K-pop, or Korean pop, has been around for a long time; but for many, it was simply just another niche genre. Things took a turn for the better in recent years when more and more K-pop bands started to rise up. One of which, was popular band BTS, which translates to “Bulletproof Boys Scouts”, who took the world by storm – breaking into international markets and becoming one of the most successful boy bands in the world. If you haven’t scrubbed up on your BTS knowledge by now, you probably should. To list out the litany of accolades the pop septet have achieved would take quite a while, so consider this year’s accomplishments alone: The first Korean act to land at No. 1 on the Billboard charts with “Dynamite”, the first act in history to debut a non-English language song at the No. 1 spot with “Life Goes On”, the first Korean group to ever receive a Grammy nomination for best pop/duo group, and the first band in history to debut a song and album at No. 1 in the same week!

Not only is BTS breaking records, but the band has also been raising new standards in terms of sales and revenues. The Hyundai Research Institute (HRI) estimated that the ripple effects from the BTS ecosystem contribute a staggering $3.54 billion annually to South Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Source: Medium). That puts the seven-member boy band’s contribution almost on par with Korean Air. It’s no surprise that many have scrambled to find out what the key to BTS’ success is. Well, it is no secret that the formula for the group’s meteoric rise is largely attributed to its talented songwriting, brotherly group dynamics and impressive stage performances. However, its use of social media and its well-crafted marketing strategy are also key success contributors that cannot be overlooked. Taking a look at BTS’ example, brands have much to glean and learn from.

     1.    Build A Strong Social Media Presence

In a digitalised and tech-savvy age where information can be accessed through our fingertips, it is no surprise that companies have turned to social media to grow their businesses. BTS is no exception. Even before their debut in 2013, Big Hit Entertainment recognised the value of social media and had already started to build a strong social media presence for the band.

The members regularly upload content such as blogs, selfies, covers and more onto various social media platforms, including Twitter, Weibo, Fancafe, and so on. Their Twitter account, which currently has 31.3 million followers, is surprisingly candid, with unedited selfies of the members and even one tweet featuring a video of one of the members cutting his own bangs. Such raw content helps the band to come off as more authentic and personable.

Source: BTS Twitter 

In June 2019, Big Hit Entertainment also created a fan-exclusive app named Weverse for BTS members to interact with their legions of fans, affectionately known as ARMY. The app houses content created by and featuring Big Hit artists – such as music videos, teasers, merchandise as well as tickets to their virtual concerts.

Source: Weverse

Their Youtube channel, BANGTANTV, uploads a series of videos titled Bangtan Bomb showcasing the different sides of BTS’ off-stage moments – portraying their professional, onstage personas as now, something more relatable. The interactivity and variety of BTS’ social media content also enables them to showcase their charm and bond with the fans, contributing to their growing popularity and fan engagement.

Source: BANGTANTV Youtube

Taking reference from BTS, brands like yourself should leverage on the power and reach of social media. In addition, brands can also follow BTS’ example of its unwavering dedication in providing a constant stream of relevant content to drive and nurture its audience’s support and affection. This includes a mix of branded content, behind-the-scenes footage, trailers and teasers that could potentially better connect and resonate with your audience, bridging the gap between your brand and them.

     2.    Cultivate A Strong Follower Base

Of course, BTS’ success could not have been possible without the support of its massive fan base – also known as the ARMY. Like its name suggests, it is an incredibly loyal and fervent fanbase made up of millions of followers – a base so powerful that they have often been heralded as the major driving force behind BTS’ success, having helped the group smash many music industry records. Music aside, they’ve also banded together for good causes, such as raising money and planting trees.

Source: Twitter

For instance, following the group’s $1 million donation to Black Lives Matter, the ARMY began trending #MatchAMillion on Twitter, imploring fans to donate what they could to the cause as well. Within 24 hours, over 34,500 fans came together to raise over $1.14 million! In many ways, BTS has done a great job in learning about what matters to their fans, and now, what matters to them matters to their fans as well.

You do not have to create monikers for your customer base just like what BTS did, but it would be a good idea to get to know more about your followers in the social media communities that you are building. Think about how you can add value to them and make them feel a sense of community and belonging. One way you can do this is by sharing exclusive insights or gifts that are only made available to them. Another way is to celebrate your special milestones with them. Thirdly, constantly engage with them – listen to what they want, what they are saying, and respond to their comments, requests and feedback. Building a strong relationship with your customers is crucial to any brand’s success.

     3.    Tap Into Collaborations

Beyond ticket sales, music downloads and merchandise, BTS is also great with collaborations with other artists and brands. Just to name a few A-list artists — Halsey, Steve Aoki and Nicki Minaj along with some brands like Casetify, Converse, Puma, Coca-Cola and the list goes on. Collaborations can help you tap into different customer groups as you speak to two sets of customer base instead of one. If done right, you may vastly increase your brand reach and brand value as you work with others to create something that you know your customers are going to love – establishing long-term customer loyalty.

Source: Koreaboo

Before the release of their 6th EP, Map of the Soul: Persona in 2019, BTS announced their single – also their title track, “Boy With Luv” featuring American singer and songwriter Halsey. Their mutual admiration for each other’s passion for music was what made the collaboration possible – and so effortlessly seamless. Their partnership made history as the music video managed to rack up 74.6 million views – the fastest music video to hit 100 million views back then (Source: Forbes). Besides their collaboration with Halsey, BTS has also teamed up with other Western artists on different songs and remixes. The success of these crossovers not only helped to increase the visibility of K-pop internationally but also opened up opportunities for non-Western singers in the global pop music scene.

Source: Big Hit Labels YouTube

Artist collaborations aside, BTS has also teamed up with brands to release special-edition offerings. One such notable brand BTS collaboration is the BTS X PUMA Basket shoe edition in 2018 where BTS reinterpreted the brand’s iconic Basket silhouette.

Source: Footwearnews

The limited-edition shoe retains its classic white and black colourway, with the co-branded Puma and BTS logo in gold imprinted on the tongue tag. The shoes’ sides are stamped with ‘2013 06 13′, symbolising the group’s debut date. In addition, the heels also pay tribute to the tie-up with the Basket’s left shoe featuring Puma’s cat logo while the right features BTS’ flower motif from their Love Yourself album. Given BTS’ international popularity, the shoe generated a lot of buzz among the ARMYs – eventually selling out after its release.

Source: PUMA YouTube

Taking notes from such collaborations, strategic partnerships with influencers or other brands that have a loyal fanbase can do wonders for a brand. Collaborations can add great value when the strategic and creative is aligned. Both brands can benefit from growth, costs reduction and a greater reach. Non-competing brands working together have great potential for rapid audience expansion as brands can introduce their customers to their partners or collaborators.

Now that you know some of the bulletproof marketing secrets that have helped propel K-Pop group BTS to the forefront of the music industry, don’t be afraid to try them out for your brand wherever relevant!


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Hero image: Esquire