This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

July 24, 2019

All You Can Eat and More

Occasionally, I will cover pop culture, especially when it fits into the bigger picture. This Herman Trend Alert is another example of how the people in developed countries are becoming "Experience Junkies."

Erik the Electric defines 21st Century Gluttony
The other day I invested 17 minutes to watch Erik the Electric, a 23-year old fellow who consumed over 10,000 calories of fast (and mostly unhealthy) food in a couple of hours. (Yes, that is 17 minutes I will never get back, however, it was a real learning experience!) Though I was mostly disgusted thinking about how the food would taste, the phenomenon of watching a person passionate about eating consuming a table full of junk food (Burgers, Chicken Sandwiches, Fried Chicken with Gravy, French Fries, and much more) was, in its own way, inspiring.

Erik is earning lots of money
Make no mistake, for Erik, this is a lucrative job! Though I would never consider wrecking my body with 10,000 calories of fast food, Erik, a 23-year-old living in San Diego, has 88,000 YouTube fans. Every time they watch one of his many YouTube eating challenges, usually branded with at least one fast-food chain, Erik can hear the ka-chink of coins into his piggybank. In my view, Erik represents the next generation of eating contests, like the US hotdog champion Joey Chestnut who eats 74 hotdogs in a sitting or Martin Appleton-Clare who won the new Australian meat pie contest for the fourth year in a row by eating 64 pies in 19.6 seconds.

Not confined to the United States
The Koreans have a name for this trend where people are paid to stuff themselves with large meals in front of cameras for live-streaming audiences; they call it Mukbang. The word joins the Korean words for "eat" (muk-da) and "broadcast" (bang song). Believe it or not, Mukbang is actually about 10 years old. That is when it became popular among video-streamers. In fact, now a full 5 percent of the programming on the popular video broadcasting channel called AfreecaTV is mukbang-related.

A lucrative profession
The top eaters can earn as much as $10,000 USD a month; and that number does not include sponsorships. In the US and Australia the gluttons compete for prizemoney, Interestingly, Mukbang is not pay-per-view, ad-based, or salary-based. Instead, ordinary Koreans voluntarily send money to their favorite mukbangers. That money takes the form of "star balloons"---a type of proprietary virtual currency that is bought and sold with regular currency.

A world of voyeurs
Why do we crave these experiences? One of my futurist colleagues with The Futures Company says mukbang was a result of "the loneliness of unmarried Koreans." In addition, eating in Korea is an inherently social aspect. People who watch mukbang pretend to be having dinner with a friend. I believe that just as people worldwide crave watching reality television shows, mukbang and other video gluttony allows the public to have those experiences vicariously. Many years ago, I wrote a Herman Trend Alert titled "Experience Junkies." In it I talked about our seeking more and more extreme experiences. The trend is just more evidence of that long-term trend.

Special thanks once again to Bob Pritchard for bringing this development to our attention.

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