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What Marketers Can Learn from Korean TV Dramas

The popularity of Korean culture worldwide shows no signs of letting up, particularly in the world of music and television. But what can we learn, especially as business leaders and marketers, from the continued rise of Korean media? Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner Valerie Fischer explains.


Korean Drama has been such a phenomenon worldwide and research is currently being done to explain the reasons for its popularity. It's become part of HALLYU, aka the 'Korean wave' that has taken over the world.

Having watched and finished some myself, I got curious about how our brains react to Korean drama. After doing some digging, I found three Neuro-Linguistic Programming presuppositions and techniques that might explain this phenomenon.

1. Our Brains and Attention.

Attention processes are the brain's way of shining light on relevant stimuli and tuning out things that aren't relevant at that moment in time.

For a long time, scientists assumed it was a cortical phenomenon because of attention's relationship with consciousness. Recent studies, particularly that of neuroscientist Michael Halasa, have found that the phenomenon isn't only about focusing but also filtering.

When we watch Korean drama, the non-Korean speaking audience is forced to read subtitles. This makes us focus our attention more on the story, giving us a better appreciation of the script, the nuanced acting, and the cinematography. It also filters out all other distractions, like our actual lives. For a few minutes or hours of our lives, we step into somebody else's life, in another country, in another time, in another place. The full attention we offer to the drama show lets us live and become part of the story.

How do you use this to your advantage in digital marketing?

Putting subtitles in video ads helps capture the attention of our audience. About 85% of video views on Facebook happen without sound. This is when potential buyers are just scrolling or find themselves in public places. Given the 3-second rule on a newsfeed, the subtitles will help with content retention on multiple cue points (i.e. the audio and text on a video).

Subtitles will help with content retention on multiple cue points

In the same way with watching Korean drama, the outside world becomes filtered, and the audience gets lead inside your brand's message.

2. Neuro-Linguistic Programming Timelines.

A timeline in NLP refers to the way a person organizes the concept of time. It is a visual, linear experience of how we identify our past, present and future. Korean dramas have a knack for creating timelines. You'll often see flashbacks or a vision of the future. The past shows their pain and struggle, while the future highlights the possibilities ahead of them.

Marketers and business owners have to know and understand their customer's pain points. It's important to ask potential buyers what they are experiencing so they can pre-qualify themselves. Great sales and marketing leaders will find out how the customer's problems have made them suffer in the past and how much they have paid to make the problem go away, identifying what keeps the customer awake at night.

This process will help you understand their present need and position your product as the thing that will solve it.

Marketers can future-pace their customers by laying out a world full of possibilities

Conversely, similarly to the way Korean drama characters imagine themselves in the future, marketers can also future-pace their customers by laying out a world full of possibilities.

3. VAKOG or Representational Modalities

Korean dramas are a complete experience. They are Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Olfactory and Gustatory, or 'VAKOG'. The visual treat is not limited to just the actors and actresses themselves; it seems as if Korea's streets, fashion, parks, cities, countryside, and tiny alleys shot in the middle of the night are all breathtaking.

Korean shows are also often known for memorable soundtracks and stories that transport you to different seasons where you can almost feel the warmth of the sun of the frost on a morning. An appreciation for local cuisine is never far away either, with mouth-watering Korean food, drinks, and delicacies shown regularly.

Our human tendency is to think, write and speak in ways that we know. You see, our brains are lazy. The brain sees and creates patterns and keeps those patterns for faster understanding and response in the future. However, the problem is that not everyone responds to the same stimuli.

VAKOG can help you address this issue with a larger audience and, in the process, make more sales. So - in the same way that Korean dramas make sure that they appeal to all modalities - your marketing and advertising campaigns need to look, sound, feel, smell, and taste good. You can apply this mentality to your website, social media content and even webinars and training.

Your marketing and advertising campaigns need to look, sound, feel, smell, and taste good

Marketers in the digital space have so much to learn from Korean drama's popularity. Attention is currency, and the Korean drama market is drowning in it. Entrepreneurs, business owners, and marketers need to implement strategic pattern interrupts to gain the same kind of attention. You can do it for your business in three ways:

  1. Keep your communication and marketing fresh.

  2. Sell to the five senses.

  3. Present problems and possibilities.

I, for one, can't wait to watch more Korean dramas to learn more - or maybe it's just an excuse to enter K-Drama Land once again and binge-watch as much as I can!

Valerie Fischer is a Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner. She has over 20 years of experience in advertising and marketing and has co-founded an e-commerce site for locally made products. Valerie was Chief Marketing Officer within a real estate company in 2019, but she was let go during the pandemic along with millions of Filipinos last year. And, as her story goes, this unfortunate incident led her to find her purpose by helping new online business owners and entrepreneurs grow their revenue with Brain Science Selling.

You can learn more about Valerie's work on her website or via her social channels: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube.


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