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25 NOVEMBER 2022

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.

⚽ The FIFA World Cup launched this week. There’s a lot to talk about, and it doesn’t all relate to the actual football – from the absence of beer and equality, to accusations of bribery and implications of match fixing. Keep reading for some standout brand campaigns, and check back in weekly for the most important pop culture highlights in future newsletters!

In this week’s edition:

  • Innovation of the Week: The best Scorsese film you haven’t seen…
  • Fax, No Printer: Japan’s World Cup team, powered by anime
  • Regional Round-up: Rude wait staff, inflatable experiences for kids of all ages, Singles’ Day stats, and more! 

Innovation of the Week


“There are no happy endings for people like us,” says Goncharov, played by Robert De Niro in Scorsese’s 1973 sleeper hit, Goncharov. “We just get to keep going.” 

At least, that’s what he would say, if he were an actual character in a real film. That quote was made up by Tumblr users as part of their endeavor to create a fandom around a film that doesn’t exist. The story of this fake film starts with a photo of a pair of boots emblazoned with a strange tag: ‘The greatest mafia movie ever made. Martin Scorsese presents GONCHAROV’. That post became the creative launch-pad for Tumblr users’ fanart, movie discourse, and a whole fan community. A 25-year-old music student from Indiana composed a theme song, a 20-year-old Czech print maker developed a poster, and fans from around the world made videosarticles, and literary analysis, all centered around a nonexistent movie.

💡 Our take

We’ve seen this fervor within fan-built communities before. There was Ratatousical, a musical developed on TikTok by theater kids during lockdowns. And now, Goncharov. Crowdsourced content clearly isn’t just the result of pandemic boredom! Closer to home in Asia, fan-led movements have powered huge BTS donation drives and fan cafés. But what links all these pop culture moments together? They’re all the product of a community coming together around a shared passion – with no input or official approval. In Goncharov’s case, the IP doesn’t even have to exist!

This is also happening on Wattpad, where fans regularly create entire communities around works written by teens just like them. These communities are loud and supportive enough to propel their creators to stardom. Singaporean Wattpad author Claudia Tan’s series Perfect Addiction is slated to become a film series; see also Filipina Tina Lata’s show The Four Bad Boys And Me, and Indonesian OTT platform Vidio’s slate of shows based on Wattpad stories. And while this passionate fandom might partly be the product of franchise fatigue (we’re looking at you, Marvel ​​🦸), the pace, depth and creativity of fan creativity shows that these stories are resonating on a deeper level with Gen Z than Spider-Man ever could. 

These communities seem – and usually are – totally unexpected, springing up from IP that fans have invented themselves. Brands can play a role, by cultivating and encouraging young fans’ passion and helping young people feel seen and understood. Just remember to remain authentic to the original vision and leave the fans in charge! By putting brand power behind these fan moments, you will legitimize IPs and become the go-to place for creators (and their fans!) to feel empowered, championed, and understood in Southeast Asia’s thriving creative landscape. 

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 anime power Japan's World Cup win?

They san Sasageyo from Attack on Titan instead of the national anthem

They wore the football uniform from anime/manga Blue Lock

They invited mascots like Doraemon and Hello Kitty to watch the match

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

Regional Round-up

🍔Oi! TikTok success story Karen’s Diner is coming to Jakarta. It’s the restaurant where waiters are allowed to be rude to guests, chuck napkins at diners, make them fetch their own water, and throw in a few verbal insults for good measure. Gen Z loves it. We’re sure it’s going to be a huge success in Jakarta, and we can’t wait for the reaction videos. TikTok branding at its finest!

💭Is this the stuff dreams are made of? Netflix’s Slumberland is coming to Robinsons Manila, complete with a bouncy castle, giant slides, a maze and a 23ft ball pool. It’s available for free, for kids of all ages. Fans don’t just want to watch the show – they want to experience it too. Especially when it’s this fun!

🎯Singapore will host the inaugural Olympic Esports Week in 2023, a tournament celebrating simulated sports. These virtual sports, played on a simulator, will include taekwondo, baseball, archery, and motorsports. 2021’s virtual series attracted over 250K participants from 100 countries; the next event is set to be bigger and better. Time to start thinking about how your brand can get involved? 

♻️A surprising Singles’ Day stat: Chinese resale fashion platform Hongbulin (AKA Plum) revealed that over 100K consumers participated in secondhand shopping during the event. The number of consigned and recycled goods by Plum increased 56% YoY, merchant participation increased by 25%. Consignments are usually cheaper, and they’re kinder to the planet. The ultimate in guilt-free consumption! 

⚠️ICYMI: Two World Cup campaigns that caught our eye: Nike’s Footballverse, which promises to resolve the sport’s longest-running debate (just who is the greatest player of all time?), and McDonald’s 75-market campaign which enlisted Khaby Lame, ITZY and Jason Sudeikis. No matter the score, football brings people together and brands are doubling down on this sentiment. 

This Week's Trivia Answer

⚽️ B. They wore the football uniform from anime/manga Blue Lock 

In scenes that felt like they were pulled directly from the pages of a manga, Japan defeated Germany 2-1 on Wednesday – the winning goal scored only minutes before the match was due to end. 

However, that wasn’t all that was driving Japanese fans crazy. The uniforms that the Japanese team sported were actually designed by creators of the anime Blue Lockwhich features a fictional story of Japan’s national football team, who underwent a top-secret program to be ‘the best footballers in the world’… spooky, right? 

Fans online did not miss the coincidence, calling out how the Japan team absolutely must have watched the anime during half time to explain their sudden boost in aggression. Either way, it’s clear that anime has a huge impact in the world of sports, be it how Yuri! On Ice drummed up interest around Japan’s ice skating scene or how Haikyuu! spiked signup rates of highschool volleyball across the nation. Gambatte, Japan!

🚀 Over and Out!

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Your Culture Mavens,

Acacia, Aliya, Angela, Kiko, & Vicki