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24 MARCH 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.

💥 It has been a big few weeks for generative AI. Beyond GPT-4, which is helping people turn the contents of their fridge into recipes and supporting language learning on Duolingo, Microsoft announced Copilot (Excel just got a lot more ‘fun’) and Google’s Bard chatbot launched. Not to be left out, Adobe pitched up with a host of ‘creator-friendly’ generative AI tools. There’s still plenty to figure out here, and we’ll be watching to see how it impacts pop culture in Southeast Asia. 


In this week’s edition:

  • Innovation of the Week: Unpacking Spotify’s Ramadan campaign 
  • Fax, No Printer: What’s special about MAVE:? 
  • Regional Round-up: B-Corps, K-pop ambassadors, a web3 comic store and more!

Innovation of the Week


To mark the start of Ramadan, our friends at Spotify rolled out a hyper-personalized experience with daily new content, including music and podcasts that are trending in the user’s region. Daily offerings – focused on topics like fasting and wellness – are also incorporated into the Ramadan hub. In previous years, the brand has offered curated playlists, podcasts and talks content, but this new activation takes personalization to the next level, with the goal of celebrating listeners’ culture. 

💡 Our take

We’ve written before about Gen Z’s desire for authenticity and meaning, and guess what? That sentiment also applies to the Holy Month, and a generic ‘Happy Ramadan’ post will not land well with younger consumers.

Spotify’s updated Ramadan experience is a lesson in activating a cultural moment meaningfully, where the brand is weaving itself into the very fabric of Ramadan. To do this effectively, it is necessary to firstly identify the cultural moments that are important to your consumers. And remember, the ones that matter most are usually NOT on the official calendar holidays, think Batch Bora for young Filipinos or Jaturamitr Samakkee for young Thais.*

But more importantly, it’s key to understand the behavior native to these moments, and then establish a meaningful brand role in the space. Spotify knew that it was already part of Ramadan – last year, the brand saw a 68% increase worldwide in streams of nasheeds during April versus the previous month. This year’s updated experience builds on that insight.

A final point – beware of clichés. For instance, while Gen Zs are certainly diverse, liberal and socially conscious, they are also religious, with 33% of Southeast Asians saying they’re more devout than their parents. When activating a cultural moment, it is tempting to go full-blown fun and quirky, but it is important to remain respectful – see how KFC’s joss stick activation garnered massive backlash. Young people looking to align faith and true self will appreciate brands that get the nuances!

*Don’t know what these are? Time for a proper chat with us! Our culture mavens will help you identify moments that matter (that most other agencies will overlook) and create activations that are native to Gen Z’s behavior around these times. No more ‘Happy Ramadan’ posts 😉

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 so special about the new K-pop group MAVE:?

They’re a supergroup of the biggest TikTok stars

They are AI-generated

They’re all actually from Southeast Asia

Regional Round-up

✈️ Flying high above the haters, Zoe Gabriel (that’s Charles and Keith luxury girl) has just debuted another ad campaign, this time with Air Asia. From dancing with the cabin crew to testing the in-flight meal, it’s clear that Zoe Gabriel’s relatability and humbleness is keeping her in the spotlight.

💭 Tech startup Gaspack has secured funding for its web3 comic store Kometh. The store will be built on the blockchain, giving users the rights to read, own, collect, trade, sell, and gift the comics on the platform through tokens. Could this be the future of the comic community?

🎮 It’s that time of year again! Mobile Legends: Bang Bang will be running their annual 515 festival, this time headlined by K-pop icons ITZY. The group will become the official ambassadors for the game, with outfit-inspired skins, a new map, and special challenges for gamers. Are you ready to be All! In! Us!

🍃 InNature Berhad – the franchisee for The Body Shop in Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia – has just achieved B Corp certification! The company is proving that its entire social and environmental performance has a net positive effect on people and on the planet. Is your brand ready to go green?  

💎 Malaysian jewelry brand Azloft has jumped on the permanent jewelry TikTok trend – which sees jewelry pieces with ends that are welded together. The idea is for it to never come off, become a part of the wearer’s everyday look and identity. Gen Zs are loving the simplicity and sustainability of it!

This Week's Trivia Answer

B. They are AI-generated!

MAVE: are a virtual world-only Kpop band. Their dances are choreographed with deepfakes, their outfits designed by both animators and AI, and they already have over 20M views on their debut single. They also utilize a text-to-voice system, allowing the band members to rap in ​​Korean, English, French and Bahasa Indonesia at the push of a button. 

As art, poetry, and now even music fall under the jurisdiction of AI, the future is looking increasingly diverse when it comes to human-made but artificially-intelligent art. For now, the jury is out when it comes to MAVE:. Fans of K-pop enjoy the vocals, video production, and gravity-defying outfits, but are justifiably concerned: what will this mean for living and breathing idols? Will they have to compete with their perfectly rendered counterparts? 

We’re keeping a close eye on this one.

🚀 Over and Out!

Ramadan Kareem to all our readers who are observing! One month of fasting, for a reward everlasting 🙏

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Your Culture Mavens,

Acacia, Aliya, Angela, Kiko, & Vicki