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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Is Korea’s ‘Newtro’ A Sign of Things to Come?

Over the past five years, global search interest in the Korean music genre of K-pop has increased by approximately 20%. Since 2014, major K-pop acts have seen search query increases of over 60%. The majority of that interest has come from Asia Pacific markets like the Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore and Indonesia. More than ever before, Korean tastes and styles are rippling out into Asia Pacific, and the world.
Newtro could follow just such a trajectory. A portmanteau drawn from ‘New Retro’, Newtro refers to the increasingly popular practice of repurposing and remixing visuals, aesthetics and products from past eras into new configurations. The widespread Newtro trend is impacting Korea’s fashion, design and food & beverage industries and is particularly popular among younger demographics. Over the past year, sewing material sales (for homemade newtro modifications) have grown by a staggering 263 percent in the Generation Z consumer bracket.    

Aside from Korea’s growing popularity within the global zeitgeist, the international potential of the Newtro movement lies in its close alignment with many Generation Z principles and practices. With approximately 75% of the demographic aiming to convert a hobby to a full-time job (and 80% prioritising ‘finding themselves creatively’), Newtro’s DIY-friendly aesthetic and remix-heavy approach holds a powerful appeal. For brands or communicators looking to connect with younger generations in a unique and impactful way, either in Korea or abroad, Newtro could drive a number of rewarding strategies.

Today’s Employees Need Purpose to Transcend Sectors

Over the past five years, an accelerated pace of change and widespread socio-political instability has led to a significant increase in the number of businesses adopting vertical integration strategies. Since 2014, for example, merger & acquisition activity has grown by approximately 25% worldwide. And, with a new form of business architecture emerging, new approaches to internal communications are proving increasingly essential.      

Specifically, many organisations may wish to examine how they communicate their brand purpose to their employees. In today’s talent war, purpose is more valuable than ever. A recent study found 3 in 4 Generation Z professionals had left a company because it didn’t align with their values. When employees do connect with a brand’s purpose, our own research indicates increases in retention, advocacy, recruitment and productivity.

But, as vertical integration becomes increasingly popular and a growing number of companies grow to encompass multiple sectors, there’s a rising risk of employees feeling disconnected from their employer’s purpose. This concern is especially magnified in Asia Pacific markets like Japan and Korea – where only 12% of employees consider their employer to have a clear sense of brand purpose.

To fully leverage the potential of their talent bases, brands and communicators should focus on developing employee engagement initiatives and campaigns to help professionals understand their role both within the company and in relation to the company’s larger purpose. By way of example, one of our Korea clients recently used their 66th anniversary and New York’s Times Square to unify their company culture.  

Gen Z Micro-Communities: Act Global, Think Local

As previously covered in Trends In Two Minutes, Generation Z can often operate quite differently to their Millennial peers. One of the key differences is around ideas of ownership. While Millennials are happy with shared experiences, Generation Z are more invested in owning products like cars and houses.

This difference ripples out into behaviours in a myriad of interesting ways. It’s arguably why Generation Z prefer social media with a temporary or controllable ‘footprint’, for example. But, it’s recently combined with another characteristic – one in three Gen Zs view themselves as global, not national, citizens – to foster a new form of engagement.

Linked to their preference for ownership, Generation Z crave individuality and authenticity. As digital natives and global citizens, they will access this authenticity and individuality far beyond their geographic location. And, most intriguingly, they will then recreate their digital communities in the real world.

For communicators and brands, this means that thinking in traditional terms of geography is an obstacle to engaging today’s young people. Generation Z crave connection to diverse and authentic micro-communities from across the global digital landscape. The demographic’s preferences in the music and food sectors provide ample evidence.

In developing strategies to connect with young consumers, brands and communicators may wish to look beyond the location of their services and bring a global influence into their strategy. For example, a one-time location-specific trend like K-pop being introduced into the American market – a development largely driven by Gen Z.

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