A lot of new retail and marketing opportunities are emerging for brands as the Korean Wave or “Hallyu” and its fandom enter the global mainstream in 2023 and in the next few years, according to WGSN, the global authority on trend forecasting.
Marc Villemat, Vice President Revenue at WGSN Asia-Pacific (APAC), said Hallyu refers to the growth in popularity of Korean entertainment, which played a massive role in turning the nation into a cultural powerhouse.
“What began as a cultural movement exploded into a vibrant mainstream phenomenon that has captured the imagination of audiences globally. This explosion has opened a slew of new retail and marketing opportunities for brands,” he said.
In a sample report, Alison Ho, analyst at WGSN Insight, said the growth in popularity of Korean entertainment and culture globally has brought in over $27 billion in the last five years.
“From Blackpink headlining Coachella 2023 to Squid Game becoming a television sensation worldwide, Hallyu has finally broken out of APAC and entered the global mainstream, becoming a major South Korean export,” she said.
Ho said Hallyu has grown from a regional youth subculture into a global entertainment phenomenon, with K-pop selling over 80 million albums around the world in 2022 and #KPop reached 400 billion views in TikTok.
She said girl group Blackpink’s Youtube also became the first music channel to record over 90 million subscribers this July.
Hallyu took off in cinemas and on Netflix during the pandemic with Korean content driving over half of Netflix’s total streamed minutes in the second quarter of 2021, she added.
Ho said South Korea earned $1.7 billion from Hallyu-related exports of music, videos and related services in 2022. Exports of K-pop albums increased by 17 percent year-on-year to reach a record of $133 million in the first six months of 2023 alone.
“The number of global Hallyu fans reached 178 million in 2022, growing 19 times since 2011,” she said. “Valued at $25 million, the US overtook China to become the second-biggest overseas market for Korean music globally.”
To capture these opportunities, Ho cited key ideas including Empowered femininity, Celebrity co-creation, Popup power, The rise of Youtube and The Webtoon opportunity.
Empowered femininity refers to a new generation of fans embracing self-empowered female icons and messaging within Korean entertainment, as fandoms go global.
“Korean entertainment is embracing traditionally tricky topics, including sex and gender, as Korea’s youth, especially females, push back against conservative social principles. An increasingly globalized Hallyu fandom with greater social tolerance and understanding is prompting unprecedented levels of aesthetic diversity and driving non-traditional female icons into stardom,” she said.
In Celebrity co-creation, fans are seeking more personal and meaningful involvement with their favorite idols through brand collaborations.
Brands can also capitalize on K-pop via IP collaborations and co-branded IRL activations, as popups become a permanent Hallyu strategy to drive loyalty and connect with fans, she added.
“From celebrity vlogs to independent production companies and platform-native creators, Youtube is heralding a new Hallyu content boom ripe with collaborative opportunities,” Ho said.
She also cited a unique storytelling tool with huge commercial potential, leveraging Webtoons for merchandising possibilities.