Future trends 2022: Cross-Cultural Content
One of the most interesting trends over the coming months will be the impact of increased cultural diversity in the content that the world consumes.
This trend is already evident in a number of data points in our Global Digital Reports series, from people’s search queries and their use of online translation tools, to the TV shows, movies, music, and social media content that they’ve been consuming.
However, all the evidence points to the fact that this trend will accelerate in 2022, so it’s essential for anyone creating content for online audiences to make sense of what’s already happening, as well as what we might expect to happen in the months to come.
Let’s dig into the data to learn more, and explore some of the potential implications for marketers and content creators.
Rising use of online translation tools
Various data points in our Global Digital Reports series indicate that people are increasingly making use of tools that allow them to translate text from one language to another.
For example, 3 of the world’s top 20 Google search queries between July and September 2021 related to translation: “translate”, “traductor”, and “Google translate”.
Meanwhile, GWI’s ongoing research reveals that roughly 1 in 3 internet users aged 16 to 64 have used an online translation tool in the past 7 days, with that figure rising to more than 50 percent in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, and Indonesia.
Young women account for the largest share of online translators, with more than 4 in 10 female internet users aged 16 to 24 making use of these tools within the past week.
Older people are less likely to have converted text between different languages online, but more than 1 in 5 internet users aged 55 to 64 still use online translation tools each week.
Online translation tools still aren’t perfect, but they’re now sufficiently sophisticated that they enable people to make general sense of a far wider range of content than ever before.
This creates a variety of new opportunities for marketers, especially when we view this trend alongside the rise of cross-border ecommerce.
However, as international content becomes ever more accessible, and as more people visit online merchants outside of their home country, brands may find it increasingly difficult to justify different prices – and even different product ranges – across different countries.
Global TV content
The huge popularity of Squid Game, Netflix’s latest blockbuster series, has once again demonstrated the popularity of non-English-language content amongst the platform’s global audiences.
Well over 100 million people watched the dystopian Korean drama in the first 4 weeks after it launched, making it the platform’s most successful launch ever.
However, Squid Game isn’t the only “non-native-English” show to have gained widespread popularity on streaming platforms in recent months.
Lupin, La Casa De Papel (Money Heist), ¿Quién Mató A Sara? (Who Killed Sara?), and Yo Soy Betty, La Fea (Ugly Betty) have all reached millions of viewers around the world in 2021.
Furthermore, FlixPatrol data suggests that a non-native-English TV show topped the Netflix charts in all 83 countries that the service profiles every day between October 1st and 12th.
Squid Game has dominated the rankings across most countries in the first half of October 2021, but Korean drama series Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha has also been hugely popular across Asia.
Danish crime series Kastanjemanden (The Chestnut Man) and Turkish comedy series Love 101 also made the top spots in their home markets.
It’s worth highlighting that many people – especially native English speakers – will prefer to watch ‘dubbed’ versions of these shows in their own language where available, rather than relying on subtitles.
However, language isn’t the only factor we need to consider when exploring the impact of increased cultural diversity.
For example, Korean music, fashion, and food have enjoyed outsized influence across much of Southeast Asia over recent months, as the popularity of ‘K-dramas’ has soared across the region.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course; Hollywood has been exporting American culture, values, and brands for decades.
However, the rise of global streaming platforms like Netflix has made ‘international’ content far more accessible to worldwide audiences, especially because those audiences now have greater control over what they watch, and when they watch it.
As Lucas Shaw observed in a recent Bloomberg article (emphasis mine),
“When all is said and done, Netflix’s greatest impact on pop culture will not be allowing us to “binge watch,” or stream TV on-demand. It will be globalising the entertainment business, creating a platform for people from more than 190 countries to watch stories from all over the world.”
The global nature of social media adds momentum to this trajectory, ensuring that great content spreads farther and faster than it ever could before.
Indeed, early viewers’ rave reviews for Squid Game across public social networks and in private messenger conversations likely played an important role in helping the show reach the number one spot in more than 80 countries barely days after its launch.
But the popularity of international content isn’t limited to TV shows and movies.
Music to our ears
We’re seeing similar trends in the music world too, with global audiences seemingly ever more enthusiastic about songs in languages other than English.
Furthermore, just as we saw with TV content, the fact that so much of today’s music finds an audience through global social media channels like TikTok, there’s even more chance for people to discover and fall in love with non-English-language songs from around the world.
But TikTok’s influence isn’t limited to music.
Changing social algorithms
TikTok has been one of the standout success stories in digital over the past couple of years, and the platform now reaches more than 1 billion active users every month.
However, TikTok isn’t just another social platform.
The key difference between TikTok and platforms like Instagram and Snapchat is the algorithm that TikTok uses to determine which content should be shown to which users.
Critically, TikTok’s algorithm appears to rely on platform-wide engagement, rather than engagement within a user’s social graph.
This means that content on TikTok has greater potential to spread around the world more quickly than it would on platforms that depend more heavily on our personal connections.
As a result, TikTok’s billion-plus users are now more likely to be exposed to more culturally diverse content than they might see on other social platforms.
However, TikTok content has also proven to be highly ‘portable’, with many of the top clips on Instagram and YouTube also carrying the distinctive TikTok watermark.
But given the widespread popularity of TikTok – and the value that the platform has created for its owner, ByteDance, it’s highly likely that other platforms will adopt similar approaches to content propagation.
As a result, we can expect to see even more international content from a wider range of creators and cultures filling our social media feeds over the coming months.
So what do all of these trends mean for you?
Well, the key takeaway is that culture is becoming ever more fluid.
Language is much less of a barrier than it used to be, partly because people are able to translate content into their native tongue, and partly because people seem to be increasingly comfortable consuming ‘foreign language’ content.
Similarly, international content is more accessible than it ever has been, meaning that people are better able to discover, enjoy, and share content from all corners of the world.
But this also means that culture evolves much faster than it did just a few years ago.
Trends seem to come and go much faster than they used to, perhaps because it’s so much easier for everyone around the world to “get involved” at the same time.
This rapid evolution poses challenges for marketers and investors, but it also presents a wealth of new opportunities.
In particular, we’re seeing something of a resurgence of the simultaneously shared experiences that used to characterise linear TV, where seemingly everyone would tune in to the latest episode of Friends at the same time.
The key difference today is that those simultaneous experiences aren’t restricted to audiences in just one country.
The common reference points that these shared experiences create enable a greater number of people to participate in ‘real-time conversations’ (aside: were your social media feeds suddenly full of Squid Game references too?).
Jumping on every new cultural bandwagon isn’t always a good idea, of course, but for many brands – especially those that “live in culture”, like fashion brands – the ability to participate in today’s ‘hot conversations’ offers various opportunities to build audience affinity, and potentially brand relevance along with it.
This doesn’t mean that all your marketing needs to become reactive though; nor does it mean that you need to join in every conversation.
Indeed, when everybody else is talking about the same thing, simply changing the subject may be the easiest path to distinctiveness.
The secret to tapping into these new opportunities is to stay abreast of your audience’s most salient cultural references.
However, this isn’t anything new, because you should already be paying close attention to your audience’s interests, preferences, and behaviours.
However, those interests, preferences, and behaviours appear to be changing more quickly than they ever have before.
As a result, you may need to increase the frequency with which you review and update your audience ‘profiles’.
Research will provide invaluable inputs into this process, but simply immersing yourself in the channels and content that your audiences consume will also help you to develop a more ‘intuitive’ feel for your consumers’ cultural zeitgeist.
If you’re not sure where to begin, or if you’d like more hands-on help making sense of what cross-cultural opportunities mean for your business, our custom briefings and advisory services are a great place to start.