Going Viral, Gangnam Style


According to Silicon Republic, in 2012 more than 72 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute, with more than 800 million unique user visits and more than 4 billion hours of video watched each month. As a result, we have seen some of the most viral videos ever this year, with Gangnam Style being the most ‘viral’ of them all, not just this year but EVER, with 1 billion views on YouTube expected by year end.

Seeing as how I live on Planet Earth, I kind of noticed… but how did this come to be?

The label behind Gangnam, YG Entertainment, had a sneaky plan long before the video went live; to break into new markets and build a platform from which they could push content out on.

STEP 1: AUDIENCE– Utilise those who already want to engage with your brand through Owned Media

  • YouTube-YG had 2.5 million subscribers pre-Gangnam and had achieved 1.6 billion views of musicians’ videos across those channels already.
  • High volume of views in a short space of time helped them quickly gain shares and get featured in YouTube’s daily chart.

STEP 2: CONTENT- needs to be able to spark enough interest for people to want to share it and watch it, over and over again.

[Side note: this reminds me of my younger sister who circa 1996 watched Gone With The Wind every single day for a solid month one Summer…she’s perfectly normal now, I swear. Anyway, that film is about 4 hours looong compared to Gangnam’s 4 minutes, so in the intervening years it would seem our attention spans have ‘gone with the wind’ so to speak-  pun intended]

  • Video was eye-catching & lyrics did not create a language barrier.
  • High profile South-Korean celebrities featured in the video.
  • Made the video highly shareable.


  • Launched 15 July- tweeted by @allKpop- influential gossip site- goes to no.1 in Korean music charts.
  • 30 July-gawker.com writes story on video & generates 19,000 Facebook Likes/Shares for the article.
  • 7 August- spike in traffic and views-YouTube Trends write post on Gangnam Style, making it their Video of the Month.
  • Celebrities Katy Perry, Josh Grogan and Britney Spears endorse it through Twitter.
  • Guinness World Records announce that Gangnam Style has broken all known records for number of views.

The success of Gangnam Style is illustrative of how Owned and Earned Media can play specific roles in achieving company objectives, especially when they are used as part of an integrated model.

In this case, YG used YouTube (Owned) to engage with their audience who then endorsed Gangnam through their own media channels, such as Twitter (Earned). This was followed by influential celebrities and the media picking it up (Earned), increasing its virality exponentially.


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