“I purple you” : a look at fandom identity, behaviors and loyalty among BTS’ ARMY

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2022-05

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Bangtan Sonyeondan, also known as BTS for short, have taken the global music scene by storm. BTS, both as a brand and as a music group, experienced great success in recent years largely due to the efforts of their fandom, whom they call ARMY. Little research has explored fandom identity, motivations, and behaviors in the context of a K-pop fandom as it relates to brand loyalty. This research project utilized eudaimonic and hedonic motivational theories to explore fandom motivations, fandom theories, such as fandom landscapes, to understand how ARMY identify themselves, and attachment theory to explore brand loyalty. A mixed methods approach was used in this research to provide a more holistic view of ARMY beliefs, behaviors, and experiences. An online survey was used to explore various factors that ARMY used to identify themselves, types of behaviors they engaged in, the degree to which they engaged with BTS as a brand, and some motivations as to why they partake in certain behaviors (N = 144). A series of interviews (N = 14) were conducted to further explore the motivational aspect and degree of loyalty aspect of the research. Findings show that authenticity, community, parasocial relationships, eudaimonic motivations, and hedonic motivations were important factors impacting brand loyalty. Fandom identity appeared to be segmented by degree of knowledge and engagement both within the fandom itself and with BTS as a brand. The fandom appeared to adopt a fandom landscape approach, with no real hierarchical structure or titles defining individuals at different levels of fandom. Behaviors appeared to indicate specific labels, rather than levels, within the BTS fandom landscape, such as “hardcore fans” and “casual fans.” The study lends itself to future research on K-pop fandom and brand loyalty, as well as additional opportunities to further explore brand loyalty between ARMY and BTS.

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