The BTS Meal and Stans.
First, a brief explanation of stan culture.
Stan, the term originating from the 2000’s Eminem song by the same name, is a descriptor for a fan of an artist (musical or otherwise) that can be described as far too obsessive and attached to the individual. The song the term originates from features a fan who after not receiving mail back from Eminem (who in the song plays both the fan and himself) is driven to murdering his girlfriend and their unborn child by driving off a bridge with the pair locked inside his trunk, in an act to gain the attention of the rapper he worships. While the story is fictional, many real-life accounts of fans becoming far too involved with the artist they love borderlines the obsessive and even sometimes criminal. In today’s day and age, a parasocial relationship with a content creator is far too easy to form since the rise of social media and the seemingly close connection fans can have to an artist. The culture is wildly toxic at times, many of those who are critical to these cult followings are subjected to target harassment which includes calls to have them removed from their jobs or positions and even death threats. You would think corporate America would find this movement too toxic or volatile to approach, and you would be wrong.
BTS, or Bangtan Boys, is a seven-member Korean pop boy band that formed in 2010. Since their inception, they have seen a meteoric rise in fame not just in Asian but around the world, their spread making them one of the most listened to music groups of all time. Smashing Chart records set only by the likes of The Beatles and other massively successful music groups, their influence on the modern music world is immeasurable and still growing. Their fan base is similar. Boasting 90 million members and growing, the BTS Army is a massive collective of fans of all degrees who enjoy the group’s music, but also the culture surrounding the band and their individual members. The advertising potential to this group is massive, and it was only a matter of time before a large organization attempted to appeal to their love of the group.
In the past year, McDonald’s has begun customizing meals that they offer on their menu to fit personalities, specifically music artists. What began as a collaboration with Hip-Hop/ Rap artist Travis Scott expanded to other musical artists, and recently BTS has joined that list. Rather than simply customize a meal for the group, McDonald's went as far as to change social media assets and their in-app purchasing to a BTS theme, driving the fans of the band into a frenzy. Following a video collaboration with the group, McDonald’s saw their sales boost exponentially, a massive turn out both in social media interaction and word of mouth, even going as far as shortages and real world issues such as fans of the band becoming antagonistic towards McDonald’s customers that were taking up orders. In the end, it seems McDonald’s was able to navigate the treacherous waters of a massive fanbase with the sales response they received, but as we become more and more connected through social media and other digital outlets, the line between creator and the consumer will continue to blur.