Gangnam Style your communication!

October 11, 2012

Have your seen Gangnam Style on youtube? Gangnam style, a pop video by a South Korean rapper Psy has taken the world by a storm and entered the Guinness book of world records as the most liked YouTube video!  Gangnam style has been parodied and has also featured heavily in mainstream media.  Opinions vary widely with The Sydney Morning Herald writing “It makes you wonder if you have accidentally taken someone else’s medication”, while Robert Myers of The Village Voice called it “an inspired piece of silliness”.

The Gangnam style video is cheesy, has humorous dance moves, a catchy beat and is a larger than life successful piece of  global communication.

Now, not for a moment am I suggesting your next communication should feature a YouTube video with your CEO presenting the strategy Gangnam style, unless your CEO is an ex rapper.  But there are lessons to learn from the success of Gangnam style, success that every communicator would kill for.

The music video for the Gangnam Style song has gone viral and is a meme, which is a concept, an idea, behaviour or style that spreads rapidly, virally from person to person. Our culture is replete with memes, from catchy advertising jingles, nursery rhymes, popular proverbs like ‘A stitch in time saves nine’.  You possible use memes everyday without even being aware that you are.  One of my husband’s favourite lines is ‘You just can’t handle the truth’ from the film  A Few Good Men and is an example of a meme, a popular catch phrase that people repeat from TV or a film.

Imagine your next piece of communication whether it’s a pitch, an idea, newsletter, an email, a presentation becoming a meme!  WHOA.  So how can you ‘Gangnam Style’ your communication?

You don’t need the Internet to do that, but you do need the power of  good idea or at least the right turn of words (Tony Blair describing Princess Diana as the ‘People’s Princess’) to create an instant meme.  The example that immediately comes to mind is President John F Kennedy,  who famously said ‘We want to put a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth, by the end of this decade’. An instant meme, the idea spread through America and the world and inspired a generation of diverse Americans from NASA engineers to cleaners to strive to make it happen.  A more recent example, ‘wardrobe malfunction’, a meme created to explain Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl controversy.

In 2008 John Stewart the then CEO of NAB described NAB as an offshore racing yacht that had spent four years getting ready for the winds to change.  This yachting meme spread internally within the bank like wild fire and was embraced by the media as a sound bite.

Stories are classic memes as they are easy to understand, remember and repeat.  Our customers have created memes like ‘Brussel Sprouts’Copper head snakes’ within their organisations using stories.

To Gangnam style your next communication, steer clear of corporate jargon and cliches and start by asking yourself ‘What is a fresh way of thinking and talking about this?”.    Hint ‘Optimising synergies’ will not become a meme. Cast your net wide, take risks and don’t afraid to be cheesy, funny, lateral… use a story, and be rewarded with Gangnam style results.


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