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06 OCTOBER 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 WeekWhat #girlmath tells you about the Culture Wallet
  • Fax, No Printer: What’s so special about October 3?
  • Regional Round-up: Localized content, skateboarding ramps up, HCMC in the spotlight and more!

Innovation of the Week


You have $8 of bubble tea in your cart, but free delivery starts at $15. You add more bubble tea that you don’t really need, to meet the minimum spend and save on delivery fees. Illogical? No, it’s #girlmath! Rationalizing spending using bizarre logic is the latest TikTok trend (716M views at the time of writing). Singapore-based Chloe L. started the trend in SEA, girl math-ing her luxury jewelry. TikTok creator Darshen K picked it up and girlmath-ed the cost of owning a car. Other content creators around the region jumped in, including Indonesia-based Jazzy and Mitch Briones in the Philippines.

💡 Our take

New week, new TikTok trend. The #girlmath hype might be over before you finish reading this newsletter, but there are learnings for marketers here:

💰 Macro factors like inflation mean that many young people are worried about money and savings. Meanwhile, other drivers like rising house prices mean that traditional markers of adulthood are denied to many. Girl math is a humorous response to these stressors, but with conventional financial milestones seemingly so out of reach, focusing on short-term happiness doesn’t seem so frivolous to the younger generation… (it goes without saying that we’re not advocating for irresponsible spending!)

🎶 Girl math has its roots in – who else? – Taylor Swift! The phrase gained traction after a trio of New Zealand DJ hosts helped a caller justify the money she spent to attend all of Swift’s The Eras Tour shows in Sydney. If you book something now but only go in 6 months, it’s technically a free experience for the future you… right? And of course, the memories are priceless. We’ve previously discussed how fans are willing to spend on experiences that relate to their passions (including concerts) and that travel is a priority.

👛 So TikTok trend aside, one element of girl math is founded on a theme we have often discussed. Young people might not have much resources, but they will always carve out and justify spending for their passion points. This is the Culture Wallet. It represents consumer spending on passion points and lifestyle, primarily driven by emotional connection, and considered as essential to their being and lifestyle. Spend from the Culture Wallet may over index in relation to the consumer’s income, due to its outsized perceived importance – ‘this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and core to what I love most!’

💸 So, from bubble tea to concert tickets – consumers will always have a Culture Wallet to spend on the things they love, and they will find ways to justify it. Brands that celebrate and validate passion points, while enabling and facilitating access to these desired experiences, will gain access to the consumer’s Culture Wallet. To do some girl math: if spending on passion points comes from the Culture Wallet, and not your regular bank account, does it count as spending at all? 😉


Fax, No Printer*

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

How did Gen Z celebrate October 3?

A. Watched Mean Girls on TikTok

B. Ordered Pumpkin Spice Lattes

C. Bought Mid-Autumn treats on discount

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

Regional Round-up

📺 Looking to appeal to viewers in Thailand and Indonesia, WeTV (the streaming service from Tencent Video) just unveiled a slate of original content including CHUANG Asia Thai edition (fronted by Jackson Wang), web novel adaptations and a BL original. From localization to crossover genres, this announcement taps into so many of the themes we’ve discussed in this newsletter over the past year.

👻 Premiered at the recent Malaysia Digital Content Festival, Kisah Bawah Tanah is an animated comedy series. Promoted as ‘reimagined South East Asian folklore’, it promises to be a grown-up take on the genre – it’s aimed at audiences aged 13+. How might your brand leverage local stories to refresh a surprising genre, for a new generation of audiences?

🪩 Troye Sivan dances through the streets of Bangkok in his latest release Got Me Started with Thai drag queens, including Drag Race Thailand reigning queen Angele Anang. The Aussie artist also serves lewks from local designers like Vinnpatararin, and considering that Sivan just walked the runway at Paris Fashion Week, could he help elevate local talent and the queer community to the global stage?

🇻🇳 Lifestyle retailer Miniso just opened its first flagship in Ho Chi Minh City’s Vincom Centre, expanding the brand’s IP in international markets. HCMC is the city in Southeast Asia at the moment (an International Film Festival is planned for 2024) – expect to see more exciting launches and cultural happenings in the coming months.

🛹 Young skateboarders have made headlines at the Asian Games: 13-year-old Cui Chenxi won gold in street skateboarding while 9-year-old Mazel Alegado (the youngest member of the Philippines team) reached the women’s park final. With Asia’s first snow, surf and skate attraction set to open in Singapore later this month, will skateboarding ramp up across the region? A passion point to watch.

⚠️ ICYMI: Supergroup U2 just played the first-ever show at the Las Vegas Sphere, a mega-venue wrapped in over a million LEDs that is, per the Rolling Stone, ‘a quantum leap forward for concerts’. Sitting at the intersection of art, music and experience it could totally reframe expectations around live events. We’ll be keeping an eye on how the live music scene in Southeast Asia develops too.

This Week's Trivia Answer

A. Watched Mean Girls on TikTok

Although people did queue up for discounted mooncakes in Vietnam, October 3 is Mean Girls Day 💖👚💄 Mean Girls is pop culture and although the film is verging on vintage (it was released in 2004!), interest shows no sign of waning. To celebrate, Paramount Pictures split the iconic film into 23 parts and uploaded the clips to TikTok for one day, and announced a movie release for next January.

While TikTok isn’t an official streaming service, many users have (unofficially) been uploading shows like Emily in Paris and feature films in small fragments. For younger audiences, this is increasingly how they watch shows. Some viewers even say it enhances the experience as it allows them to ‘skip the boring bits’. Media platforms are responding: beyond Paramount, Peacock made the pilot episode of Killing It available to view ahead of the season two premiere.

Let this serve as a reminder that formats are always evolving, and if you’re not already, time to consider how you can adapt your content to suit the TikTok generation’s preference for snackable experiences.

🚀 Over and Out!

To misquote Damian: That’s why this newsletter is so long – it’s full of (pop culture) secrets.

Pop culture insights are better when shared. Subscribe, forward this on, or share the love on social media. 


Your Culture Mavens,

Acacia, Angela, Kiko, Teri, & Vicki