How BTS has become successful – an analysis of the IMC model, co-creation and prosumers

In this day and age, marketing is changing rapidly by the new online media. And with new media, comes new ways of approaching a consumer. The traditional IMC model is widely accepted as a marketing communications model and has become a necessary part of brand strategy (Madhavaram, Badrinarayanan, & McDonald, 2005).

However Christensen, Torp and Firat (2005) argue in their article that in this postmodernism age of marketing, a company cannot rely on an IMC model. And while an IMC is focused on analysis, planning, implementation and control, Christensen, Torp and Firat contest that marketers today cannot control the consumer now because they are no longer passive targets. They are now creative partners, making them part of co-creation, or even bigger: prosumers (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010).

But how does this affect online marketing and internet culture? To analyse this, a case study is made about the online marketing strategy of korean boyband BTS, in how it uses an IMC model in a postmodern market along with co-creating prosumers to lead their success.

But first.. Who are BTS?

If you are not familiar with them yet, BTS (korean name: Bangtan Sonyeondan) are a 7 member boyband from South Korea that made their debut in 2013. Under the label of Big Hit Entertainment, the group has grown popularity rapidly with them even being in the first K-pop group to reach the top 10 of the Billboard top 200 in 2017. This all leads to them being on American Television shows and on tour throughout the world. The single ICON is their latest hit, that also has version that features Nicky Minaj.

Marketing in a postmodernism market is different to a modern market in 3 ways: hyperreality – the hype of simulation becomes more real than the reality it represents -, fragmentation and consumption – now also including production (Christensen, Torp & Firat, 2005). Consumers in a postmodernism market also choose between expressions to fit them to their own individual purposes, while control from a brand is interpreted with distrust and ridicule (Christensen, Torp & Firat, 2005).

A solution proposed by Christensen, Torp and Firat (2005) is to not try and control the messages linked to a company’s products or brands, but to joyfully engage (with) the consumers. They become more collaborators or partners for the organization’s offerings (Christensen, Torp & Firat, 2005), more like co-creation. Co-creation is the action of consumers wanting to interact with firm (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004).

Value in this case is created by both the brand and the consumer, where a customer can co-construct an experiences that suits themselves and it creates an experience atmosphere where they have an active dialogue and co-construct individual experiences (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004). Four important factors for co-creation are: Dialogue – conversations between customer and firm -, Access, Risk-benefits, and Transparency (also known as DART) (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004). This makes co-creation very personal for each individual and it makes it not a transfer or outsourcing of activities to customers (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004), which is what fits prosumers better.

Prosumers are defined as customers that consume and also produce (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010). This could be filling up your own gas at a gas-station – a very individual production focussed consumption – to being a caller on a radio show – sharing something with a company and to other consumers (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010). But with the rise of online platforms, prosuming is becoming easier, however companies should still not impose control from an IMC model to prosuming – Ritzer and Jurgenson (2010) highlight that consumers actually like prosuming, but not being manipulated by a company.

In the case of BTS, a rapidly growing Kpop Boy Band, they is using several methods that have led to their (international) success. From an standard IMC approach, they for instance pre-record broadcasted shows to stay active on social media around the busiest times of the year (whenever they release a new song for instance) (Naslin, 2017). The type of social media content they produce are livestream broadcasts, covers, reactions and dance covers – planned out very specifically – and content that the fans want to see (Naslin, 2017).

But the biggest part of their international success is also due to their fans – also known as their prosumers. E-word of mouth is one of them, which is very trustworthy for other consumers since no corporation or ad is involved (Enchev, 2016). This E-word of mouth is prosumed on YouTube for instance with the rise of dance covers (East2WestOfficial, 2017; BTSZD_official, 2018), reaction videos (BRISxLIFE, 2018; Rich and Kelsey, 2018) and other content surrounding BTS’s produced social media content. Fans even go further by suggesting BTS to more mainstream media such as Fine Brothers’ REACT show (FBE, 2017). But what even helped BTS more is the fans that got them in contact with American Musicians and Celebrities (Naslin, 2017), co-creating opportunities for BTS to appear more in international platforms and grow as a Kpop boy band.

An IMC model does not include how consumers co-create or prosume, but BTS managed to give content the niche market what they want through a traditional IMC model (mostly through social media), while also get prosumed by fans online. This combination has led to BTS even speaking in the United Nations recently, urging young people to find their own voice and not be afraid to be themselves (Kelley, 2018). And while Christensen, Torp and Firat (2005) argue an IMC model wouldn’t work in a postmodern environment, BTS might be the example why it still works and how prosuming is an response from their fans to the IMC strategy.

You know what makes an even more popular interview with BTS? Doing the Fortnite Dance Challenge with them! Jimmy Fallon managed to get the boys to do the challenge with him. What is the Fortnite Dance Challenge you say? Find out in this article on Your Viral Culture!


Want to learn more about BTS? Our blogger Manouk has made a playlist for you to listen to their biggest hits!


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Rich and Kelsey. (2018, September 27). BTS Music Video Evolution: ‘No More Dream’ to ‘IDOL’ | Billboard Reaction. Retrieved from


Ritzer, G., & Jurgenson, N. (2010). Production, consumption, prosumption: The nature of capitalism in the age of the digital ‘prosumer’. Journal of consumer culture, 10(1), 13-36. Retrieved from:

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