A new word is taking the internet by storm in China, but no one knows quite what it means.
The word duang, pronounced “dwong”, is spreading like wildlife throughout China’s active Internet – even though Chinese people still haven’t figured out what it means. In fact, its particular combination of sounds can’t even be represented with China’s existing writing system. But it has appeared more than 8 million times on China’s micro-blogging site Weibo, where it has spawned a top-trending hashtag that drew 312,000 discussions among 15,000 users. On China’s biggest online search engine Baidu, it has been looked up almost 600,000 times. It’s been noticed in the West to, with Foreign Policy seeing it as a “break the internet” viral meme – like a certain multicolored dress.
The story of duang started with film star Jackie Chan. Back in 2004, Jackie Chan shot a commercial for Bawang herbal shampoo, He has been the shampoo’s spokesperson for years, but on Feb.24, a funny remixed version of the shampoo ad popped up on Youku, a video streaming site, featuring Chan. Special effects, he said, can make hair go “duang!” Very black! Very shiny! Very soft. The new video poking fun of the shampoo ad took the catchphrase “duang,” set the ad to a popular song in China and remixed it to change the words and make Mr. Chan’s hair flap around.
The video was clever and funny, while touching on a shared memory of a pretty bad Jackie Chan infomercial. It also took China’s internet culture of photoshopping funny pictures to a whole new level by using video.
Oni Zhang, Shanghai-based planning manager for Grey Group, said there were a few factor making the video and catchphrase go viral. Mr.Chan was in the news for a new movie and for his son’s release from jail on drug charges. Since “duang” doesn’t have a defined meaning, Mr.Zhang said, “it leaves huge room for netizens to show their own creativity — as you can see lots of people are creating their own version of “duang'” , and brands are too. “Everyone’s duang-ing and I still don’t know what it means! Looks like it’s back to school for me,” said Weibo user Weileiweito. Another user asked, “Have you duang-ed today? My mind is full of duang duang duang”.
PepsiCo, China Eastern Airlines and e-commerce giant Taobao all made “duang” jokes on Weibo, KFC combined two memes – “duang” and the debate over the blue/black vs. white/gold dress – in a post about the color of an ice cream cone.
The shampoo company seems to be enjoying the attention, even putting out its own spoof of the original ad, “Did you duang today?” On the QQ video site, it has about 2.2 million views. The company spokesman Wang Liang says it’s monitoring sales for a potential increase.
- Did you notice other similar examples on social media? What trends do you see?
- What impact do you think the viral memes have on one brand
Foreign Policy https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/27/the-word-that-broke-the-chinese-internet-duang/