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10 MAY 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: Airbnb redefines travel bookings  
  • Fax, No Printer: Which lifestyle craze is going viral?
  • Regional Round-up: Heatwave solutions, heavy metal… and the end of a feud! 

Innovation of the Week


Reminding travelers that Airbnb has always been more than just traditional accommodation, the brand has launched Icons – 11 experiences that promise an out-of-the-ordinary vacation. The line-up includes Disney and Pixar’s Up house, a stay at the X-Men mansion, a living room session with Doja Cat, and the chance to game with Khaby Lame. Most Icon experiences are free or are priced below US$ 100 per person. To score a stay, fans need to request to book via the app, with more than 4,000 tickets available this year 🎟️.     


Free stays might not sound like a viable business venture at first glance neither was Icons meant to be one (In a recent interview with Skift, Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb, revealed that it was ‘a cool thing that we are doing’ to help the brand move beyond its core business of short-term rental, a move the brand’s had their eye on for quite some time now). 

Yet what this campaign inadvertently does is reach – and appeal to – an emerging travel audience: fandoms. We’ve previously discussed Millennials and Gen Z zeroing in experiences over possessions, and how they are willing to use their culture wallet to spend on new ways to enjoy more of what they love. Gig tripping often renders accommodation an afterthought, with fans simply opting for the best choice in their budget or submitting to group consensus. By making Icons available for free (or at a very affordable price point), Airbnb turns the stay into a fandom-relevant experience in its own right.  

Beyond positioning Airbnb as culturally-relevant, Icons is also a savvy PR move. The concept builds on previous high-profile activations, such as the Barbie Malibu DreamHouse (which coincided with the launch of the Barbie movie last year and generated over 250M social media impressions) and Shrek’s Swamp (more than 200M listing views) – reinforcing their role as a curator of experiences, rather than a platform enabling travelers to find the cheapest accommodation. Promotions like Icons – which are accessible to a broader audience – could help make the platform top of mind for even the most casual bookers. 

It’s not clear exactly where Airbnb is going, but more Icons will be added ‘on a regular basis’, giving the brand a way to stay ahead of cultural changes and give more people (both fans and hosts) the opportunity to participate. That will include consumers in APAC: Icons is offering an overnight stay at the family home of Bollywood star Janhvi Kapoor. In India, nights booked grew by almost 30% YoY between 2022 and 2023. 

As a brand operating in a price-driven category, their decision to sit at the intersection of entertainment and travel is what ultimately helps them speak to the more emotional aspects of traveling. Booking platforms particularly often focus on giving travelers the best price – making the process feel highly cerebral in an otherwise emotional journey. Sometimes, it pays to not stay in your lane.

What can your brand learn from Airbnb’s pivot to pop culture, and what does it mean for experiences in the region?

Fax, No Printer*

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

Which lifestyle craze is going viral in China?

A. Quiet quitting

B. Soft saving

C. Light living

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

Regional Round-up

👩‍🏫McDonald’s Night Classroom has returned to the Philippines, giving students a place to escape the heat and study. Until the end of May, students can visit 107 branches across the country, with study areas, charging points, Wi-Fi, and – crucially – aircon provided. Repurposing public spaces to serve the needs of the community is a savvy PR move, and it’s especially impactful during a period when schools are shuttered. We’re lovin’ it 😉

🐈 In other heatwave-related news, a village in the central province of Nakhon Sawan in Thailand, hosted a rain-calling ritual with the help of a manga cat. The hae nang maew (‘female cat parade’) previously used real cats, but with concerns about animal abuse on the rise, pop culture-inspired alternatives are gaining traction. Creative twists on traditions have been a theme recently – so is it time to consider how you can fuel your cultural narrative with a mix of now and then? 

🎸 Voice of Baceprot – a hijab-wearing all-female heavy metal band – is making waves in Indonesia, home to SEA’s largest heavy metal music festival, and beyond (they will make history as the first Indonesian musicians to ever perform at the renowned Glastonbury festival). With songs that focus on female empowerment and the environment, Voice of Baceprot wants to enact change through music. How might your brand help consumers express their true selves? 

🎙️ To help non-gamer parents better understand their kids, Joey and Rey Tiempo – themselves parents and gamers – launched Keri Kita, a podcast series. The weekly episodes unpack everything from cyberbullying to gaming communities. The name refers to the concept of ‘carrying’, which links to gaming and the idea of being strong enough to navigate challenging situations. How might your brand act as a cultural mediator and help different demographics speak the same language? 

⚠️ ICYMI: Kendrick Lamar and Drake might not have settled their beef, but another music feud is officially over. Universal Music Group (UMG) and TikTok recently announced a new licensing agreement, allowing songs from artists signed to the label to return to the app. The deal covers artist concerns related to generative AI and includes new monetization features that could be linked to TikTok’s growing foray into e-commerce. We’ll be watching to see how this rekindled relationship allows musicians to connect with fans in new ways. 

This Week's Trivia Answer

C. Light Living

Reflecting Chinese Gen Z’s desire to follow the path of least resistance, the hashtag ‘light people’ is growing in popularity on Xiaohongshu. ‘Light living’ is characterized as an emotion-free, matter-of-fact approach to life and the desire to not use up too much energy. 

It’s seen as an evolution of ‘tang ping’ (lying flat) that emerged in 2021, which was a reaction to the pressure to find jobs and work long hours. Recent reports have highlighted how many young Chinese feel increasingly disillusioned amid low unemployment and uncertainties about the future. According to a study conducted by the Chinese social media platform Soul, ‘lazy health’ (low-cost wellbeing solutions) is a key trend for 2024, along with frugal practices. 

Brands can acknowledge younger consumers’ evolving attitudes and give young people the confidence needed to follow their ambitions, something we recently saw HSBC lean into as part of the bank’s Grow Your Wealth campaign. Understanding the nuances and conflicting emotions within Gen Z is the first step to creating truly authentic and credible campaigns. 


🚀 Over and Out!

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Your Culture Mavens,

Angela, Catherine, Teri, Twila, & Vicki