In the world of music, today is a huge day. South Korean group BTS released it’s already record-breaking new album Map of the Soul: 7. While they are a music group, there is so much that a brand can learn from this group that has captivated the entire world. Read on for some amazing lessons in branding from BTS.
DO YOU KNOW BTS?
BTS have officially made their mark in the United States. If you’re new to BTS, they are a 7-member male musical group from South Korea. You may have seen them most recently perform with Lil Nas X at the 2020 Grammys. Their newest album, Map of the Soul: 7, sold a record 3.42 million stock preorders in its first week of availability. Their 2020 US tour sold out within days of ticket release. With a full TV schedule in the coming days, complete with an interview and concert on the Today Show, a takeover of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, BTS is proving to be a force that won’t be slowing down any time soon.
— The Late Late Show with James Corden (@latelateshow) February 17, 2020
So how does a Kpop band from South Korea become the biggest musical group in the world? BTS’s management agency Big Hit Entertainment debuted BTS in 2013. At the time, they were a small and relatively unknown label gaining little respect from the Korean music industry battling against bigger, more established labels. Fast forward to 2020, and with the success of BTS, Big Hit Entertainment released their earnings earlier this month announcing that revenue doubled its 2018 numbers to $494.6 million in 2019.
Although Kpop is a staple in many Asian countries, it has not been a genre widely accepted or broadcast in the United States. For a non-English speaking artist or group, breaking into the US music scene is no small feat and often a very tall mountain to climb. Psy, a fellow South Korean artist, made his mark with his famous “Gangnam Style” music video on YouTube in 2012, but he was soon to be forgotten by the American media and audiences. BTS are massive stars in their home country of South Korea. Their faces plastered on every billboard and train station ad. How do you extend that success and reach to America, the country leading the music industry?
WHO IS BTS ARMY?
So how did BTS do it? How do they continue to make waves and grow exponentially not just in Asia, but across the world? The secret to their success should be no secret. Their fans, lovingly referred to as ARMY, are the power and force behind the success of BTS.
Make no mistake. BTS are talented vocalists, songwriters, and dancers. They train long hours to create content that is meaningful to both themselves and ARMY. Their love and passion is felt by the fans in every inch of their work. No one loves ARMY like BTS loves ARMY. However, it takes more than love and hard work to become a global star. But there’s lessons we can all learn from this.
— Mike Marsh (@TheMarshSpeaks) January 31, 2020
At The 2020 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in January, several of the presenters discussed the importance of your customers (your fans). They can be your biggest advocates for your brand. Joe Grover, CMO of Homie, made the powerful statement that “your community is your unfair advantage.” And BTS did just that. What were the long hours of training and creating for if not for their fans? Why not give the fans what they want and reach out to them in a way that appeals to their expectations and desires?
HOW BTS CREATED A BRAND FOR THEIR FANS
Like many businesses, one of the ways BTS utilizes their brand was with the power of social media. It’s one of the only ways they can interact directly with their fans. It’s the same for your brand. Social media gives you the opportunity to create open communication and relationships with your audience. But BTS’s reach extends well outside Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. South Korea and Asian countries have their own different platforms. They also have fan cafes for celebrities, or “idols” as they are called in South Korean, to interact with fans. In 2019, Big Hit bridged the global gap and launched their app “Weverse”, a fan community platform that connects the fans and artists. It’s another method for BTS to communicate with ARMY.
One of the many qualities that sets BTS apart is their relationships with the fans. It is no secret that they love and adore ARMY. They have opened up about how ARMY’s support not only drives them to be better but helps them get through their struggles and hardships. They write songs dedicated to their love for ARMY, and they actively tell them how much they mean to them.
At Silicon Slopes, Jessica Klondnicki, CMO of Skull Candy spoke of brands saying, “We are not going to be the best for everyone but we are going to be the best for our users.” ARMY wants to connect with BTS beyond their music. BTS even rebranded their name in 2017 to mean “Beyond the Scene.” It extends outside of music, concerts, videos, and merchandise. They create global fan experiences. In 2017 they partnered with UNICEF for their LOVE MYSELF campaign to help end child and teen violence and spoke in front of the UN.
For their most recent album promotion, they created Connect, BTS, a global project in five major cities and countries connecting art and music resonating with the BTS philosophy. They continually went beyond the scene to create art not only for themselves, pushing their own boundaries, but for the fans who are on the journey with them. They create a journey that feels like friends, rather than fans, supporting and uplifting each other. This all may seem like a daunting or exhausting task, but it is paying off.
this day 4 years ago,i was introduced to a group of boys who would change my life so much, bring some of the best people i’ve ever met into my life, and make me feel so much happier than i could ever have been otherwise.thank you for 4 amazing years BTS, and here’s to many more💜 pic.twitter.com/SV7Is2vuTH
— bec⁷💫 (@yoonglekookie) February 14, 2020
THE POWER OF YOUR FANS, THE POWER OF ARMY
CEO of Hubspot Brian Halligan emphasized the strongest reason for buying from companies is when customers influence other customers. Put the power into the hands of your customers to do the work for you, and with you. This creates a trust, and that trust will organically drive the growth of your brand.
The funnel is broken. We need to retire the funnel. It gives credit to sales and marketing but the most important reason people buy isn’t marketing or sales. It’s your existing customers. The strongest reason for buying is customers influencing new customers. @bhalligan #SSTS20
— Boostability (@Boostability) January 31, 2020
BTS not only creates but nurtures a relationship with their fans that drives the fans to work for them. They put the power into the fans hands. And ARMY delivers.
BTS has a large “stan Twitter” following that engages and shares content within the platform, helping increase reach to new audiences. Their content engagement by far beats out other successful artists with even bigger follower counts. In November 2019, @BTS_twt had 22 million followers (has since grown to 24 million) with 12.4 million mentions. Let’s compare. Ariana Grande has 67.4 million followers and 386,700 mentions. And Harry Styles has 33.6 million followers and 492,200 mentions (even after hosting SNL). Those numbers are impressive. It’s no wonder that they have a record breaking 166 weeks at the top of Billboards Top Social Artists. Not to mention the BTS related hashtags ARMY trends weekly, worldwide.
— Boostability (@Boostability) January 31, 2020
One of the fascinating things about ARMY is they are fiercely loyal to BTS’s art and music. They want the world to see how powerful fandoms can get their favorites to the top of Billboard 100 without cheating or “bundling”(packaging albums and merchandise together to count for higher positions on Billboard charts.)
ARMY have become familiar with marketing tactics and learn and create their own strategies to get BTS to the top. They are BTS’s strongest marketing team. ARMY learns and teaches other fans how different streaming platforms algorithms work, how they detect bot behavior, and how to get your streams and views to count while avoiding looping music. They create and share playlists with each other to ensure each stream is counted fairly. They even know how purchasing music works for Billboard and share tips on how to purchase effectively on iTunes. This is done with no encouragement or direction from BTS or Big Hit. The fans themselves want to show their love and loyalty to BTS for their hard work and dedication for their music. There are even fan accounts on Twitter that raise funds for ARMY who don’t have the money to purchase albums. ARMY supports ARMY.
📣 UPDATED guidelines for digital purchases that are specific to USA Charts.
— Funds for Bangtan⁷ (USA/PR) (@fundsforbangtan) February 14, 2020
One of the most incredible feats to show the power of BTS ARMY was on November 11th, 2019. Feeling cheated by not winning any of the People’s Choice Awards that BTS were nominated for (and doing extensive research to prove their point), fans took matters into their own hands. Through the power of social media, ARMY collectively charted BTS’ 7 month-old album Map of the Soul: Persona back up to #2 on the US ITunes chart as well as #1 in 35 countries worldwide, as well as charting their entire discography and solo albums. The hashtag #BuyPERSONAoniTunes trended on Twitter throughout the day.
.@BTS_twt‘s entire Korean albums discography has re-entered the US iTunes chart.
— chart data (@chartdata) November 12, 2019
The US music industry watching ARMYs bring a 7 month old album back into the top 5 out of anger.pic.twitter.com/nEbBHE0KLL
— sonia🇬🇭 ⁷ is LOVING HOSEOK (@baejoontae) November 11, 2019
Some may argue that with the help of ARMY over the years, it’s given BTS more exposure and opportunity in the US music scene. With more exposure, BTS has had doors open to create new music and experiences. They’ve collaborated with artists such as Steve Aoki, Halsey, Lauv, Lil Nas X, and most recently Sia. If BTS voices a dream, you can guarantee ARMY will work endlessly to help make that dream a reality.
LOYALTY AND TRUST DRIVE RESULTS
So what does that mean for the average brand? It speaks to the power of building loyalty and trust to your brand means your customers have the potential to move mountains for you. BTS, through all of their success, remains appreciative and humble to their fans. They show their appreciation through meaningful content. They communicate why they love their fans and how much they mean to them. Do this with your loyal customers. Show your customers how much you care. Thank them for leaving reviews. Thank them for their business. Give little extras for those who have stuck with your brand throughout the years. This loyalty goes both ways. Brands need to understand the value of their customers and better utilize them as the true fans of their business.
Sure, we aren’t all an attractive and talented musical group. But there is power in utilizing the trust of your customers to grow. When we show our trust to our loyal customers, they will give it back to you. Dream big. When you work together, anything is possible. In the words of BTS, “You gave me the best of me, so you’ll give you the best of you.”