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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: Breaking down the Bondee buzz
  • Fax, No Printer: What’s blowing up faster than Instagram did?
  • Regional Round-up: A chocolate Whopper, a 90s revival, NFTs go mainstream… and more!

Innovation of the Week


Over the past two weeks, a new social app has created a big buzz across Southeast Asia. Bondee, developed by Singapore-based tech company Metadream, is a digital world where users can customize cute 3D avatars. There are loads of social functions (including the ability to add friends, take part in virtual activities, or ‘sail’ further afield and meet random users). Bondee launched in January, and the app already has more than 5 million downloads on Google Play.

💡 Our take

Think Bondee feels familiar? The app’s creators have taken inspiration from lofi success stories like Animal Crossing and Neko Atsume, which combine interaction and relaxation, and were hugely popular in their time. But we’re not so convinced Bondee hits the mark.

Yes, Bondee seems to tick all the boxes for a new popular social app – offering a mix of connection and customization, escapism and self-expression. No wonder a lot of the Bondee buzz has been happening in marketing and industry circles – it certainly fits the bill to be the latest industry buzz topic. BUT it is worth noting that social chatter and organic conversation among Gen Zs have been very limited.

What is Bondee missing there? For one, the app seems to have been created to appeal to Gen Z behavior and characteristics, but it’s built on Millennial interests – like simulation games (think The Sims and Tycoon games, which Millennials grew up with, but Gen Zs never really got into) and potential talks of NFT integrations (which people have already expressed skepticism over).

More importantly, Bondee doesn’t seem to offer a clear value proposition for Gen Z users. Take Zepeto, the avatar-centric social platform hugely popular with Gen Zs in Southeast Asia. A big portion of Zepeto’s success can be attributed to its clear focus on serving K-culture fans – allowing not just users, but also artists and brands, to interact in a meaningful way on-platform and share their content off-platform.

It might still be in its early days, with more developments promised down the road. But in its current form, Bondee feels like a repackaged, sanitized take on concepts that have come before. And for that reason, we think it is likely to be gone as quickly as it came. We’ll be watching (and reporting) 👀

Fax, No Printer*

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

This app has climbed to the top faster than Instagram did. Which is it?

Bondee, duh!



Regional Round-up

🍔🍫 Burger King and Hershey’s have answered the question that no one thought to ask: what would a Whopper covered in chocolate taste like? Mixing up the tried-and-tested formula, BK Thailand released a special Whopper that’s drenched in Hershey’s chocolate sauce. Does it taste good? Maybe. Are people talking about it? Definitely.

💗 Indonesia have just launched their version of the highly successful The Bachelor reality show. Asian formats are getting picked up and moved around the world (hello, Masked Singer), but cultural convergence is a two-way street. Is there an opportunity for your brand to get involved?

🏅 Malaysia absolutely boleh! A new campaign from U Mobile celebrates Malaysia’s unbeatable achievers, from Paralympians to record holders to Malaysia’s silat athletes. These top performers highlight Malaysia’s harimau spirit – how can you showcase authentic resilience in 2023?

🌟 Remember Neopets? The virtual pets first launched in 1999 and found more than 150 million global fans. The company behind the cuddly critters just raised USD 4M in funding to update the concept through collectible NFTs, token gaming and more. Definitely one for the Kidults!

🇨🇳 Xiaohongshu, AKA China’s Instagram, now allows users to showcase NFTs on their profiles via an integration with Conflux. The social media platform has more than 200 million MAU – this tie up brings NFTs closer to mainstream adoption. Watch out for more web3 integration into existing platforms.

This Week's Trivia Answer

🤖 B. ChatGPT

The new AI app has officially outpaced Instagram, hitting over ten million users in under forty days. Instagram, everyone’s favorite photo sharing app, took a respectable year to do those kinds of numbers. Users have been taking to ChatGPT for all sorts of things – to generate memes, songs, poems, and even highschool essays – fueled by a mix of intrigue and fascination. Discussions are underway, from the future of search engines to the ethical use cases of AI. Is your brand ready for a world where generative AI has a bigger place in culture, creativity and consumerism?

🚀 Over and Out!

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Your Culture Mavens,

Acacia, Aliya, Angela, Kiko, & Vicki