[BEHIND TALK] Merchandise that Perfectly Matches Gen MZ's Taste

2월. 02. 2024

K-Content is creating new business models across various industries. Among them, "MD (Merchandise)," also referred to as "goods," is steadily evolving regardless of genre. Let's delve into the conversation between pop columnist Kim Tae-hoon and Han Da-hye, a Consumer Trend Analysis Center researcher, as they discuss content merchandise that sometimes generates more buzz than the programs themselves, thanks to their rarity and unique charm. 



The Popularity of "Goods" that Grew Alongside Idol Groups

What is "Content MD?" They are commonly referred to as "goods" and represent products designed for fans of brands or personalities. Products like posters and photocards emerged alongside the debut of idol groups in the 1990s, and the merchandise culture has steadily evolved. Nowadays, it has become an essential presence in the fields of content and entertainment.


Recently, some fans have become proactive producers and creators, beyond artist-specific "fandoms," who make and sell products themselves. Furthermore, merchandise is now produced in various cultural contents, expanding its scope to become a lifestyle enjoyed by not only specific fans but also a diverse range of customers.

MD Market Breaking New Records Every Year
Domestically, K-POP is at the forefront of the MD culture and sets new records every year. In 2018, the merchandise market has already surpassed one trillion won and is currently estimated to exceed two trillion won. When including the "fandom business" MD market, where MD is directly produced and sold, the scale is estimated to be 7.9 trillion won.

Special Place for Movie Fans: CGV "Cine Shop"
The MD culture is no longer limited to K-POP and is expanding throughout the entire spectrum of content, including movies, dramas, variety shows, and cartoons. One of the most notable examples of MD being used in the content market is CGV's "Cine Shop." Cine Shop offers a variety of original MD featuring characters from popular movies, such as the Harry Potter calendar or Disney figurines, which are adored by movie fans.

▲ CGV Yongsan I’Park Mall Cine Shop offers a wide range of movie-related MD (Photo source: CJ Group website)

Merchandise of Earth Arcade and Street Women Fighter Creates a Buzz Itself
The MD trend has extended beyond the movie industry and has also left its imprint on the entertainment sector. tvN's leading variety show, Earth Arcade, capitalized on the popularity among young viewers and launched MD based on "Torong," its mascot. Torong, a rabbit that has fled to Earth from outer space, gained immense popularity among Gen MZ for its unique design and adorable background. Its popularity led to the opening of a pop-up store, and at the time, it was a hot topic as visitors had to wait two hours to enter even if they arrived during the opening hour.

▲ (Left) Torong preparing for a fan signing event, and (Right) IVE’s An Yu-jin holding a Torong soft toy (Photo Source: Torong’s Instagram)

The supporting MD of Street Woman Fighter 2, sold ahead of the show's national tour concert in December, was also a major topic of discussion among fans. Following the sell-out of tickets for some performances, all MD recorded a complete sell-out, confirming their popularity. Amidst the buzz surrounding the MD itself, they achieved even greater synergy by presenting both the content and MD simultaneously.

▲Street Woman Fighter 2 MD that has completely sold out before the start of the concert

Shinbi’s Haunted House Kids Phone that Captivated the Hearts of Elementary School Students
The characters of the immensely popular animation Shinbi's Haunted House among elementary school students have also been reincarnated as merchandise. The Kids Phone features goblin characters "Shinbi" and "Geumbi" on its case and display, garnering huge popularity among children for its cute and familiar design.

▲Kids Phone released in collaboration with Shinbi’s Haunted House

Why Gen MZ is Enthusiastic about MD
MD consumption revolves around the Gen MZ. In particular, content MD is produced in limited quantities and is sold for a specific period, making it particularly appealing to the trend-sensitive and scarcity-conscious hearts of Gen MZ.

In addition, Gen MZ’s tendency for "Digging Consumption," where they do not spare consumption in fields of their preference, also contributes to the popularity of MD. Digging Consumption is a newly coined word that signifies in-depth consumption, where individuals delve deeply into preferred items or fields, leading to the consumption of related products. As a result, the younger generation is playing a pivotal role in the growth of the MD industry.

Lastly, their upbringing as a digital generation, exposed to the Internet from a young age, is considered one of the factors driving their enthusiasm for MD. As they've been consuming games and cartoons since childhood, they've contributed to the rise of "Kidults," a phenomenon where adults continue to seek similar forms of entertainment. Just as Pokemon Bread and Sanrio products gained popularity and achieved significant sales, the consumption tendency of Gen MZ, reflecting their taste and culture, is leading to the consumption of merchandise.

In this manner, MD is evolving into a culture where individuals consume by aligning with their preferences. We anticipate the further development of the MD industry in line with the values of Gen Z, who prioritize meaningful consumption.

BEHIND TALK was created based on Con Ssul Ting from CJ ENM’s YouTube channel.