Behind the Linkedin Curtains: What We’re Not Talking About

It’s intriguing how we seem to have an unspoken “agreement” that professional platforms like LinkedIn should remain untouched by discussions on the Palestinian occupation. Judging by the scarce – almost non-existent – posts related to the occupation in Palestine, save for a few from Western news outlets that, well, you know how they can be.

Is it that the platform is not the “right place” for such discourse? Is there a sterile space in social media? Or perhaps we shouldn’t mix business with ‘personal beliefs’? Our professional affiliations and industry ties often compel us to tread lightly on matters unrelated to our jobs.

To date, I’ve yet to see corporations openly take a stance or show support. Few individuals post about it either. And when they do, the comment section is often dominated by pro-occupation voices. Or perhaps I’m just not well-connected enough?

I’m secretly hoping to stumble upon a tech bro or sis spilling some enlightening beans on this issue. But no, instead, it’s an avalanche of ChatGPT tutorials, the A to Z of digital marketing, and the secret sauce for “viral” content. 

There’s a universe of vital topics to delve into. For instance, the role of social media during occupation times – how each side leverages platforms differently to disseminate information, fact-check, and rally support. *Final year students, jot this down for your thesis/dissertation ideas.*

And for the tech aficionados constantly buzzing about AI: there’s also that post on platform X featuring an AI-generated Bella Hadid video to sway opinions. Flagrantly false, it was promptly flagged by X’s community guidelines. (Honestly, that was a facepalm moment.) Lastly, let’s ponder how TikTok, indirectly through its platform, plays a role in fostering and amplifying inhumane trends that debase our shared humanity.

So come on, surprise us with a post that’s both impactful and meaningful. Challenge accepted?

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?

Until Next Time, Museum of 100 Days!

Documenta fiffteen has officially ended yesterday. I couldn’t be more proud of ruangrupa as the first Indonesian artistic director of this world renowned and prestigious art exhibition! Their approach was radical, focused on collaboration and networking/ shared value (hence ‘lumbung’ as a concept), rather than curator-led. ruangrupa invited art collectives, organisations, and institutions from around the world, and they invited another artists/collaborators for their project, and so on. So God knows the exact number of participating artists in this documenta edition!

Despite the controversies that were surrounding (you can google it yourself, but it’s safe to say I’m on their side), ruangrupa has shown us what a non-eurocentric art exhibition looked like.

Taken from the last day of documenta fifteen. Seen on stage Ade Darmawan and Reza Afisina (two of ruangrupa board members) in front of thousands of documenta fifteen supporters (collectives, artists, local citizen, etc). (Credit: Marishka Soekarna, one of the participating artist, shared via Whatsapp group)

Although I live 11,000 km away from Kassel, Germany, where documenta fifteen took place, I can feel how heartwarming and full of solidarity this whole ‘lumbung’ and ‘ecosystem’ exhibition was through their well organized virtual programs and daily updates on social media. Of course I didn’t hesitate when ruangrupa asked me to be the editor for their Indonesian and English edition of Lumbung magazine.

majalah lumbung documenta fifteen id-en
Two edition of Majalah Lumbung (Indonesian-English version)

As part of the exhibition, documenta fifteen was publishing two issues of a magazine that hone in on the core idea of the exhibition, which is collective working. In total there are 26 works, written by Indonesian (spread from Aceh to Papua) writers, researchers, and contributors. It’s a humbling experience to be able to work (even just to edit and proofread her writing) with prominent figures, such as Prof. Melani Budianta, M.A., PhD.

(Read my previous writing about Majalah Lumbung magazine here.)

I guess 2022 to me is about bidding farewell and gaining something new from it. Congratulations once again to ruangrupa, organising committee, and to all collectives, organisation, and institutions! My highest respect to all Indonesian artists involved, I’m a proud friend/ collaborator! ✊

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 👉🏻

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.