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Is K-Pop the Source of New Influencers?

South Korea’s pop music genre has boasted a new generation of international superstars in the last couple of years. Yet, in doing so, they have cultivated a new celebrity brand during the influence. 


The rise of the influencer began in the early 2000s, with YouTubers taking the lead. The act of influencers extends further back to the aristocracy and nobility, but the influencer term we consider today is far more nuanced and less hereditary. In company jargon, the influencer is “someone in your niche or industry with sway over your target audience.”  The term ‘influencers weren’t used until 2019 and largely fed into the ‘influencer marketing’ that companies began to use to attract audiences on social media sites. These audiences tended to be the younger generation with higher consumerism compared to other demographics. 


The impact felt by the influencers is considered to be strong. For some, the impact of a social media following is predicted to have the same effect as a bachelor’s degree. The influencer is at the frontline of the latest trends in fashion, food consumption, or household cleaning products. Furthermore, with applications such as Tik Tok and Instagram, influencers produce daily content  their followers can’t get rid of. This new form of sponsorship via social media creates a continuous interaction between influencers and their audiences that companies want to partake in. 


Quite similarly, another industry follows this same logic: K-Pop. 


Of all K-pop groups, the most well-known is BTS. There are Seven-member boys group, BTS, which has six number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and 10 Top 10 Hits. Since announcing their hiatus on their nine anniversary on Jun. 13, 2022, the individual members have prepared solo albums and prepared for military enlistment. Before that, the seven members created Instagram accounts. Only months later, brand deals with luxury brands such as Celine, Cartier, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Tiffany & Co would soon follow. 


Particularly, BTS member V  – his real name is Kim Taehyung – amassed the quickest following. Earlier today, he became the fastest person on Instagram to reach 58 million followers. Moreover, his record extended to over 10 million likes. Unsurprising that smaller companies, like SimInvest, have extended him a deal. The high engagement has translated into financial dollars. Last year, his Instagram had the highest value despite having a fraction of other leading celebrities like Kylie Jenner or Selena Gomez. Compared to other influencers, the average pay-per-post for V is an estimated 773,000 American dollars. The second closest was Cristiano Ronaldo, with nearly half a million per post (approximately $451,000). The gap between K-Pop stars and soccer phenomena is explained to their audiences. K-Pop fans are known for spending a substantial amount on what brands their idols consume besides albums, photocards, and other merchandise produced by the Korean pop idol’s company.  To contrast, it is rare for soccer fanatics who primarily focus on team memorabilia (sometimes trading cards), culture, and history. 


Their influence extends beyond social media. Intending to use their platforms for advocacy, various K-Pop groups have changed what it means to be a celebrity. With K-Pop boy groups like BTS speaking at the White House last June for the hashtag Stop Asian Hate campaign, metaverse group aespa speaking at the United Nations for the ‘High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development, and Everglow collaborating with the UNICEF Promise Campaign.


This advocacy extends beyond the traditional brand of influencer. Influencers are primarily geared toward consumers. Yet, the evolving access to information and greater interconnectivity between influencers and their audience requires more care in what is being promoted. Dedicating platforms to notable causes has improved the vision of the influencer. 


Now more than ever, the fashion industry leverages the celebrity of the K-Pop idol. Examples of this include BLACKPINK’s Jennie as the Chanel and Calvin Klein ambassador. The Menswear and Womenswear BTS’s Jimin and BLACKPINK’s Jisoo cover both styles for Christian Dior. Even singular visits made by BTS’s V for Celine made a lasting impact. Yet, the draw to K-Pop idols is understandable. Their fan bases are incredibly loyal, and idols build lasting connections with fans. For the longest time, the K-pop idol as the influencer and the fans as the influence is a perfect untapped market for most. However, luxury fashion houses, governmental organizations, and companies have taken the leap that other corporations have not made before and received significant rewards. Where the influence ends is unknown, but there is no doubt that K-POP will continue to paint the media landscape.


Edited by: Maria Cornejo

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