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13 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 Week: How an Indonesian movie broke records
  • Fax, No Printer: Did Southeast Asia just get dissed?
  • Regional Round-up: Toy pop-ups across the region, Gen Z’s latest esports achievements, and more BTS

Innovation of the Week


Indonesia just saw its biggest box office opening in 2023… not with a Marvel movie, but with local title Petualangan Sherina 2 (‘Sherina’s Adventure 2’), which garnered 1.5M viewers as of this Monday. The movie is a sequel to Petualangan Sherina (Sherina’s Adventure), an Indonesian classic film from 2000. It features the same cast and characters, picks up their story in adulthood, and highlights consistent themes of friendship, bravery, and fighting for one’s values.

💡 Our take

The success of this movie is attributable, in a large part, to the cultural equity of its predecessor. When Petualangan Sherina first came out in 2000, it was considered a breakthrough after ‘a barren decade’ for the local film industry. The film was also celebrated for showcasing the beauty of local landmarks and landscapes, while its original soundtrack was hailed as one of the first to introduce high quality music made for Indonesian children. And while it was a kids’ movie, the story and messaging managed to achieve cross-generational appeal.

Southeast Asian consumers have a lot of local pride, but historically they have not found much within media and popular culture that have done justice to represent, elevate and celebrate the region. So when a story like Petualangan Sherina addresses this unmet desire, consumers shower it with love and support. Brands would do well to collaborate with these celebrated local IPs and partner with local talents to enable more of them to emerge.

Fast forward 23 years to today, Petualangan Sherina 2 builds on the first movie’s achievements, while riding on another emerging theme: the power of nostalgia. We have extensively discussed consumers’ affinity for simpler times and the rise of kidult consumers and the ‘joyconomy’. Petualangan Sherina 2 allows consumers to relive the joys of childhood, and for some, introduce the same experience to their children now. Bonus points for also introducing an environmental message relevant to the current generation.

All in all, the success of Petualangan Sherina 2 highlights some of our favorite themes – championing local stories, delving into nostalgia, highlighting progressive messages. Which one can your brand harness for your next big opportunity?

Fax, No Printer*

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

Which Southeast Asian country just got dissed in a rap song this week?

A. Philippines

B. Vietnam

C. Singapore

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

Regional Round-up

💜 ARMYs in the region will be happy to hear that the BTS x James Jean: Seven Phases Exhibition will make its next stop in Manila later this month. First launched in May 2021, the art inspired by each BTS member gives fans a different way of experiencing their artists. Fans will welcome brands that bring them closer to what they love – how will your brand find new ways for people to experience their passion points?

🎤 Singing competition “Take Your Voice to Japan 2023” is looking for the next J-pop star from Malaysia. Renowned Japanese music producer Kenta Matsukuma will produce a global debut for the winner. It is a great way to uplift local talent, and we will wait and see if efforts like this will extend the regional popularity of J-pop, the way regional idols like BLACKPINK’s Lisa and NewJeans’ Hanni did for K-pop.

🎮 More and more Gen Zs are chasing their passions and excelling at it, like 16-year-old Wanraya “Milk” Wannapong, who just won her third World Drone Racing Championship. This shows that there are more avenues for young people to pursue alternative sports and a signal for brands to keep their eye out for these niche passion points.

🎷 Jazz is brought to life in anime film Blue Giant, complete with music composed by jazz pianist Hiromi. A manga adaptation, the film grossed over USD 7.5M at the Japanese box office and hit selected global theaters this week. This is another example of how anime is more than a genre, it’s a medium to highlight passion points – the film is a gateway for anime fans into jazz and for jazz fans (which is now cool, hello Laufey) to get into anime.

🧸 Gundam docks in Bangkok and Funko pops up in Singapore – the kidult economy is taking over Southeast Asia this month. The demand for immersive physical experiences and the propensity to spend on toy-related experiences remains high. Any opportunity to infuse joy into consumer’s lives is an opportunity for your brand!

This Week's Trivia Answer

C. Singapore

Grammy-winning rapper Drake is no stranger to controversy and this time, he has provoked the ire of Singaporeans in a song off his latest album For All the Dogs. In a track called Drew a Picasso, he raps, “Artists hittin’ on you broke as f-, I swear them n- probably live in Singapore.” The reaction was almost immediate – while sentiments among Singaporeans towards Drake were 44% positive before the track launched, it shifted to 11% positive and 34% negative after. 

As discussed earlier in this newsletter, local pride and identity are important in this region, especially when it comes to regional culture. Take the example of the region’s cuisine – NYT’s Singaporean Curry Chicken recipe caused furor across the country and almost all of Southeast Asia got up in arms after Uncle Roger brought attention to how a BBC presenter cooked fried rice

We would chalk up Drake’s diss of Singapore down to ignorance and lazy songwriting. While there could be an interesting brand challenge for Singapore here, ultimately this is a reminder that when dealing with localities, brands should always tread carefully and respectfully, or risk it backfiring.

🚀 Over and Out!

So… are any of our Indonesian readers here Sherina and Sadam shippers? 😍

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Your Culture Mavens,

Acacia, Angela, Kiko, Teri, & Vicki