When it comes to entertainment, there are few people as recognizable as Jackie Chan. He’s a renaissance man of sorts; he’s tried his hand at different forms of entertainment, in various environments, and he’s left a mark everywhere he’s been. He’s had ties with the entertainment scene in South Korea for a while now – for instance, he appeared on Running Man as one of its first foreign guests – so despite the surprise and sudden announcement of his debuting boy group, we really should’ve seen it coming.
JJCC‘s entry into K-pop takes the inquiring listener back toward Jackie Chan’s own successful singing career. Like many experienced mentors in South Korea, Chan has been part of the music industry for some time — he’s cut albums since 1984, and his most recent release came out in 2008 — and he’s sung in no less than five languages. Aside from his popularity in Hollywood, it’d be difficult to argue his legitimate status as an international pop singer. Even if he hasn’t gathered a huge following in the US with his music, like he has with his movies, the fact remains that he does have experience to back him up. With all of that recognition around the world it goes without saying that JJCC had a head start on marketing and there were two ways Jackie Chan could have used that extra buzz: to have a popular but standard K-pop group, or to create an international sensation.
It came down to which audience Chan decided to market his group to. The teaser evoked the same response across the board from K-pop fans — “look at that G. Dragon twin!” – and that phrase accurately represents the “sameness” that JJCC has exhibited. The group was molded to fit perfectly into the contemporary K-pop box. The music video, the song, and the styling all scream East Asian pop, and while that is a good move for Chan because it is going to guarantee JJCC fans that are already in that niche, it doesn’t innovate in any way.
But what if Chan had taken his international popularity and used that as the group’s primary marketing tool instead? By virtue of being produced by Jackie Chan, the debuting boy group has gotten more recognition from international media, in comparison to the amount of coverage many groups get/have gotten in their entire careers in K-pop. The situation became evident to me when people I know — people that have no interest in Asian pop music — started asking me if I’d heard that Jackie Chan was producing a boy group. I can rattle off names of boy groups from Korea and Japan for days without anyone showing a sign of recognition, but because Jackie Chan is involved, everyone is suddenly in the loop.
Getting international attention isn’t something to be taken lightly in the K-pop world. With the recent popularity of PSY and Crayon Pop, it’s strange that Chan didn’t decide to capitalize on the hallyu wave more. If JJCC had been given a gimmick, they could’ve released the equivalent of the next “Gangnam Style” or the next “Bar Bar Bar.” Even if they hadn’t gone the humor route they could’ve gone the martial arts route, for example, to capitalize on their creator. Anything, really, to catch the attention of the public, would’ve been understandable on Chan’s part, marketing-wise.
In addition to the brewing interest outside of K-entertainment, people within the K-pop fandom were curious to see what that title “Jackie Chan’s boy band” meant for the newbie group. As it is, though, no one who has checked out JJCC, by extension of interest in Chan, has bothered to share music from the band — let’s face it, standard K-pop isn’t appealing to the world at large and that is exactly what the group is at this point.
Even as the global K-pop fan base grows by leaps and bounds, its size is too small to be depended upon for the dissemination of the packaging of another highly stylized group of guys, singing a mellow song in a language that’s not easily understood. First impressions factor in so heavily in today’s music market, where fan reactions could go one of many ways; attention spans also vary. It could very well be boring for them, and that’s exactly what the average viewer felt of JJCC’s dry MV for “At First.” This isn’t to say that JJCC is a bad group; it’s simply been pointed out that a certain type of potential was wasted in their debut.
Perhaps the idea of creating an international sensation never crossed Chan’s mind; it might’ve been that he simply wanted to produce a good, old-fashioned boy band. Or, perhaps he did consider it and didn’t want to take that route. Either way, we can’t fault him for taking a marketing path that has been specific to East Asia, since it has guaranteed and garnered moderate success. Perhaps, Chan’s own experience in the pop music world has taught him the worth in sticking with a sure market — no matter the size — instead of risking it all by becoming a one-hit wonder with a gimmick.
What do you think, readers? If you were given the choice, what marketing decisions would you have made with JJCC?