It has been a while, but I’m back with a post focusing on the business side of K-Pop! On January 27th, I came across the song Switch by SR16B, who were known as S.M. Entertainment’s (SME) soon-to-debut boy group that are now going by the name of NCT – Neo Cultural Technology, also regarded as a brand that will be localized across different countries that have a large K-Pop following, not only in East Asia, but also in the South East Asian and South American region (NCT sounds like a tech. university’s name, doesn’t it? Update [07/02/16]: Or a marketing company’s name according to one of the netizens mentioned here =P).
I suppose it was the right timing to come across the song Switch and be reminded of SR16B because a couple of hours later, there were newly released teasers of the group that created a bit of excitement and buzz for SME‘s fans. I actually like the following song and thought that SHINee sang it, since it has more of a SHINee sound and vibe to it. The song also has a nice meaning and it includes how one feels when on his/her way to achieve a dream, just like how NCT is on their way of achieving their dream to debut.
Regarding the name, Neo Cultural Technology, I have a feeling that it may have come from SME‘s slogan, “The future of cultural technology”. Cultural technology is a part of SME‘s core business strategy of promoting the Hallyu Wave, but I’m not going to go into details regarding that because I think the words itself are self-explanatory, especially when you think of how many of us non-Koreans from all over the world are listening to Korean pop, which has also led us to learning about Korean culture (or Chinese culture if you’re a fan of their Chinese artists), and how we came to discover it through technology, particularly the Internet!
It’s also known among K-Pop fans, even those that aren’t interested in business, that SME is the No.1 K-Pop company when it comes to marketing and advertising through multiple social media platforms, while maintaining a track record of producing high quality content. For me, SME, a company that I used to be very fond of since I first heard of them in 2009 (there’s a post on my Facebook from a few years ago with the caption along the lines of “SM Family” with a hearteu =P, but now….), is also slightly deceptive, and this was after realizing near the end of 2012 that they may have used the content from some of my blog posts (and probably other fans’ too) to promote one of their artists and shape some aspects of his image as part of their co-creation marketing strategy. Those that have been following my blog since the early days of EXO may understand what I mean by this.
SME doesn’t keep it a secret that co-creation has been one of their strategies, although most likely very different in the pre-Internet era, for alluring female fans of the 90’s boy group H.O.T. It’s just that not many may have heard much about it because it hasn’t been widely spoken of until now, as is in the case of SM Rookies. When I first heard about it, I felt compelled to write the post, A Co-Creation Marketing Strategy in K-Pop?, and address my concerns. Please do also read the comments underneath the post, especially the last few, to see what I and other readers had written before EXO Kris‘ lawsuit, and tell me whether all of what we said is one big “coincidence”, because as I’ve been stating for two years now, to me it surely doesn’t look like it. Moreover, I’ve always felt like my blog was being watched by “insiders” when I wrote about Kris and started becoming more open about the entertainment industry, particularly its dark side. With the events that followed, it felt as if I may have been right.
There are moments when I have a strong intuition about certain things, but when everything is so easily accessible online, and a company finds something noteworthy and interesting for marketing purposes, don’t you think they would take it as an opportunity to incorporate that as part of feedback to later act upon? I guess this goes without saying that my hunch about SME utilizing social media to observe fans, study their behavior and reaction (aka consumer psychology), as well as to use the content that fans put online about their favorite K-Pop group, or artist, or even the company itself, to add value to their brand, is no longer a “rumor”…but very much a reality that SME is becoming slightly more transparent about, as I will discuss in regards to their new app., SMROOKIES Entertainment. Before discussing it, though, it would be good to touch upon the topic of “neuro-marketing”.
Did you know that many big companies have live feedback from consumers stored on their CRM systems and also have neuroscientists working on their marketing team, with their work being referred to as “neuro-marketing”? Their goal is to better understand their consumers from an “unconscious” level, so that they can keep them hooked onto whatever they’re selling at an emotional level (because an emotional appeal is always more stronger than a logical appeal), and thus create stronger consumer loyalty. So if one finds it hard to break free from a K-Pop star, it’s because he/she has become emotionally attached to that star through his/her heavily marketed image. For the company that manages that K-Pop star, that’s a huge plus.
K-Pop fans would benefit a lot from learning about marketing, because there’s no doubt that a large chunk of K-Pop’s success and the reason that fans are attracted to a particular celeb. in the first place is based on marketing! Learning about it will also help fans to understand more about other companies across different industries and the way they attract the people to their products. The following articles on neuroscience and marketing are worth reading for better understanding:
- Neuroscience and marketing: what you need to know
- What neuroscience tells us about consumer desire (worth reading the comments underneath the post too)
- Marketers’ next trick: reading buyers’ minds
- Mind control: neuroscience in marketing
- Neuroscience in marketing: how to spot the science fiction
- Is neuroscience the future of content marketing measurement?
- Neuromarketing: explore the strategy of neuromarketing
With that said, it’s interesting that SME has now come up with an app. called SMROOKIES ENTERTAINMENT where a fan can be a “producer” of the SM Rookies project (SM Rookies being the name for a group of SME‘s trainees, including SR16B) and where SME can use some of that fan’s ideas in reality and give him/her a “reward” in return… =P So now they’re not only accessing content or gaining information from fans from personal blogs, forums, or other SNS, but also gaining it from their very own app. where fans are willing to produce content that SME will see, and which would be easier for the company to collect, store, and monitor or study. The app. can almost me be used as part of an experiment (if SME isn’t using it as part of one already, which I highly doubt).
Having said that, where’s my “reward” for the “ideas” that SME used, especially for Kris? Remember the infamous moment of Kris and Ace Wu that showed fans Kris‘ warm side, which seemed to have drawn inspiration from this blog post of mine and led to this outcome? =P The evidence is pretty startling, and I think what angered me about such a situation happening more than once was that they acted as if it was their own “idea” and Kris played along with it! Here’s a basic 101 rule for understanding a girl… if you want to be on a girls’ nice side, you have to show some appreciation. Knowing that SME primarily targets females, I thought this would have been the first thing they knew about their consumers! -_-
I also find this post of mine from 2013 called, Dream of Being A K-Pop Star With A Care Bears Concept, a bit suspicious now that Red Velvet, who were part of SM Rookies and debuted in 2014 during a very controversial time for SME, which was when Kris “filed a lawsuit” on the company, have the same color concept as the Care Bears, as one can clearly see in the last pic. of the post! If that’s not enough to make you think it’s suspicious, notice that Red Velvet featured a pink bear in its debut MV, Happiness, which later became SMTOWN‘s current mascot (SMTOWN being the name of a community or “family” of SME‘s artists and fans). Previously, SMTOWN‘s mascot was a bunny! =P
When suspicious things happen more than once with the person that you were a fan of, and you know from gut feeling that SME have lurked around here, you start to question EVERYTHING. It doesn’t help that right under that post a reader recommended that I should work for SME as well. So who really knows? Maybe I was part of an experiment that I didn’t know about, which ties in with the concept of the following app.:
On the iTunes app. store, the app. is given the description, “A star made by me, Social producing,” and under the section “Producing”, it states:
The producer’s opinions reflected in reality. From small events to unit activities and actual debut. Participate in entertainment production in various ways, such as voting and proposing ideas that are needed to make decisions throughout the process. —SMROOKIES ENTERTAINMENT APP
In other words, co-creation and the fan being responsible in the process of promoting the star. A fan or “producer’s” opinions for promoting can come from blog posts too. Remember the videos on co-creation that I shared in this post? Hah! To me this app. also looks like another way of getting a fan attached to a trainee before he/she debuts and making that attachment stronger than what most of us have been accustomed to during a group’s debut in the past…
According to Soompi and Mwave in December, 2013:
SM Rookies is a pre-debut team of trainees currently practicing under SM Entertainment. SM Rookies will introduce SME’s new “Co-Creation” system. Fans will be able to participate in preliminary events and showcases before the official debut. The rookies will have the freedom to form different groups with each other, and show their day-to-day lives and practices to their fans. These rookies will also participate in concert and variety shows to win the hearts of fans. We can also expect covers of songs by their company’s seniors and their own originally composed songs in open performances to showcase their talents.
According to SME on December 3, SM Rookies is a new star-in-the-making brand that will highlight the pre-debut team of SM trainees. The agency announced that it plans on unveiling more and more about these rookies so that the audience can get familiar with the rookies as they work toward becoming a star. Ahead of their official debut, the rookies will be releasing songs and participating in a variety of activities.
My only concern is for the young-lings, who are often the main target by the media, trying to break free from being a fan of someone that may never have the same attachment or investment towards them, especially if they’re “growing up” alongside the soon-to-be star that they’re a fan of. The earlier the attachment and more time invested, the harder it is to move on. I say this because I already know hard it has been for many past and current fans to break free, and these are fans that only discovered a trainee just a few months before his/her debut, and who was also kept as a “secret” throughout the many years that he/she was training under his/her company.