Somaek Confessions: Experiential Consumption of K-dramas

The year is ending once again and comes with it is our yearly tradition of looking back at the past year through the lens of K-dramas we watched. We list everything we watched and rank them according to our favorites. And while doing it for this year’s dramas, I was once again reminded that the way I rank my top series is very subjective (and very moody!). My ranking is always based on how that K-drama made me feel and my opinions about it are mostly how I reacted while watching them. Some of it might be labeled as “guilty pleasure” K-drama. I usually don’t mind that label but lately, I’ve been thinking that maybe we shouldn’t call them as such. That’s when I encounter the term “experiential consumption.”

“Experiential consumption” is mostly used in studying consumers’ approaches and strategizing the marketing of products. You see, our way of consuming things differs and business people need to study the psychology behind our consuming behavior. Some market studies explored and conclude that an experiential approach is when people purchase or consume a product or service based on how it will make them feel or the potential positive experience they can get from it. The influence of emotions in the decision-making of whether to consume a product is huge.

Putting it in a K-drama context, the emotional cells of this group of consumers hold the remote that controls what they would watch next. K-dramas are a form of entertainment and in this industry, appealing to one’s emotion and experience is important in promoting their content. That’s why when a new K-drama is being promoted, they would oftentimes use words like “heart-fluttering”, “thrilling”, or other words that describe what this new series could make you feel.  They are offering an experience for their target audience. So it shouldn’t have been surprising that opinions on K-dramas would vary because, from the beginning, the way we experience things differs.

In this blog, we always champion liking whatever drama you want and saying honest opinions about those you didn’t enjoy as much. The way we write our opinions is an experience-related cognition. We call our reviews “K-Drama Reaction” for this reason. Rather than generalizing its value based on made-up industry standards, we write our experience while watching them. Although I have a tendency to divide the stories I consume by arcs and my reviews always involve analyzing them (but this is another topic for another day), at the end of my review, my overall opinion on a K-drama will always be on how it made me feel, or as I already repeatedly said, the “experience” of it. And experience is always personal and subjective.

So I believe that aggressively arguing that this K-drama is better than that K-drama is pointless and time-wasting. Expressing our opinion on a show that we like but everybody else didn’t – or vice versa – shouldn’t be stated in a way that makes the other party feel inferior. These days, I don’t want to label shows I really enjoyed but some people didn’t as “guilty-pleasure” because no one should feel guilty for liking things that you like. One’s enjoyment is based on taste and preferences after all. And that is all that matters and not some made-up industry standards. I don’t think that we should approach K-drama watching as if we’re critics of some valuable award shows. Because at the end of the day we are all just consumers of a “product” that is marketed to us to appeal to our emotional sensibilities and leave us with varying levels of experiential-related attachment to it.

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