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MUKBANG: EXPLAINED

What Mukbang is, and how brands are tapping into it.

In last fall’s Burnout Report, we explored how Gen Zs tend to use food—and its capacity to comfort—to help them cope with the physical effects of being overindexed (burnt out) across multiple aspects of their lives. A manifestation of the way this cohort tends to equate food with entertainment is seen in the rise of mukbang videos, which are actually enjoyed not only by Zs, but a wide range of consumers. Learn more about what mukbang is and how exactly brands have started to tap into this phenomenon by reading on.

SO, WHAT IS MUKBANG?

Mukbang, a type of video-based entertainment content where hosts (many of them female) eat large amounts of food while viewers tune in to watch, originated in South Korea almost ten years ago. The word itself is a portemanteau that roughly translates to ’eating broadcast.’ Over the years, mukbang content creators such as Kim Thai have racked up as much as six figures a year doing mukbang videos full-time, and brands such as Pepto-Bismol and DoorDash have partnered with her to capitalize on the craze. Mukbang videos serve different purposes for viewers: some like that hosts eat things that they themselves cannot, while others find that such videos act as a cure for loneliness.

JACK DANIEL’S

In June, whisky brand Jack Daniel’s released “Drag Queen Mukbang,” a branded content series meant to tap into both mukbang videos and the rising popularity of brunches that feature performances by drag queens. The four-episode web series features four beloved drag queens—Patrick Starrr, Gia Gunn, Eugene Lee Yang, and Laganja Estranja—as they eat brunch (mukbang style, of course), educate viewers on the impact of Covid-19 on the LGBTQIA+ community, and serve fans the enormously entertaining drag performances they’re missing out on during the pandemic. As far as product placement goes, the queens drink Jack Daniel’s cinnamon-flavored Tennessee Fire throughout, ultimately contributing to what turned out to be a great example of branded entertainment content.

W HOTEL

Last August, the W Hotel in Washington, D.C. launched a mukbang room service package called its Sip & Slurp menu, which is marketed at $285 but actually comes out to $387.60 with additional fees and charges. Sip & Slurp gives guests the full mukbang experience: all orders come with a lavalier lapel mic, a cell phone stand (so that guests can, of course, film and stream the entire experience), and a veritable mountain of food. Guests cannot order à la carte, so when they choose this option they’ll get offerings like a charcuterie board, a burger, filet mignon, lobster, multiple pizzas, a carrot cake tower, and cherry pie. The W tapped Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski to star in a mukbang-inspired video to market this new offering.