Pocket-size Luxury in Times of Crisis

Did you find yourself on beauty products buying frenzy lately despite of the recession that is currently happening? Several lipsticks on different shade? Or maybe luxury perfume? We might have an explanation about that.

Former Wall Street trader turns financial literacy content creator, Vivian Tu or popularly known as @yourrichbff, posted an interesting video a while back about the lipstick index or lipstick effect.

She briefly explained that the lipstick sales could indicate a recession. Our common sense would make us think that when the times get tough, let alone recession, we’ll do the best we can to save money and cut spend on non essential items. But that’s not always the case.

Leonard Lauder, one of the heirs to the Estée Lauder cosmetics company, first saw ‘the lipstick effect’ in 2001. When the economy got worse, their beauty products sales get better. 

The economist saw similar ‘trend’ again in 2008 when nail polish sales soared. Then in the beginning of pandemic (2020), the fragrance sales saw an uptick.

What about this year? Similar to those previous years, a tube of lipstick feels like an affordable luxury that people can buy nowadays, despite the upcoming (or ongoing?) global recession.

Many people in Vivian’s video comment section would disagree with her and argue that the recent spike in lipstick sales wasn’t an indicator for recession, but could be caused by several possibilities.

First one—and also become the most mentioned possibility—is because of the mask policy has been lifted in most countries. People can wear and show off their makeup again. In the beginning of pandemic, they can’t do it freely, hence fragrance or perfume is a tool to enhance their ‘appearance’ and feel good about themselves.

The other reason is just a domino effect caused by recession. When the economy crashes and many people lost their job, lipstick can help them to look decent or professional for a job interview.

But is the Lipstick Effect real and that the beauty industry recession-proof?

I found a 2012 article (Lipstick, the Recession and Evolutionary Psychology) by Sarah Hill, an assistant professor of psychology at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, in Scientific American. She mentioned that the “lipstick effect” is not only real, but deeply rooted in women’s mating psychology, according to studies results that were published on the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Their findings from four separate experiments consistently supported the lipstick effect. Cited from the article, Sarah Hill stated that:

“As college-age women, when primed with news of economic instability, reported increased desire to buy attractiveness-enhancing goods, along with a decreased desire to purchase goods that do not enhance one’s physical appearance.”

Hill, Sarah. “Lipstick, the Recession and Evolutionary Psychology”, 27 June 2022.

Regardless of the objective, since it sounds very old fashioned and straight-up sexist to assume that women only wear make up to attract men, we all can agree that buying beauty product serves as the emotional uplift for the women in times of a recession.

When splurging money for a lavish vacation or designer bags could break the budget, lipstick doesn’t. It fits the bill.

The recent Google Search Trends actually showed similar result with what Vivian Tu tried to claim with the lipstick effect.

As people are struggling with the current economic downturn, many turn to Google to search for a myriad of finance-related topics. Millions of high-growth search terms from across APAC were analyzed and came down into three insights.

People are asking a lot of finance questions.

Phrases like “what is inflation” has seen a significant increase this year, along with questions like “why” in relation to “expensive”. So for example “Why is lettuce so expensive” in Australia, or “kapan harga turun” (“when are prices going down”) in Indonesia.

Inflation and sustainability are going hand in hand.

Consumers prefer to buy “second hand” or “used” which is considerably more affordable compared to new products. Coincidentally, it’s actually good for the environment! Some of the “second hand” searches that have seen an increase in APAC according to them are for wedding dresses, electric cars, watches, mobile phone, and furniture.

I know personally that second hand cars and mobile phone are quite a thing for a long time in Indonesia. So I’m really curious to see if other products are becoming trends as well.

The third insight could be the closest one to the Lipstick Effect.

Despite everything, people still want little luxuries.

An affordable luxury that brings joy to them. It is indeed a consistent behavior that recurrence when a global recession happening.

An increase search for “cheap” and “luxury” in across APAC. For instance “cheapest car” in Australia, “cheap buffet” in Singapore, “luxury perfume” in India, and “glamping” in Indonesia and Taiwan.

As marketer, all I can say is that we need to understand our consumers mindset. Although I have mentioned there’s a consistent behavior where people seek for joy during the economic uncertainty, it is also important to look at both short-term and long term trends data. Then you can identify the changes and keep up with the trends.

And as a consumer, I do indeed turn to an affordable luxury too! I prefer taking staycation in the city with my family instead of going on a vacation abroad, wide range of beauty products (yes, including lipstick!), and—what seems like comeback to live since the pandemic—going to a concert! I’ve bagged a ticket for the upcoming show of my favorite K-Pop group.

How about you? What affordable luxury did yourself turn towards instead of splurging money on a bigger purchase?

Seriously Joking with Shopee Canda

Our new regular content #ShopeeCanda was quickly gained popularity since its premiere on Youtube last Wednesday, July 13. Still relying on the same comedy pillar, we did a format refreshment and pivoted a bit from the typical stand-up comedy. Then we mixed it with a good ol’ local comedy (lawak) which proven made our nights and living room livelier and full of laughters back in the 90’s and early 2000.

The premise is very simple: how four suburban men who regularly ‘nongkrong’ at Pos Hansip interact with the passersby. The hard part is choosing the right talents. We’ve come up with several pairs of personas and judge them based on their role and chemistry with each other, before finally decided to go with Tretan Muslim, Rigen Rakelna, Indra Frimawan, and Hifdzi Khoir. It’s totally unscripted, except for the passersby/participants part, which they’re required to write a 1-2 minutes bits. So as you can imagine, we heavily relied on the four comedians to make the ‘story’ flows. The result was…well, as expected, but still a bit surprising!

We’ve achieved 100k views in less than 24 hours (slightly over 16 hours to be precise), surpassed 200k views on Day-2, and hit 300k views on Day-4, also a total of 1.5k NEW subscribers added so far from this single video! As of this blog is posted, the video has garnered almost 500k views!

The velocity is fairly good too, with 2.7k VPH (views per hour). If you’re wondering what VPH means, VidIQ translates it as a great way to determine which videos are taking off to become viral. For comparison, the talk of the town #VinDes ‘Tepok Bulu’ got 3.4k VPH for their 8.7m views video since published 2 weeks ago.

By far, this is our best regular content, performance-wise. And to consider that this was all done organically, I gotta say it out loud and proudly that our teams (I’m talking to you content, creative, and production squad!) “Still got it!” ✨

🔗 Watch the new format of Shopee Canda on Shopee ID YouTube 👉🏻 https://youtu.be/2OZz7JbTMjo

Producers: Tini BohangPricila Putri MedianiZaenita Aziza (Asst.)
Creative: Joshua Alexander WijayaMalinda Hapsari
Director: Delly Hendrawanfikri barizqi (Asst. Dir)
Videographer: Vascal Sapta HadiRizky FachridoAlmitoshima Yumi Anggas
Editor: Yandra Bima Satria
Animator: M. Irfan
Photographer: Galih Dirza Zhafiri
Youtube Specialist: Trie Marnita Purba

The Comfort of Horror

It’s been almost three years since we at the Brand Content team have regularly produced horror content. The first horror content was posted back in September 2019, so the initial discussion must be done around July or early August. By adding horror to our existing content at that time, comedy and romance, we had three working formulas of the content best practice.

The very first discussion was pretty much just us sharing personal horror stories. I still remember when our former creative shared an urban legend (sort of) of the infamous headless ghost at the post production house basement in Kemang, South Jakarta, area. In the middle of the story, the lights suddenly went out and we all spontaneously screamed. It turned out the light’s switch was accidentally pressed while he’s standing leaning on it. Right there and then, we knew that with the right storytelling, horror content would be big.

We were right. Cerita Misteri Shopee quickly gained popularity and became one of our content pillars on Shopee ID Youtube channel up to date. In total we have produced 83 videos, in which 35 of them are collaborations with top tier horror Youtuber such as Risa Saraswati, Om Hao and Kisah Tanah Jawa team, Frislly Herlind, Filo Sebastian, and Ewing HD, while the rest of them are coming from Sobat Shopee real horror experiences.

Cerita Misteri Shopee becomes one of the content pillar on Shopee ID Youtube channel

You might wonder, what does an e-commerce company have to do with horror content in the first place? Well, sit tight. Google recently published a Youtube Culture & Trends Report 2022. It has so many interesting data and insights about people’s behaviour in producing and consuming content around the globe. They found the forces that drove pop culture’s evolution took three distinct forms: community creativity, multi-format creativity, and responsive creativity. The last form, responsive creativity, has a close relation—if not every notion regarding—to the horror content pillar I was telling since the beginning. 

In the report, Google translates the responsive creativity to “creation and consumption trends that derive from the ways people adapt video platforms to suit their psychological and emotional needs”. During the pandemic, there has been a significant number, a whopping 90% of viewers, specifically Gen Z, who watched a video that helped them feel like they were in a different place. While 83% of them have watched soothing content on YouTube to help calm and relax themselves. Most of them agree that they find comfort in creators who have familiarity with them. A sort of parasocial interaction (a kind of psychological relationship experienced by an audience in their mediated encounters with performers in the mass media, particularly on television and on online platforms) forms and exists between them and the creators. Michelle Choi is one of the ‘comfort creators’ who has a regular content series called Living Alone Diaries.

In a similar vein, many people also find comfort in horror content. 53% of Gen Z agree that online horror content appeals to them. It may seem contradictory, but there’s actually a scientific explanation behind this antithetical phenomenon.

When watching scary movies, we can experience psychological responses similar to exposure therapy, a technique used to treat anxiety disorders where we force ourselves to face fear in order to overcome it. A sort of a cathartic release for some.

In 2020, National Geographic published an article titled how horror movies can help people overcome real-world trauma. According to Mathias Clasen, Director of the Recreational Fear Lab and an Associate Professor in Literature and Media at Aarhus University in Denmark, the controlled fear experiences such as watching horror movies “may have positive effects in terms of fine-tuning coping strategies.” We are genuinely frightened, maybe even screamed while watching, but we’re also aware that we’ve done it from the safety of our bed or living room. The article further explains that a study of more than 300 people shows that horror fans are showing a much better psychological condition than non-fans during the distressing time of pandemic. 

Taking everything into consideration, the Shopee Brand Team decided to tap into the horror content as well for campaign promotion. It was a parody of a horror vlog, where a man is doing a livestream in the middle of the night in a supposedly abandoned complex with a dirty pool and lush trees. To make it more convincing, the video was posted on one of the biggest anonymous Instagram accounts in Indonesia. The strategy worked. People got hooked, intrigued, and stayed until the very end of the video when the Shopee brand message appeared.

So what’s next?

Like any other trends, as a genre, horror has evolved too. Still from the Youtube Culture & Trends Report 2022, Google defines the genre based on the generation. They reported that millennial horror tends to be more about the adrenaline rush of the jump scare. Remember Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or The Ring? While the younger generation or Gen Z prefer a  more atmospheric horror. That explains the found-footage style (think of The Blair Witch Project) or ‘analog horror’ trend has risen.

A little throwback to the early pandemic, there was a trend circulated among the online community called ‘liminal space’, which later formed a new “youth-driven internet folklore, The Backrooms”, wrote Samantha Culp, a journalist, writer, and creative strategist in her piece titled Liminal Dust-up

‘The Backrooms’ was originally a meme, posted in 4Chan on May 12, 2019, on a thread calling for “disquieting images” that “just feel off”. It’s the disturbing feeling of the unknown that has drawn many people into it. It now has spawned stories, comics, fan art, video games, and increasingly high-production value viral videos on YouTube.

Working in digital content production means we need to keep improving and adapting. In order to have a long lasting, meaningful, and great bonding with the viewers (with Gen Z as the majority), we have to understand their content consumption behaviour. What interests them and what’s relevant to them. And that specific part about the ‘Millennial vs Gen Z horror’ becomes valuable insight for us as we’re cooking something fresh for the viewers to enjoy!

So did our decision to add horror as one of the content pillars for Shopee ID Youtube work or did we just get lucky? I believe both answers are right. It’s a proven formula that ‘horror, comedy, and romance’ topics are among the best-selling topics in history. However, I’ve to admit that the timing is in our favour. Horror content consumption seems to have increased, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, and is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. In the meantime, we’re not so surprised to see our competitors (yes, plural) using the same strategy by tapping into horror content on their Youtube channel.

Break the Algorithmic Bias or Bias in Technology

There’s an Instagram acc which I find interesting: @taskforce_kbgo. They’re focused on breaking the gender bias online, including the #Google Translate bias.

Here’s the thing about Indonesian #language: it’s genderless. I personally think it’s a good thing. I prefer language as a neutral medium and not categorized to certain genders. But when it comes to translation, it’s getting tricky. Especially when the ‘translator’ doesn’t give the right context. The result can be confusing or deemed as bias.

Two weeks ago Crispin Porter Bogusky London’s powerful campaign for International Women’s Day went viral. No matter how progressive we think we are, we can’t deny that the unconscious bias can linger within us. 

Geoffrey Colon (whose Linkedin post is among the first ones I saw for this campaign) summed it up in one of his comment. He mentioned the root cause of unconscious bias is the years of impressions and images passed down to us through the media and imagery.

Then, what is the root cause of Google Translate unfair results? The answer is algorithmic bias. Wikipedia describes it as a systematic and repeatable errors in a computer system that create unfair outcomes, such as privileging one arbitrary group of users over others. Artificial Intelligences are biased because they are created by human. Those humans generate, collect, and determine what datasets and other variables the #algorithm learn from to make predictions. The whole process are prone to biases and can be embedded in the systems.

Google Translate is a free service from Google which use a translation algorithm called Statistical Machine Translation (SMT). It’s based on language pattern matching. So they will break down each sentence into individual words/ phrases to match with the ones on their database. Then they will string together the most frequently occurring translations for each component to construct the complete sentence translation.

They are really depend on their database, so when we tried to translate individual words or a bunch sentences, the accuracy will be relatively higher than if we translate the whole page or article. This happened because Google Translate doesn’t put context. The translations are basically just statistics. So if there are thousands usage of the word ‘CEO’ in their database and most of them were used for male, Google will automatically use that information to translate ‘CEO’ as a ‘he’.

I took a shot and combine phrases and sentences from the @taskforce_kbgo and CPB London post on Google Translate and got the same results except for one input. 

Disappointed, but not surprised. Men are ‘translated’ as someone who have higher level of job and personally tougher than women.

So how to improve the fairness in artificial intelligence outcomes? I believe it’s all comeback to those who created it: human. Welcoming more women in the #tech field can be the first and necessary step.

YouTube vs Instagram vs TikTok – A Compact Guide (2022)

The short-form video is trending and there’s one ‘culprit’ behind it: TikTok. Without a doubt, the new kid on the net, the newcomer who hasn’t been existed until 6 years ago, has proven its domination. TikTok is not only making everyone (especially Google‘s YouTube and Meta‘s Instagram) watching them cautiously, but also pushes both its predecessors to adapt quickly to the trend. 

It’s only March and the three rivals have already made big move: YouTube shuts down their YouTube Originals, TikTok increases duration to 10 minutes, and Instagram shuts down IGTV. 

In this guide, I provided a head-to-head comparison on four key aspects from each platforms: content, interactivity, community guideline & policy, and monetization, branding, & ads. Those are the main aspects which I think are important for all parties involved: users, creators, and brand.

Despite having its own strength and uniqueness that differ them with each other, the three seem to be believing the same thing:

The future of content is shoppable.

In the end, there are still two questions remain for me: 1) Do we need everything to be done in one app? and 2) Who’s going to win the market in the long run?

Whatever the answers will be, I hope you find this compact guide useful and could help you decide which platform works best for you or the brand you represent.

Download the PDF file for YouTube vs Instagram vs TikTok – A Compact Guide (2022) on Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/document/563111184/YouTube-vs-Instagram-vs-TikTok-A-Compact-Guide-2022.