Trends in Two Minutes is a monthly bulletin of trends hitting businesses across
Asia-Pacific with a focus on marketing and communications. 
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Upcycling Existing Content: The New Creativity

In the thick of 2020, one sporting brand made headlines with an advertising campaign built entirely from archival footage. This wasn’t the first major campaign of its kind. In fact, the same brand had pulled a similar trick in 2011 by repackaging footage from their entire history of branded advertising. But, in the current era, it carries a different resonance.

The disruption seen over the past year is well-documented in both its severity and scope. Supply lines have been disrupted, communities fragmented, consumer habits reinvented. And, against such a backdrop of upheaval, conventional methods for crafting creative work are not only ill-advised – many such methods are borderline impossible.

How to execute a launch event when gatherings represent such a risk? How to run a photo or film shoot in such environments? Where to get materials when so many producers and supply lines are struggling to maintain services? In response to these questions, many brands are turning to the art of content upcycling.

Upcycling is a popular trend among sustainability and DIY communities. It involves taking discarded products and furniture and creatively reimaging them for colourful new purposes. A broken shelving unit may be transformed into a new seating bench, for example. And, in 2021, upcycling is a very useful practice for communicators and brands.

The immediate benefits are obvious – reduced expenditure and sustainable communications campaigns during challenging times. But, there are additional factors that make upcycling a particularly powerful approach for the year to come – the ability to neatly leverage the post-pandemic nostalgia wave, for example.

Or, to encourage the creativity of today’s Gen-Z userbase to promote your brand. Or, to creatively redefine your business new services or products. While the popularity of upcycled content has been forced by circumstances, the potential of the approach in the current environment is almost limitless.

Remixed Spirituality: New Topics, New Connections

The Asia Pacific region boasts some of the most diverse attitudes to religion and spirituality of any global population zone. According to a 2019 survey conducted by Gallup International, Asia boasts both the countries with the highest percentages of atheists (China, Japan) and the highest percentages of believers (Indonesia, Philippines).

Furthermore, Asia Pacific represents an incredibly diverse array of religious beliefs. 1 in 10 APAC residents adhere to a religion of local origin – Indigenous or ‘folk’ religions. In such a context, trends of faith, spirituality, and communal belief can have powerful impacts – making the recent global rise of ‘remixed spirituality’ of particular interest.

As documented in Weber Shandwick’s latest research, Media Genius: What Comes After The Coherence Crash, such a trend has emerged in response to the global instability of recent years. As trust in institutions eroded in the lead up to 2020, individuals began redefining their institutional relationships – including their spiritual identities.

This development has manifested in multiple ways. Younger generations like Millennials have driven a massive rise in the popularity of astrology, for example. Elsewhere, businesses are exploring the benefits of ‘workplace spirituality’ – leveraging traditionally spiritual practices to create stronger and more supportive workplace cultures.

Crucially, such a trend also translates to profound business impacts. The increased popularity of astrology, for example, has led to a US$40 million app industry boom. Multiple studies, meanwhile, have found workplace spirituality practices to be profoundly beneficial for employees across several metrics.

For communicators, it represents a world both rich with opportunity and fraught with risk. As demonstrated, new variants of spirituality can create powerful connections, especially in a region as diverse and religious as the Asia Pacific sector) – but, with so many pre-existing beliefs, caution and sensitivity in communications remain essential.

Valuing Artists – A Growing Cultural Priority

In March 2020, a music publishing platform servicing independent artists and record labels instituted a new policy to support the music industry. For the first Friday of each month, all processing and service fees would be waived. 100% of purchases would go entirely to the artists and labels on the platform.

By the end of 2020, consumers had made US$40 million in purchases through the initiative – an average of US$4.4 million in earnings per Friday. By comparison, the average quarterly return from leading music streaming platforms for the majority of musicians equates to approximately US$36.

It’s indicative of one of the more surprising shifts and priorities to emerge from the pandemic: a new investment in the value of art and artists. As COVID-19 removed many of the revenue streams of the fragile arts infrastructure throughout 2020, governments, businesses, and consumers all fought to create new systems of support for the sector.

It took many forms. In Asia, the Indonesian Directorate-General for Culture paid artists and artisans to offer online masterclasses in dancing, painting, music, film production and storytelling for those in lockdown. In the UK, consumers drove vinyl record sales to their greatest height since the early 1990s.

Throughout 2020, countless campaigns and government policies were launched emphasising the crucial importance of art and artists during times of struggle. Campaigns and policies were unveiled in New Zealand, Canada, Cuba, and more. Many initiatives have been extended into 2021.

Several brands have already started to take advantage of the cultural shift. American rapper and producer Travis Scott collaborated with a whole suite of brands throughout 2020. These collaborations ran the gamut from fast food and videogame concerts to sports teams and street shoes.   
The key takeaway for businesses and consumers is that there is a profound global groundswell of support for artists and art infrastructure unfolding throughout the world – and connecting with that movement in authentic, lasting ways can generate visibility, brand equity, revenue, culture, and strong avenues for recruitment.

Consumers will be more likely to scrutinise a company or brand’s motives for supporting or partnering with artists. Genuine, respectful engagement that demonstrates relevance and resonance of an artist's practice with a brand's purpose will be crucial to the success of such campaigns.

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