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03 NOVEMBER 2023

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: OMG! McDonald’s latest K-pop collaboration 
  • Fax, No Printer: Gen Z’s latest social media obsession
  • Regional Round-up: Drag queens using their platform for good, the latest from SEA’s thriving live music scene, and more K-pop


Innovation of the Week


The limited edition McDonald’s x NewJeans collaboration launched in Singapore this week, after previously being made available in 10 Asian markets including Malaysia, Hong Kong and, of course, South Korea. The McDonald’s x NewJeans meal in Singapore includes a Korean-style Chicken McCrispy, crisscut fries, and sea salt chocolate frappe. It also features a special packaging that combines NewJeans’ mascot (bunnies!) and McDonald’s iconic golden arches.


McDonald’s is hitting it out of the park with K-culture collaborations in the region. Earlier this year, the fast food giant released limited edition meals with BT21 (the LINE FRIENDS cartoon characters based on BTS members), after first launching their iconic BTS meal in 2021. Beyond commercial success — the original BTS meal increased McNuggets sales by 250% — McDonald’s string of K-culture offerings is a masterclass in building cultural relevance through partnerships.

The latest NewJeans collaboration demonstrates that McDonald’s BTS meal was not meant to be a one-hit wonder. Instead, the consistent drumbeat of K-culture partnerships signals a commitment to harness this passion point to drive commerce. First lesson in brand x culture partnerships? One-off, high-profile initiatives might generate a spike in short-term buzz, but creating an ownable platform through repeated efforts will lead to long-term cultural equity.

Additionally, the co-creation across product and packaging — combining McDonald’s already-iconic brand assets and the partner IP’s motifs and fandom symbols — is a nice touch. It taps into behaviors native to K-culture fandoms: collecting artist-related merchandise and inspiring DIY fan creations. In previous collaborations with BTS, fans repurposed the packaging into everything from phone cases to tumblers, while resellers were offering the empty purple boxes for up to SGD 150. An Indonesian TikToker also went viral for making ice cream out of the BTS meal. 

This demonstrates that no matter how big your brand is, there is always room to attract a new community or celebrate one. For McDonald’s, it positions the brand firmly as a purveyor and celebrant of stan culture, rather than a follower. We will be watching to see what else McDonald’s drums up in the space 🍟

Fax, No Printer*

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

What’s the newest social media app that should be on your radar?

A. Lemon8

B. Looper

C. Lapse

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

Regional Round-up

7️⃣ Continuing the K-pop theme: Jungkook’s Seven just became the fastest song to reach 1B streams on Spotify. The record was previously held by Miley Cyrus (for Flowers), which took 112 days to reach the 1B threshold. BTS’ Jungkook did it in 108 days, and with his debut solo album dropping TODAY (run, don’t walk), we expect to see even more headlines in the coming weeks. From seven to heaven?

🏳️‍🌈 After winning the second season of Drag Race Philippines, Captivating Katkat is using her platform for good by raising awareness of the Right to Care Card. Recently launched in Quezon City, the initiative empowers LGBTQIA+ couples to make important medical decisions for their partners. If you’re working with creators, how might you help them advocate for the issues that they feel strongly about?

🎮 Staying with the Philippines — HoYo FEST just wrapped in Manila (next up, Singapore and Bangkok). Pinoy fans got a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming Zenless Zone Zero, and there were booths for existing games. We’ve previously discussed revenge-experiences, and it’s likely this sentiment is amplified when it comes to Genshin Impact, which launched during the pandemic.

➕➖🟰➗✖️ Live music continues to thrive in the region — the Ed Sheeran: + – = ÷ × Tour is making stops in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, and Manila next year. The UOB Presale for the Singapore show, which was open to UOB cardholders, sold out within 1.5 hours. Congratulations to our friends at AEG and UOB on another successful partnership: this math is certainly mathing!

👀 To coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness month, the sexual wellness brand Smile Makers launched Audioboobs, a free series of erotic audiobooks that include instructions on how to conduct breast examinations. Last week we explored the power of podcasts: what if this medium could also help spread important healthcare messages?

This Week's Trivia Answer

C. Lapse

Lapse, a ‘social photo journal’ that hit number 2 in the US Apple Store last month, turns users’ phones into disposable cameras. Photos can only be taken in the app, and users have to wait several hours for them to ‘develop.’ Once they are ready, they can be posted on Lapse or added to a private archive. There are no filters and no ‘like’ button; friends can only comment using emojis 🫶

Lapse is also invite-only, a tactic that has helped drive short-term success (users can only start posting after they have invited five friends). According to, Lapse had nearly 1.2M users worldwide as of late September. 

This is the latest in a line of social media apps that promise a more authentic social media experience. Lapse is also appealing to Gen Z’s love of vintage tech (sidenote: Urban Outfitters just sold out of refurbished iPods. Yes, that makes us feel old too). Will an aggressive growth strategy, paired with this nostalgic appeal, be enough to help Lapse avoid BeReal’s fate? We’re not convinced yet… 

But here’s the thing: data from GWI suggests that time spent on social media has hit a ceiling, and Gen Zs are 30% more likely to worry about the amount of time they spend on social media. Marketers looking to appeal to this demographic shouldn’t abandon their social media strategy, but it’s important to be aware of the shifts in the landscape towards smaller-circle, more-mindful sharing.

🚀 Over and Out!

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Your Culture Mavens,

Acacia, Angela, Kiko, Teri, & Vicki