2 min read
Bolstering brands: Tap into the powerful influence of South Korean celebrities

The burgeoning soft power of South Korea has expanded rapidly and globally in recent years with estimates of 178 million Hallyu fans in 118 countries in 2022. This surge in global interest is exemplified by the immense popularity of South Korean content such as Squid Game which attracted 111 million viewers on Netflix within a month of its release.

Not only has South Korean culture captured the attention of large swathes of audiences, but it has also received international recognition with Parasite being the first foreign language film to win multiple Academy Awards, and BTS breaking multiple world records.

The remarkable ability of South Korean celebrities to captivate global audiences suggests a trajectory of exponential international growth that shows no signs of slowing down. This is particularly so given the substantial investments from streaming giants such as Netflix in South Korean content, coupled with the support from the South Korean government.

Brands should tap into the power of South Korean celebrities to maximise audience engagement and increase conversion<br>For brands, it will be crucial to tap into the powerful influence of South Korean celebrities if they want to remain relevant to their audiences and attract new consumers.

The world’s top luxury fashion houses have recognised this potential and taken the lead in collaborations and endorsements, snagging up members of popular K-pop groups, BTS, BLACKPINK, and NewJeans as their brand ambassadors in a bid to resonate with younger audiences.

This move has proved to be highly successful, as demonstrated in BTS and Louis Vuitton’s spin-off fashion film for Virgil Abloh’s fall/winter 2021 menswear collection that achieved more than two million views on YouTube within an hour of its release.

A major reason behind the celebrities’ popularity and success is the support of their fandoms. South Korean celebrities are seen to amass large, loyal followings, each with its unique fandom culture.

The strength of this fandom culture is illuminated on social media platforms. Popular South Korean celebrities are social media powerhouses, achieving millions of followers with impressive engagement rates, indicative of their fans’ investment in their content and lives.

With such great attention garnered, South Korean celebrities have also evolved to be established lifestyle or fashion icons who are exceptionally well-loved by the public across different age profiles in the Asia Pacific region, and extending to even the United States and Europe. From their daily outfits, to their favourite fragrances, and even the snacks that they indulge in, everything associated with them becomes a sought-after “IT” item.

A notable display of the celebrities’ popularity and their fans’ commitment is seen with BTS. Brands and products endorsed by the group, such as Samsung and Louis Vuitton, often experience sell-outs thanks to ARMY, the group’s fan club.

In another instance, a recent Starbucks collaboration of drink ware and accessories with BLACKPINK was completely sold out from its online Asian inventory within three hours, underscoring the immense influence of K-pop sensations.

With South Korean celebrities as their brand ambassadors, brands are able to tap into the established intimate, emotional connection with already invested consumers. The strong trust formed between the celebrities and their fans means credibility is lent to endorsed brands or products. Thus, brands can effectively engage audiences on a more personal level and cultivate brand love which may have been difficult to do so previously.

Forming partnerships with South Korean celebrities requires specific expertise<br>Having explored the benefits of engaging South Korean celebrities, you may wonder why more brands have yet to engage them. Unfortunately, the process can be tricky.<br>Without established credibility in South Korea, it can be difficult for brands to approach and convince these celebrities and their management agencies to onboard brand partnerships. Furthermore, it is essential for brands to have a deep understanding of the celebrities and the values they represent so as to ensure their suitability for a brand, and to maintain brand authenticity.

For brands outside of South Korea, the intricacies involved in navigating these partnerships and potential language barriers can be intimidating. Hence, it may be necessary for brands to seek out external agency partners to help facilitate such partnerships.

Currently, there are only a few agencies outside of South Korea that provide specific expertise in managing South Korean celebrity endorsements. One such agency is ed&c,a creative agency specialising in brand campaigns, event management, and Korean celebrity partnerships.

Its most recent engagement with South Korean celebrities is seen with its client, Ultherapy®’s Asia Pacific campaign, “See My Skin, Lift My Way”, where Lee Min Ho, Jeon So Min, and Kim Ha Neul are engaged as its first-ever Asia Pacific brand ambassadors.

This strategic move successfully boosted the campaign by achieving a PR reach of 150 million people and strengthening Ultherapy® as the market leader in the region.

The manifold advantages that Korean celebrities bring to the table will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the future of global marketing. With the enduring relevance and expanding global impact of South Korean celebrities, a golden opportunity emerges for brands to usher in a new era of growth and success. Seize your chance to be an integral part of this dynamic shift.