It’s safe to say that social media has opened the door for people to be rather nosy.

Where there once was the neighborhood Gladys Kravitz (of Bewitched fame) working tirelessly to get a glimpse inside the walls of someone else’s home, we now find me… sitting in the comfort of my own home, eating Hot Cheetos, donning a face mask, and viewing the contents of someone’s bathroom cabinets. Of course, they’ve willingly shared this content with their YouTube following via a video entitled “My Shower Products and Routine.” We are living in a world where over-sharing doesn’t exist and lack of sharing goes against the norm.

But, we don’t stop at sharing our shower products or our morning routines. In fact, in the past few years, a new sharing trend has emerged: sharing a meal…with strangers online.

Don’t Talk with Your Mouth Full, Close Your Mouth when You Chew and Other Now-Irrelevant Parental Guidance

Say hello to Mukbang: the new TV dinner trend that has all but forced us to retire our notions of dining etiquette.

Mukbang is defined as “a live online audiovisual broadcast in which a host eats large amounts of foods while interacting with their audience” and it became popular in South Korea in the early 2010s. Many people speculate that Mukbang had revolutionary roots as it deviated from the traditionally strict etiquette that defines South Korea’s cultural dining identity. Other people think Mukbang became popular in South Korea, where it is very uncommon to go out to eat alone.

Mukbang’s initial popularity grew into something much bigger via streaming on Twitch and YouTube, and it wasn’t long before Mukbang was a part of digital culture globally. Dining is an inherently social activity, so it makes sense that it would become a big part of social media activity.

Popular Mukbang YouTubers and Vloggers can make a living off of eating large quantities of food (typically junk food) while sharing stories as their audience interacts with them and other viewers in the comments section. It’s common for audiences to request specific meals for the Mukbanger to binge-eat and, in recent years, it hasn’t been uncommon to see sponsorships and partnerships between Mukbangers and large food and beverage brands.

What Can Digital Marketers Learn from Mukbang?

What can we learn from the viral popularity of this online, virtual dining trend? I’m not suggesting marketers run out and use a close-up microphone to emphasize a medley of slurping and chewing noises as the soundtrack to their next video ad. No, no, let’s leave that delicious tune in the land of ASMR where it belongs.

Mukbang’s popularity does, however, show us a few things that are true of most audiences in a brand’s social media community. Mukbang followers tend to cite wish fulfillment and a sense of belonging in a community as their main reasons for watching. Others say it staves off a feeling of loneliness for them to watch Mukbang videos while dining alone at home. Food has always been a staple over which people and groups can socialize, negotiate and forge bonds. It makes sense that creating an environment where people have the illusion of sharing a meal with someone would lead to natural connections.

Mukbang’s success would suggest that digital marketers could look at their social media and brand presence as the meal over which people are conversing. A brand’s social media audience, like Mukbang enthusiasts, might be coming to them in their loneliest moment hoping for companionship, or at their most trying one hoping for something indulgent to stave off their cravings.

Finally, Mukbang is dirty and messy (the part most people can’t get past), but it just proves that people generally crave the imperfect in their content these days. Giving your consumers a peek behind the corporate curtain and revealing your authenticity is the best way to build trust and brand loyalty, foster inclusivity, and empower your audience to nurture the sense of community your brand is generating.