Scroll to top

17 MAY 2024

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 Heineken navigates cultural change 
    • Fax, No Printer: Can you guess the hottest new dining destination
    • Regional Round-up: Pedal power, spies in Singapore, and AI news

Innovation of the Week


Beer you can eat? At the Heineken Maltiverse in Singapore, visitors can enjoy ‘malt’ in many forms: during a chef table dining experience via an interactive art installation and a malt-powered music maker (it turns sounds from malt into unique beats). There’s also the chance to become a draught master by participating in a pour challenge, with free swag for steady hands. Only until this weekend, tickets for the chef’s table (SGD $28) are sold out; the rest of the experience is free to attend with a booking.


Heineken is booked—popping up again and again in this newsletter! Before the Maltiverse experience, we’ve seen the brand help Malaysian music lovers pair up and refresh their playlists, put Thai artists in the spotlight (and on the stage) at Bedroom Fest in Bangkok, turn laundromats in South Korea into all-night sports bars… after so much work, it’s only fair we unpack the brand’s latest activation in more detail… 

After volume growth fell in 2023, Heineken announced plans to boost marketing investment and unveiled The First Ahh—a global campaign that’s built on the idea that the first sip of Heineken can help separate work from play (agh from ahhh). Although centered around different passion points—food and football—experiences like Maltiverse and LaundroMatch bring consumers to spaces where they can get together, inadvertently creating surprising routes to Heineken’s core product and entrenching the product in more meaningful rituals. 

The First Ahh seems to reinforce further a key Heineken principle: unplugging and living in the moment. Remember 2023’s Ghosted Bar campaign for Singapore and Malaysia, which encouraged young people to ‘work responsibly’? On the other side of the world, the brand recently built on that with The Boring Phone—a limited-edition ‘dumbphone’ that doesn’t connect to the internet or social media. Citing internal research which revealed that 90% of UK and US Gen Z and millennials ‘doom scroll’ while socializing, it promotes face-to-face connection. 

Countless headlines have zeroed in on how Gen Z is looking to tackle burnout by finding a better work-life balance. That sentiment extends to SEA, where young workers are increasingly opting for more flexible working arrangements. While the behavior shift is rooted in the pandemic, it isn’t going anywhere: later this year, workers in Singapore will have the right to request 4-day weeks. It feels like Heineken is adapting its place in culture to reflect younger consumers’ shifting sentiments while reinforcing familiar and existing messaging.  

Of course, knowing what’s shifting is never enough. It’s what you choose to do with the insights that counts 💡. Get it wrong and backlash can ensue—just ask Bumble, whose anti-celibacy OOH ads were recently called out for a lack of inclusivity. You can see where the idea came from: young people are over dating apps, so why not acknowledge that position while ‘humorously’ reminding consumers of the value you offer? But it failed to take other factors, like diversity and the significance of celibacy that resonates with this demographic into account. 

On the other hand, with local craft beer demand and production growing in popularity, Heineken has gotten the wheels rolling in reinforcing the brand’s relevance against a highly saturated market. The Maltiverse experience shows how the brand is not only enabling a passion point but also creating an avenue for their product to be consumed rather than competing in the same spaces as their competitors—turning the act of drinking Heineken an experience in its own right vs just a normal night out.  

Adapting to changing consumer sentiments whilst making sure they’re capturing the sentiment accurately and then reinforcing a brand’s relevance in everyday life is not easy work—but it can be worth it when there is a bottle of cold beer waiting for you at the end. Heineken leverages unconventional touchpoints and brings marketing to spaces where it’s least expected, solving a pain point consumers are only vaguely aware of. How might you do the same?

Fax, No Printer*

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

Which unconventional venue was turned into a fine dining experience?

A. Warehouse 📦

B. Car showroom 🚙

C. Airplane ✈️

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

Regional Round-up

🚲 Back in 2021, McDonald’s Philippines realized restaurants were a stopover for cyclists and introduced Bike & Dine facilities (bike repairs, charging stations, and more). With the use of two-wheel cycling up, the brand just introduced Ride the Arches, challenging cycling groups to create arch-shaped routes that start and end at McDonald’s, following it up with #TourDeMcDo—a series of community bike rides. This is a great example of a brand using its scale and infrastructure to benefit a passionate community while highlighting what the Philippines has to offer.

🛍️ Plenty of brands are setting up shop in Vietnam, and Miniso wants in. The lifestyle retailer just opened its first IP collection store in Hanoi. Stocking BT21 merchandise alongside other lines, it highlights the brand’s expansion and the ongoing importance of a retail footprint in a market that’s seeing a surge in online shopping.

🇸🇬 The French cartoon Totally Spies! is back following a 10-year (!) hiatus with a surprising twist: based on the trailer, some parts will be set in Singapore, and fans have mixed reviews.  All sorts of IPs are getting updated, and there’s a chance for those reboots to showcase more diversity. If you want to get involved, remember to consider the elements that made the original IP a success. Expand, don’t override!

📈 Research from Meltwater revealed that 55% of APAC businesses see AI as an important part of their social media strategy (vs the global average of 44%). What are they using these tools for? To save time in writing and improve copy. Amid productivity gains, consider how AI tools can improve output and engagement. After all, more isn’t always better.

⚠️ ICYMI: Sticking with AI, Open AI and Google made waves this week—the former launched GPT-4o (‘o’ for ‘omni’), and the latter answered with Project Astra. Both companies are betting on a future where AI-powered smart digital agents can provide real-time assistance and (eventually) perform actions on users’ behalf. The future of tech is more convenient and personalized. What expectations will that create? And how will marketing need to evolve to meet them?

This Week's Trivia Answer

B. Car showroom

Hyundai’s new research center in Singapore’s Jurong West (for those unfamiliar, that’s not a central location!) will host Na Oh, a Korean restaurant helmed by three-Michelin-star Korean-American chef Corey Lee. The space also includes a two-story vertical farm that can produce over 30 kg of fresh produce daily and will be open to visitors. Hyundai promises that the restaurant will ‘be a destination in Singapore that stands as a cultural hub for Korean cuisine, craft, and design.’

That’s a lofty ambition. But turning an unexpected—and typically off-limits—space into an engagement opportunity is an interesting proposition. We recently saw Baskin Robbins open an R&D space located in the ice cream brand’s Gangnam headquarters to the public. Visitors will get a chance to sample new flavors created with the help of ChatGPT.

In the past, consumers would never have been given the opportunity to go behind the scenes this way. But opening up processes and ‘working in public’ could open up surprising (and powerful!) avenues for brand storytelling. How might your brand put backstage front and center?

🚀 Over and Out!

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


Your Culture Mavens,

Angela, Catherine, Teri, Twila, & Vicki