Gangnam-Style Marketing – Manila Newsletter


Heard It Through the Gripe-Vine: our new abnormal

Philippe Cu Unjieng

I am with you to say that many Filipinos are marketing and creative geniuses; but I’m also going to be honest and say that if there is one Asian country that I take my hat off to for not only talking but also walking, it would be South Korea. No matter where you turn, South Koreans excel at turning their product and production into global phenomena. We might be geniuses, but the truth is we still play in a small pond, while they master the ocean.

Throughout the pandemic, I have regularly seen renowned Filipino directors and producers host webinars on K-Dramas; review their production values, script and stories, and analyze “why the global success”. I still remember Jewel in the Crown in 2003 and how it was successfully exported to over 91 countries. Credited as one of the main supporters of the Korean wave, I don’t think most observers at the time would have predicted the insane downpour that was to follow.

And yes, I’m talking about CLOY (Crash Landing On You). I’d say that’s largely responsible for Netflix’s success here, and made Hyun Bin a household name – not to mention the local endorsements he got. And if CLOY is the top of the mountain, there’s the whole mountain too – like a slew of K-Dramas, all vying to be the next CLOY. And that doesn’t ignore the allure of K-Action, K-Horror (Train to Busan in 2016), K-SciFi, and everything in between. K-Entertainment is a permanent part of our cultural landscape – as I’ve seen several Filipino websites go crazy over the K-Drama Flood. My old staple at ABS, metro style, became obsessed with Korean content; and I’m sure it’s a calculated move, as the necessary traction was generated by this type of content.

Bangtan Sonyeondan! Does it ring a bell ? What about the Bangtan Boys? Still have your eyebrows raised? Well, what if I just said BTS? Yes, these are the letters BTS. And what they also really stand for is the most successful musical act on the planet today. K-Pop has matured, grown and is now the envy of almost every nation as it means astronomical income, tourists, and recognition / awareness for South Korea. And at the helm of the K-Pop pack today is BTS, which is technically described as a boy group; but we all know it’s so much more, thanks to their fiercely loyal army – fandom in extremis.

From the Korean master class in marketing, BTS and Jeju Island.
(Photo of BTS and Jeju Island is from

And it might not be a coincidence that we call BTS fans an army. If reports are to be believed, the Korean music industry is run like a military operation, it’s a well-oiled machine that knows exactly what it’s doing, and has evolved over the years – the first decade of this. century gave us Rain and the Wonder Girls, for example. It’s a lucrative factory that spits out its victims and those who can’t stand the pressure. Fame and wealth in the K-Pop world comes at a price, but you can’t tell me it’s not a medium that takes very measured steps and processes and can be proud of its track record. You could even call it a formula, but if a formula matches that kind of success with a capital S, I don’t think many will complain. Even here in the Philippines, BTS and Blackpink’s services have been secured for massive approvals.

Still not convinced by this Korean Midas touch? Let’s talk about the retail and SKU categories of cosmetics and skin care. Koreans are now setting the trends, dictating what products are in demand. Remember the rosy, romantic look of makeup years ago? To many jaded observers, one may just appear to be stepping out of the water or crying; but high fashion took note and bought the hook, line and sinker look. Snail extract serum? Any true fashionista and / or makeup aficionado of the past decade will have a gooey snail product on their beauty shelves. K-beauty speaks volumes in terms of sales and R&D.

And if you want to talk about marketing, I’ll give you Jeju Island. Traditionally known for its tropical climate and female dives in deep water (without an artificial respirator), the Jeju qualifier on any beauty product has suddenly come to mean that it has magical properties. And yet, if you research the island, there is a dormant volcano, and really not much else. Recently I even watched a Korean crime film on Netflix, Night in Paradise, and a lot of the action in the movie took place on Jeju Island – and from what I could see. , it’s like a Korean in Guam or Hawaii. But if you mean united fronts, almost every Korean beauty brand now has Jeju-labeled products, from Face Shop to Innisfree to Fresh Skinlab. Jeju Aloe, Jeju Volcanic Lava Serums, and Clay Masks – why haven’t we ever marketed Taal or Mayon in this way?

So yeah, I’m green with envy, watching how South Korea is positioning itself in the global market and wishing our genius could produce results similar to what they are getting. I’m just saying …




Leave A Reply