Oct 6, 2021
Design for Edu
 min read

A joyful learning experience with your entertainer idols, BTS

From Band to Brand: The Rising Hot Trend of BTS

photo by bandwagon

As a Korean, seeing the mega-success of “BTS”, a leading K-pop band throughout the world, is enjoyable and impressive. Everyone knows that in recent years BTS has been a giant in the music industry all around the world. For the entire year of 2020, BTS brought significant profits to their mother company, Big Hit Entertainment. According to their financial report, they recorded about $800 million in revenue despite adverse effects brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in May 2021, “Butter”, a new digital single song of BTS, was released in public. This song has taken the No1 spot in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 songs chart for nine weeks in a row, breaking the previous record. In addition, they became Asia’s highest-earning music artists making millions of dollars in revenue every year. Now, there’s no doubt that they have proved themselves as superstars to lead the world music industry.

They started their career from music performance as a band but have built up brand power and eventually became one of the most influential brands in the world. Big Hit Entertainment is enlarging its business in different fields, changing its name to HYBE. More importantly, BTS has their own fandom named the “Army”, and according to a survey, its size is estimated as more than 400,000 active Army and 40.8 million lurking Army in 46 different languages all over the world, which is insane. Now, with over 400,000 loyal customers as well as countless potential fans, the company is able to guarantee stable-rate profits from whatever business they do using the brand name BTS.

Army seeks to understand what BTS conveys in their music lyrics by learning Korean

BTS consists of seven members, each strategically endowed with different characteristics and imagery. Each of the members has their own colour, cartoon character and even story within the BTS Universe which is the fictional world created by them. Army fans follow either one member or multiple members by getting to know more about their deep histories. Furthermore, most of BTS’s music is basically written in Korean which means that non-Korean fans cannot understand the lyrics within the BTS music.

These reasons increasingly have drawn the Army to learning the Korean language in order to understand what BTS is saying in their music as well as to communicate with BTS members through SNS or TV shows. These desires created a tremendous business opportunity for the company and they set out to grasp this chance to meet the Army’s demands. They ended up expanding their business to the education field with a book!

A book for learning Korean, with BTS

Photo by Weverse

HYBE (Big Hit) started to team up with the International Korean Education Foundation to develop learning services for the Korean language. They studied designing products for learning Korean combining pedagogical knowledge and BTS’ identities. They must have been certain of the success of other businesses with the large group of loyal fans around the world. Finally, in 2020, they published a book package named “Learn! Korean with BTS” that teaches global fans how to learn Korean. Interestingly, it costs $112 and this idea embodied a new strategy for the diversity of their business.

The joyful learning experience

I was able to see the book in person as one of my friends(She is also a member of the Army) bought them. And I was very surprised by the content, structure and emotional experience qualities that the book provides because BTS members are teaching Korean as if they were sitting right next to me. This book was written for young fans in very urban languages which members of BTS often use in public as well as in their daily life. Also, it contains lots of images and characters related to BTS which keep readers stimulated and motivated to keep learning Korean.

In addition, the tech-based speaking pen, which comes with a recording of each member’s voice, gives a high level of satisfaction. I have never seen this kind of joyful experience design for learning something new and I honestly feel that this can be the best method to learn. I can also count this service as an unexpected design. Just imagine that you are learning English with Madonna or someone you admire as your teacher.

Photo by A-KPOP

Also, there was an interview with an Italian girl who is a BTS fan and she said she learned Korean for several months to fully understand the meaning of the “Yellow ribbons” displayed in BTS’s music video, “Spring Day”. The yellow ribbons represent a 2014 historical tragedy which occurred in South Korea and therefore allow foreigners to have enough background about Korean politics. This kind of message from BTS stimulates learners, keeping them focused on learning while searching for the meaning of lyrics and messages.

The music video of “Spring Day” from the BTS’s youtube channel

Challenges and sustainable business models

Still, there are limits to the overall long term sustainability of their K-pop business BTS’s members are already getting older which means that they are more likely to lose their commercial value compared to other growing K-pop groups. In comparison to the average ages of K-pop idols, around 16–19, they are expected to enter their30s in a few years. Furthermore, they need to go into the military very soon. It will take around 2 years to come back to their fans which is troublesome for HYBE and leaves the company to ponder alternative ways of creating revenue during the gap. Honestly, it’s also tough to guarantee that BTS can still remain successful after the 2 years of military. And looking at K-pop history it’s hard to survive as an idol group on the competitive K-pop market.

Positive signals can be shown by HYBE’s strategies to expand their businesses into diversity in a sustainable way. Particularly, their expansion of the business into different fields like education will be a great breakthrough for the sustainability of their businesses. I’m very pleased to see the achievement and impact of BTS on the Earth as a Korean, and they, indeed, are changing the global image of Korea.

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