A fascinating case study on the power of K-pop, a new paradigm in promotion, and the psychology of an undeterred fandom

Image: Wikimedia Commons

I have to start this piece with an embarrassing confession.

Before 2021, I had never heard a song by the boy band BTS.

Sure, I knew who they were. I had loosely followed the rising popularity of their work and of K-pop in the US. But it wasn’t until this past March that I first heard their song Dynamite in a short performance at the Grammy Awards.

I was floored.

Can confirm, it is not only a certified jam but a subconsciously addicting one. Without warning, it will creep into every crevice of your psyche for weeks. …


MIND MELD

Most of us probably overspend or have eaten “healthy” — what subconscious secrets drive our relationship with food?

Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash
Welcome to MIND MELD: Deep dives into the psychology and human behavior that drives products, brands, and marketing strategies.

It all starts with an innocent trip to Trader Joe’s.

You just need bread, milk, and dish soap.

In the blink of an eye, you escape into a vortex of impulse and suddenly you’re in the checkout line with $200 worth of things you never asked for.

That variety of cheese you’ll rarely eat. That sauce you’ll try once to say you’ve tried it. That one random item in the checkout line that casually seduced you as you were waiting for…


Image Source

For a long time, I thought of the spectrum of burnout as a speedometer.

If you’re working long hours and going at 110%, you’ll feel the pain. You need to dial it back before it screws you. Looking back to college, I distinctly remember the first time I felt that same pain.

It was the middle of my sophomore year and I was stuck between two equally attractive desires: a major in Maryland’s Business School or majoring in psychology.

A bad accounting exam would prompt me to google clinical psychology doctorate programs. The cost of those same programs would spark…


✍️ This piece was originally published as part of my new Substack newsletter, the Marketing Mind Meld. Subscribe there for weekly marketing reads!

This past Monday, for the first time in almost two years, I felt true pain.

The Maryland Terrapins, my beloved alma mater, had just suffered a soul crushing loss at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

I finished my last bite of dinner staring longingly at the end of my two hour vigil, heartbroken.

No, they were absolutely not expected to win this game. …


MIND MELD

What does the NFT craze mean for marketers and brands?

Left to right: Hashmasks, Cryptopunks, and Cryptokitties, three popular NFT categories. (Image: Canva)
Welcome to MIND MELD: Deep dives into the psychology and human behavior that drives products, brands, and marketing strategies.

A couple of weeks back, I was chatting with a friend and fellow NBA fan, who told me to check out this site called NBA Top Shot, a site that sells digital basketball highlights.

I scoffed at first. Why would I need to buy a highlight?

He insisted this was different. It was similar to a virtual trading card market. You could buy single players, packs, and everything in between.

I finally surrendered and swiped a highlight from Mavs superstar Luka…


✍️ This piece was originally published as part of my new Substack newsletter, the Marketing Mind Meld. Subscribe there for weekly marketing reads!

When I was fourteen years old, my uncle helped me start my first stock portfolio.

Until I was ready to make my own decisions, it was mostly driven by him. In my final year before college, my uncle’s involvement slowed.

He began to hand it off and it was the moment I had been waiting for. The ability to sell and buy whatever I wanted.

There was only one problem: I had no idea what I was…


MIND MELD

Budweiser, McDonald’s and Apple are just some of the many brands that have nailed iconic Super Bowl Ads — what’s unique about their strategy?

Image: Canva/YouTube
Welcome to MIND MELD: Deep dives into the psychology and human behavior that drives products, brands, and marketing strategies.

Growing up in Massachusetts, I spent most of my Super Bowl evenings fairly stressed.

In the roughly twenty Super Bowls I’ve watched since 1999, my Patriots have played in nine of them. Those were nine evenings where I was frantic about the game, guzzling beer, annoyed at my friends, stress piling my face with pita chips, or usually some combination of all of the above.

This year, I was particularly excited.

While I’d been on an overnight flight sleeping through last…


✍️ This piece was originally published as part of my new Substack newsletter, the Marketing Mind Meld. Subscribe there for weekly marketing reads!

I was eight years old at Universal Studios when I first learned about the existence of ET, Steven Spielberg’s mini extraterrestrial masterpiece.

I was enamored by its concept: I wanted to believe ET was not just a fabric of our imagination, that aliens had a high probability of greeting us and helping us fly bicycles into the sky.

As childhood passed and I watched UFO documentaries, my conviction became stronger that aliens not only existed but that…


MIND MELD

An analysis of the categories of memes: topical, social, reactionary, nostalgic, utilitarian

Bernie Sanders in mittens superimposed on opening shot from the TV program Friends in which cast sits outdoors on a couch
Bernie Sanders in mittens superimposed on opening shot from the TV program Friends in which cast sits outdoors on a couch
Source: Jennifer Aniston Instagram
Welcome to MIND MELD: Deep dives into the psychology and human behavior that drives products, brands, and marketing strategies.

Last Wednesday was the U.S. inauguration, a day typically reserved for surprising celebrity appearances, bold platitudes from the new president, and general atmospheric optimism for the incoming political party.

But if you hopped on the internet to find any big takeaways from the presidential speech or the event, you may have been curious to find another image trending instead — one that had little to do with the president.

A cold man with crossed arms, a brown coat, kaleidoscopic brown mittens…


Source: Unsplash

Everyone has that one moment.

Your first job. Your first successful meeting. Your first conference panel. Your first launched marketing campaign.

An indelible feeling of accomplishment. You’re on top of the world.

Then — without warning — your insides squeeze.

You start asking yourself questions.

What if it was just beginner’s luck? What if I’m one mistake away from losing everything? How easy was this if even I could accomplish it? How many other people could have done this?

While not all those questions are valid concerns, it’s true that many people do fear success — that with success, comes…

Kushaan Shah

Growth @Livongo • Bostonian • Fan of sports and quirky theatre • Marketing Nerd • Weekly reads http://mindmeld.substack.com ✍️

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