewers. For example, “Workman”, has the concept of “reviewing all jobs in the world”. Hosts are invited to experience different jobs in Korea for a day, sympathizing with people working in the field, listening to their grievances, and sharing useful information in an entertaining way.

“Changing Majors Every Day” is a concept that experiences all departments of Korean universities. In each episode, K-POP group members become the main host and spend a day as a university student with actual students. It is receiving a great response from teenage viewers: most of the videos are so popular that they have 1 million views within a month of their launch. Other web series, such as Walkman and Nego King, are also guaranteed high views and popularity.

Producers specialising in developing TV programs are increasingly turning to the web series market. The heyday of web series will continue this year, and more diverse and ingenious concepts will be produced constantly, allowing brands to appeal to viewers across age groups and countries.

With 150+ million people powering K-wave fandom, Korea’s unique cultural DNA will continue to infuse popular culture this year. The things that make us unique – our attention to detail and thoughtfulness, our relationship-driven culture, our pursuit of perfectionism, our quest for style, and our habit of reinterpreting and mixing genres – these traits will continue to shape Korea, and the world, in 2023.

Nicole Roe is chief executive officer of Publicis Groupe Korea.

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