For public relations professionals, a YouTube video that garners 1 billion user views must have some level of inherent industry-related lesson, right? Our business, in part, is about determining what resonates with the public and what doesn’t.
So when PSY’s Gangnam Style became the first video to accumulate more than 1 billion views we wanted to know what, exactly, about Gangnam Style the public finds so irresistible, and how those findings could be repurposed into the business world.
The success behind Gangnam Style cannot be attributed to one single quality such as the catchiness of the tune or the horse dance or the snappy clothes or PSY himself. We love everything separately and collectively, and that’s the first lesson we can take away from this: it is imperative to have a diversified approach that connects with people on many different levels.
With PSY as the CEO of Gangnam Style, the song will forever have a charismatic spokesman and brand identity that makes us smile. Yes, PSY has had his public relations problems, but he admitted to his mistakes, owned them and was able to move on and even appear at The White House Christmas special. That’s what good business leaders do. Also, he works hard. The man is everywhere. No strategy will amount to anything without solid work ethic.
Ah, the horse dance. Even PR professionals can do the horse dance, which means anyone can. Accessibility is crucial to every public relations strategy that hopes to resonate far and wide. The best part about the horse dance is that it’s supposed to look ridiculous, and for many of us, that is exactly how we look doing any kind of dance. So kudos to PSY for inventing a global phenomenon and bringing the human race together at a time when it can appear more fractured and self-destructive than ever. Giddyup.
Then there is the music. It stays with you like a virus. It enters your mind and never leaves. Ever. Gangnam Style has the perfect hook, that kind of visceral connection with something very human and very deep within all of us. There is something in human DNA that loves a good beat, and this song taps into our ancient hard wiring. Public relations experts would love to be able to replicate this level of success as brands are willing to spend billions on creating the perfect jingle, ditty or song.
Of course there is the fashion, too. Those clothes tell us everything we need to know about PSY and his song: this is fun, bright, vibrant… and very serious business. When most people viewed this song for the first time they asked “Where is he from?” and then “What is he singing about?” Answer: South Korea. It’s a satirical and thoughtful commentary about wealth and status in Seoul, Korea—and that means it’s being honest and attacking the inane unfairness of life with humor.
Never underestimate the connective power of humor.
Lastly, the most impressive and heartwarming aspect of Gangnam Style’s global domination is evident in the video’s comment section. The public feels (at least partially) responsible for the song’s success—and that’s because it is. The excitement about Gangnam Style reaching 1 billion views had everyone abuzz with being part of history, of feeling like we accomplished something together. And we did. Public relations doesn’t get any better than that.