You may have seen these cute little characters in your free stickers while using messaging apps like LINE or Facebook, but didn’t know they were related to the global K-pop logo: BTS. The group designed 8 characters together: Koya, RJ, Shooky, Mang, Chimmy, Tata, Cooky, and Van, representing each member of the group and for ARMY, their fandom.
The story of UNIVERSTAR BT21
Prince TATA from the planet BT, who was traveling with VAN, had an accident when he arrived on Earth. To spread the love, TATA decided to become a star. In the end, TATA met six other adorable members: KOYA, RJ, SHOOKY, MANG, CHIMMY and COOKY to create ‘BT21’, and they dreamed of becoming the most popular star idols in the universe, creating so UNIVERSTAR BT21 and spread love to everyone around.
BT21- a stroke of marketing
BT21 creates flexibility for both BTS and Big Hit. Now the company can promote and generate revenue by countless other means without violating any of the signed agreements. BTS has been representing Puma since 2015, and they were also recently chosen as the global face of the brand earlier this year. The above collaboration only covers a handful of products for the Puma trainer line such as Turin, Basket and Court Stars. And because the exclusive term is the standard for all brand representation contracts, BTS’s own collaboration with Puma makes it difficult for the group to simultaneously promote brands with similar product lines
However, after its debut, BT21 had contracts with the same brands that BTS had limited cooperation with. The cartoon character brand has announced a limited edition sneaker range with Reebok’s InstaPump Fury line. BT21 also recently “teamed up” with Converse in July, releasing a few limited models of the legendary Chuck Taylor All Stars, all of which were sold out on Naver’s online store in just 10 minutes. BT21 creates a reel to help Big Hit continuously promote BTS widely without violating any terms of the contract, and also benefit from promoting for competing brands together.
Diversity is another key to this success as well. Thanks to the creation of animated characters, Big Hit also expands the company’s market out of the K-Pop industry. The popularity of certain groups may not be suitable for representing certain items, such as food. Instead, BT21 can easily replace and embrace these most likely overlooked opportunities. With these garments, these cartoon characters also help fans to support BTS in a more discreet way. At the same time, the fact that each character represents a member also gives fans more options for their bias-associated products.
Follow-ups have always played an important role in K-Pop’s marketing, from repackage albums and photocards to fansign goodies that appear every comeback. But the release of a series of animated characters representing a group is something that has never been done before. The previous marketing strategy often tried to focus on promoting the brand itself of the group rather than spending the effort promoting another parallel brand. Therefore, BT21 is a creative and effective marketing move of Big Hit Entertainment.
Animated characters are also more flexible than real people in accessing the media. Line Friends released a BT21-themed game in April this year, and the 2017 message stickers of the BT21 character sequence have hit 8 million downloads. BT21 also created conditions for Big Hit to launch seasonal and trendy promotional products to maximize profits. Since its production until now, the series’ Halloween or Christmas items have always been very successful.
And one more factor related to the above point, the density of appearance is also very important. BTS’s schedule can be very tight, but BT21 doesn’t require them to be present and participate in the production as it can be managed by a separate team. BTS can’t do clothes all day, but these characters have no time limit to work. BT21 also has a Twitter account with nearly 3 million followers, regularly updating images from dynamic to static, easy to share and promote. This also allows Big Hit to comfortably market the BT21 brand independently from the group they represent.