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12 MAY 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: Spilling the tea on Gen Z’s trendiest drink
  • Fax, No Printer: What’s the reddest Gen Z dating flag? 
  • Regional Round-up: Weretigers, Thailand’s general elections, and – Take this! It’s dangerous to go alone!

Innovation of the Week


A recent global publication predicted that the bubble tea market will reach a size of USD 4.27B by 2028. Hugely popular across Southeast Asia, bubble tea (or ‘boba’) has become a symbol of Gen Z and Millennial spending – one of the many examples of how these consumers are choosing to spend their disposable income on unique food and beverages. Last year, another report revealed bubble tea has been brewing up serious profits: Southeast Asians spent USD 3.66B a year on the drink.

💡 Our take

Experiential, Instagrammable, versatile (so much opportunity to experiment with new variants!) and relatively affordable – bubble tea has all the right ingredients to become a smash hit with young consumers. More widely, the bubble tea phenomenon illustrates how consumer passion points could show up in surprising formats. Beyond the usual suspects of media & entertainment genres – think K-pop, gaming and esports, or anime – food & beverage is a wildly important cultural pillar that commands huge equity with consumers. 

In Southeast Asia, a host of brands have jumped into the bubble tea space, with experimental partnerships ranging from the delicious (see Honkai Impact and KOI Thé partnership) to the dubious (Heinz ketchup and Gong Cha, anyone?). Our personal favorite was The Bublé Tea from LiHO, a special giveaway to celebrate the launch of Michael Bublé’s latest album. Bubble tea has become an easy, and effective, shortcut into winning shares of Gen Z’s and Millennials’ hearts, minds, and wallets – and it obviously works. 

Additionally, bubble tea is another one of Asia’s powerful cultural exports, originally hailing from Taiwan. In the US alone, the market is worth an estimated USD 640M. Brands are using it to reach a young generation of sippers through fun, tongue-in-cheek campaigns that inject a shot of new-school cool. But beyond bubble tea – if your brand is looking for other regional cultural icons to elevate and champion, what other surprising spaces could you draw inspiration from?

Fax, No Printer*

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

What is a dating dealbreaker for Gen Zs?

Not having a dog

Not being dedicated to sustainability

Listening to Ed Sheeran

Regional Round-up

✊ Ahead of Thailand’s general election, hip-hop group Rap Against Dictatorship released a song commenting on the country’s political landscape. The YouTube video for คนที่ตัดสินใจคือฉันเอง (roughly, ‘I Decide’) has 349K views and counting. Pop culture and politics are inextricably linked – regular readers will remember how Malaysian politicians took to TikTok – can your brand help younger voters make their voice heard?

🐯 Perempuan power! Amanda Nell Eu’s new film Tiger Stripes is the first film directed by a Malaysian woman to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival. Combining Malaysian folklore with modern feminist commentary, the film celebrates what it means to be a Malaysian girl today.

🎥 In other SEA film news, it was recently revealed that Netflix has given new life to Vietnamese films. After launching on the streaming platform, The Furies made the Top 10 list of the most-watched foreign films worldwide for two weeks running. There’s clear audience demand for Southeast Asian stories. How can your brand empower creators to make more?

🇵🇭 Over in the Philippines, GMA just started airing a live-action adaptation of a beloved classic, Voltes V: Legacy. The catch? It’s based on a Japanese anime from the 1970s. Anime’s enduring influence in Southeast Asia can’t be matched, with countries developing their own version of iconic shows. Want to know more about anime in Southeast Asia? Keep watching (reading 👀) this space…

⚠️ ICYMI: Nintendo is finally releasing The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Fans have been looking forward to this adaptation since 2017’s Breath of the Wild, which reinvigorated the Zelda fandom and brought Link to a new generation of gamers. Will Tears of the Kingdom live up to the hype?

This Week's Trivia Answer

♻️ B. Not being dedicated to sustainability!

Seven out of ten Filipinos said on a survey conducted by Bumble that they would not consider dating someone who was not dedicated to sustainability, with 94% of them expecting their partner to at least match their environmental practices in a relationship. So much for red flags – the Philippines are going for green flags!

Gen Zs are clearly not looking to form relationships that are unsustainable – whether that’s with partners or brands. For a demographic with an acute case of climate anxiety, sustainability isn’t a fad, it’s the future. Looking after the planet is the right thing to do, but it’s also imperative for any brand looking to connect with Gen Z. 

A final point to end on. Gen Z view the brands that they support as extensions of themselves. They want companies to share their beliefs and support their crusade to make the world better. When it comes to going green, there are no gray areas. Is your brand willing to stand up and deliver?

🚀 Over and Out!

Take two minutes to explore this interactive bubble tea adventure. What’s your pearl-fect drink?

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Your Culture Mavens,

Acacia, Aliya, Angela, Kiko, & Vicki