NEW YORK: Yet another brand is feeling the effects of being associated with a member of Korean pop band BTS.
Bark, parent of pet subscription service BarkBox, is seeing a slew of social media traffic and a spike in sales after BTS' oldest member Jin and his backup dancers wore the company's dog toys sewn onto their clothes in a viral video released over the weekend.
The "Super Tuna" video sees Jin dancing around a Los Angeles beach to a revamped Korean trot song—a genre of Korean music popular from the 1950s to the 1980s. The video was meant to celebrate Jin's 29th birthday and his love of fishing.
It didn't take long for BTS Army members—the group's consumer juggernaut of a fan base—to hunt down the cute stuffies in the video.
They come from Bark’s Under the Seams collection at Target, a nautical-themed line which includes Sting Crosby the Ray, Shifty Sid the Squid and Moby Lick the Whale.
Stacie Grissom, Bark’s director of content and communications, received a phone call from the collection's designer about the toys' music video debut and knew it was a huge opportunity.
"I'm like, wait—one of the biggest pop stars in the world is wearing our dog toy on his shoulder?" she recalled. "We have a ton of BTS fans internally, so we knew we needed to jump on this."
Bark responded to BTS on Twitter, thanking Jin for "carrying our dog toys on your big broad shoulders."
But Bark doesn't do any of its comms strategies in half measures. In addition to the response to BTS' Twitter account, the brand immediately linked to the toys seen in the video and wished Mr. WorldwideHandsome himself a belated happy birthday.
The company also changed its Twitter name to include a squid, a whale and symbols often used by Army, such as a purple heart and a "7" exponent to represent the seven members in the group.
"The Barkbox overall strategy is not one and done when we're excited about something," Grissom said, adding the key to success is authenticity. "You have to make sure you're seeing something super authentic and make sure you've got the actual fans helping you say what you're going to say."
This time, the tactic worked yet again, with fans dashing to their local Target stores to buy their own Moby Lick the Whale, the stuffy featured on Jin's shoulder.
The wife of Bark CEO Manish Joneja even turned out to be a BTS fan and insisted he buy four whales for her and her friends.
Grissom reported her "eyes going crossed" trying to track all the fans posting their new purchases to Twitter and said she suspects the toys will sell out soon, although exact sales figures from Target were not immediately available.
The story was also picked up in major media outlets such as Rolling Stone.
"I've been at Bark for nine years, and I've never had a tweet do this," Grissom said. "There was nothing planned about the absurdity of one of the world's biggest pop stars wearing a dog toy on his shoulders, but isn't that what's beautiful about the internet?"
The instant success of Moby Lick the Whale has Bark’s Army employees pushing for a line of BTS-themed dog toys in the future, and Grissom said the idea has not been ruled out.
"It will not be for lack of trying of fans internally [at Bark]," she said. "The folks in BTS, a lot of them are big dog people, so who knows what can happen?"