South Korea’s biggest boy band, BTS, recently collaborated with McDonald’s to launch an exclusive “BTS meal” just in time to promote their latest summer anthem, “Butter.” The limited-edition BTS meal — which consists of 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, medium fries, a medium Coke and the new Cajun and Sweet Chili dipping sauces — is the first celebrity collaboration to go on sale globally.
Although the collaboration may have come as a surprise, it not only proved to be an ingenious marketing campaign on McDonald’s part — based upon precedent and careful study of the global market — but also demonstrates the possibility of a globalization with BTS as its leader.
Previous to the collaboration with BTS, the Travis Scott meal, which was released in September 2020 exclusively within the United States, included a Quarter Pounder, medium fries, a medium Sprite and a side of barbecue dipping sauce. This particular combo — more specifically, the Travis Scott Burger — surprisingly became a pop culture phenomenon overnight, causing a shortage of Quarter Pounder ingredients at numerous McDonald’s locations across the country. The following collaboration with J Balvin was profitable as well, despite attracting less attention than its predecessor.
Although these past partnerships with celebrities proved to be immensely successful, the BTS meal is already outracing them in popularity. The newly launched meal caused countless excited fans to line up outside many of the fast-food chain’s locations as visits to McDonald’s rose by 12% over the past week, according to Business Insider. Some branches located in other countries were forced to close due to the overly high demand.
The BTS-themed fast-food packaging is so sought after that many people are currently selling paper bags, cups, boxes and even the newly launched sauces associated with the meal on eBay for outrageous prices.
Overall, this triumph is another clear example of the “BTS effect” — a term originally dubbed in Korea to describe the economic impact of BTS’s success.
The BTS effect was primarily used to describe the band’s massive contribution to South Korea’s culture, economy and industry. The band continues to make unprecedented history as these Korean pop stars bring in an estimated $3.5 billion to South Korea per year, according to the Hyundai Research Institute (HRI).
Much of the revenue is due to tourism as almost 800,000 foreigners visit Korea each year due to their love for BTS and K-pop, according to HRI. The Institute also revealed that BTS was responsible for an increase in South Korea’s consumer exports, contributing 2% ($1 billion) of the total consumer exports in 2017.
Not only has the band become the main promoter of Korean culture and language, but it also prompted South Korea to reform a long-standing military law that originally required all able-bodied Korean men to complete two years of military service by the age of 30.
The Korean boy band also indirectly impacts international development through their occasional charity work, which has grown alongside the band’s popularity. Not only did they raise over $1.4 million for UNICEF’s “Love Myself” anti-violence campaign but, quite recently, the stars donated $1 million to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Due to their tremendous influence both within and outside of their home country, countless companies seek to obtain a promotional boost from the boy band. BTS currently stands as a promoter of many local Korean businesses as well as the global ambassador of multiple brands including Samsung, Fila, Hyundai and more.
The latest entity to expect a boost in sales from obtaining the group’s advertising power is the prestigious French fashion house Louis Vuitton, who named the pop stars its new “house ambassadors” shortly after the launch of the BTS meal.
Overall, the band’s immense success and influence undoubtedly stem from both their vast online presence and the zealous support from the worldwide ARMY (the official name for the BTS fanbase).
Since their debut in 2013, BTS members continue to share news and content, such as song covers and dances, on multiple social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Not only does their consistent social media presence boost their popularity and image, but it also helps the band interact more intimately with their fans.
This also plays into international outreach as social media has also helped BTS communicate with and embrace fans from all around the globe as they share their heartfelt music and culture.
Their recent English songs “Dynamite” and “Butter” have undoubtedly helped many others embrace the band’s talent and have allowed many ARMY fans across the world to connect with one another as well.
The fanbase also continues to follow in their idols’ footsteps by making significant charitable contributions, often gathering money to donate to nonprofits across the world. ARMY once raised about $8,000 to provide meals through the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) in 2020, while also raising about $9,000 for children to pursue online learning in India.
This ultimately proves that BTS is recognized not only as a world-famous boy band but as true global influencers with groundbreaking musical and cultural accomplishments. The band’s influence is growing increasingly wider in scope as they continue to reach new heights.
BTS’s recent collaboration with the global company McDonald’s ultimately demonstrates three key findings: globalization may be possible, globalization is not essentially American or Western in nature and a more diverse cultural globalization cannot be completely disregarded anymore.