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26 APRIL 2024

Welcome to this week’s edition of Culture Wire, a newsletter brought to you by Singapore-based pop culture and lifestyle marketing agency Culture Group.

In this week’s edition:

  • Innovation of the Week: Fandoms are the antithesis to trendjacking   
  • Fax, No Printer: Which sporting event from last week was transformed into a fashion spectacle?
  • Regional Round-up: Challenging beauty standards, repping SEA on the global stage, and more…

Innovation of the Week


Last week, Taylor Swift released her 11th studio album The Tortured Poets Department (TTPD), concluding the already anticipated event with 15 (more) surprise songs. From the time of announcement, in true Swift fashion, the songstress pulled all the stops in creating hype leading up to the actual release date. From social media teasers and easter eggs to curated playlists —fans were kept on their toes till the very last minute. With so much done to reward the unwavering devotion of her fans throughout various points leading up to the release, we’d like to believe brands would’ve already taken a page out of Ms Swift’s fandom strategy—instead, many resorted to trendjacking over the weekend with their own renditions of the tortured. We weigh in on why this is a bad idea and what can be done instead. 


It’s arguable that there’s really no harm for brands that want in on the fun—and this can be true to an extent. Done right, trendjacking can give brands their 5 seconds of fame for being witty but how often has that catapulted brands into the spotlight and instantly made them culturally relevant? What marketers seem to have a hard time grasping time and time again, is that fans are already used to brands showing up everywhere they go; making these activations annoying at best, intruding when overdone.

The release of the album itself was not a trend that had happened overnight leaving brands no option but to trendjack—they were given more than a fortnight to craft an intentional and ownable activation that would be distinct to their brand platform (if they wanted to, they would). Trendjacking, in its essence, is the equivalent of laggards in brand speak: a reactive adoption by those who are just too late in the game.

Understandably, the blurring lines between brand and entertainment pose both the permissibility for brands to play in spaces that were previously out of reach and the challenge of competing for attention within the same space. For the most part, in an attempt to prioritize speed over impact, many not only fail to cut through the clutter but also make the grave mistake of overlooking a key component: engaging the fans themselves. Which then causes more damage to the brand than it would have had they decided to stay out of it.

To take part in a trend that involves a fandom means entering their world—not the other way around. It is inherently entitled for brands to assume the only job to be done is putting your own spin on the artist’s creative assets when speaking the fandom language involves acknowledging their shared identity, celebrating what brings them together, understanding the layers of their inside jokes, and giving them the opportunity to co-create experiences that let them enjoy more of what they already love. Consistently showing up in the same space with depth to your activations is what ultimately allows you to access the fans’ cultural wallet.

One brand that seems to have gotten it right is American doughnut brand Krispy Kreme. Following the release of TTPD, the brand was quick to announce a giveaway for anyone wearing their friendship bracelets. As a brand that prides itself on inspiring creativity (who can forget their Total Eclipse Collection featuring an Oreo at the center), the brand took this cultural moment to reward the creativity of Swifties by acknowledging the lore, celebrating the fandom, and creating something fans will remember their brand for—all communicated from an enduring brand platform.

Engaging fandoms doesn’t always have to be an out-of-pocket fanfare—Merriam Webster shows us how sometimes you just have a place in that conversation, and the opportunity comes to you (for the uninitiated, fans were advised to keep a dictionary handy when listening to TTPD).

Brands can be seen as a positive force of culture when they don’t just show up once, but consistently. What distinguishes the line between impactful vs intruding is a marketer who knows when a trend is worth the hijack. This only becomes clear when they’ve clearly defined the role they want their brand to play in engaging culture and fandoms. A cultural calendar that marks niche, fandom-specific celebrations (not festivities) helps brands identify culturally significant moments ahead of time and work towards meaningful activations. Having such structures in place is what allows brands to act at the speed of culture without stepping on any toes or forsaking the brand for a one hit wonder.

Fax, No Printer*

For those of you born before 1997, ‘fax, no printer‘ is Gen Z speak for ‘undeniable facts I agree with’

Which sporting event from last week was transformed into a fashion spectacle by Prada?

A. F1 Grand Prix Shanghai

B. WNBA Draft Night

C. NFL Draft

Scroll down to the end of the newsletter for the correct answer!

Regional Round-up

🙌 Dove has been a longstanding advocate for celebrating women and this time, the brand is empowering Filipinas to “Raise Your Arms.” The initiative aims to combat shaming and bullying against dark underarms and builds on a wider fight against the beauty standards in the country. It’s also a timely one as Southeast Asia is experiencing a heat wave. 

👻 Indonesian horror is in the global spotlight with the American debut of Badarawuhi Di Desa Penari. The prequel to Indonesia’s highest-grossing film, KKN Curse of the Dancing Village, the first ‘Filmed for IMAX’ release in Southeast Asia is unsurprisingly already making numbers at the Indonesian box office. This rides off the momentum of the region exporting its rich culture (hello, T-wave). Could your brand champion local stories and build narratives that resonate across geographical boundaries?

🎤 Live entertainment is still going strong. South Korean singer IU was in Singapore for two sold-out shows last weekend and handpicked 13 students from local performing arts studio Maddspace to perform with her on stage. Recently, Filipino folk-pop act Ben&Ben joined Ed Sheeran on stage for his Manila show. As more artists do this on tour to connect with local fans, how is your brand using your platform to uplift local talent?

🧵 Forget LinkedIn, Gen Zs in Vietnam are using Threads to job hunt. Social media is an important resource for the new generation of the workforce—58% search up their potential employers on social media. As a digital-first cohort, it is no surprise that this demographic is engaging in unconventional methods to go through life. Recognize that tried-and-tested ways to connect with your consumers may not work anymore and start tailoring your strategy to match where they’re at. We’re here to help.

⚠️ ICYMI: Fans all over the world started queuing early for Record Store Day to get their hands on limited edition releases. Gen Zs listen to more physical music—the resurgence saw over 43M vinyl records sold just last year thanks to releases by modern artists like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo. Gen Z is rejecting the algorithm and being intentional with what they consume, so if you’re looking to engage with them, consider how you will allow them to buy into it on their own terms.

This Week's Trivia Answer

B. WNBA Draft Night

Gone are the days when sports drafts were solely about selecting players for teams. The WNBA Draft Night has transformed from a traditional suit-and-dress sports event into a glamorous fashion affair. Prada made their mark by dressing top prospect Caitlin Clark in a satin shirt, a mini skirt, and a rhinestone mesh crop top. Unlike previous years, this draft night also saw players pushing the fashion envelope, with outfits like Cameron Brink’s Balmain gown, Jacy Sheldon’s Oscar de la Renta dress, and Angel Reese’s Bronx and Banco and Louboutin combo.

Prada’s involvement underscores luxury brands’ growing interest in sports, as they expand their presence beyond traditional arenas. It’s a sensible move for the luxury fashion brand, given that 44% of Gen Z audiences are engaging with peers on social media while watching live sports. With fashion enthusiasts tuning in to scrutinize the WNBA stars’ attire and sports fanatics welcoming a new generation of players who are in the business of building personal brands and showing off personal styles, we’re witnessing a cultural phenomenon in the making that transcends the realm of athletics. How would this shift in the intersection of sports and fashion impact your brand?

🚀 Over and Out!

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Your Culture Mavens,

Angela, Catherine, Teri, Twila, & Vicki