Using 2023 cultural shifts to inform 2024 whitespace
No one needs to be reminded of the clear winners in the 2023 pop culture battle for hype. We all heard about the Barbie movie, Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, Twitter becoming X (competing with Meta’s new social kid on the block, Threads), and ChatGPT.
Beyond these major buzz-worthy launch events, there have been other more subtle cultural shifts happening which sometimes go unnoticed unless explicitly called out.
At Audiense, we wanted to highlight some of these more discreet trends we’ve been noticing across consumer affinities and mindsets to help marketers potentially uncover emerging “whitespace” for 2024.
Here are our top 10 culture trends, in no particular order.
1. Fight or flight
Whether it’s the long-reigning appeal of WWE, or now kickboxing, we seem to like a good fight.
Over the last year, there has been extreme follower growth in the X accounts of the Tate brothers, Tristan and Andrew, and in Fight Haven. All three of these accounts ranked among the top 6 highest-growing handles of the larger-scale ones we studied.
And, of course, we’re all still awaiting whether Zuck and Elon will show us who’s boss.
2. Context is everything, but no context is funnier
Humor never goes out of style. Many so-called “no context” accounts were thriving this year, providing continuous giggles.
Some of the more popular ones either showed up in over 25% of the audiences studied or saw follower growth of more than 75%, including: Out of Context Human (@NoContextHumans), No Context Humans (@HumansNoContext), Out Of Context Football (@nocontextfooty), and Out of Context Dogs (@contextdogs).
3. Kingdom of meme-dom
Meme culture is also still alive and well, now adapting to the web3 era.
Memeland and Memecoin were both among the top 20 large-scale growth accounts on X, as was the account for the CEO who is behind these initiatives, Ray Chan (AKA @9GAGCEO). Billy Markus (AKA Shibetoshi Nakamoto), the personality behind another meme coin, Dogecoin, also saw over 30% growth in his follower base.
And the large-scale account with the #1 highest growth on X was The GM Show (@GMShowofficial), a Memeland-produced podcast which covers the Asian web3 scene. This particular handle only launched in May 2023 and has already grown to 2.2 million followers.
4. Life of luxury
Despite the inflationary times, there is a growing interest in all things luxurious, according to Meta data.
This “treat yourself” mentality encompasses an increased affinity for luxury watches (especially Audemars Piguet), luxury resorts, high-end brands like Cartier, and exclusive cars (particularly Ferrari and Porsche). Maybe it’s aspirational, or maybe the rich just keep getting richer. Even forms of collecting, including contemporary art collections, surged in popularity among Meta users.
Also noteworthy was the small growth experienced in the Luxury Travel Advisor account on X. Indeed, travel in general is back in vogue with various airlines seeing increased brand affinity over the last several months. Meta data also shows us that interest in the city of Amman, Jordan has expanded significantly, potentially suggestive of it being an up-and-coming travel destination.
5. Koreaboo kraze
It’s a thing to be obsessed with Korean culture. We saw nearly everything related to Korea spiking significantly on Meta, including Korean cuisine, Korean drama, Korean language, Korean pop idols, and even the brand Korean Air.
On X, the media handles of @Koreaboo and @DazedKorea both saw growth. Most noteworthy, NewJeans is taking off on the K-pop scene as the up-and-coming girl band with over 265% follower growth on @NewJeans_twt and 152% on @NewJeans_ADOR.
6. Nostalgic for history
As we ponder our collective future, there is increased interest in how we got here, reflected by the high growth in various history-related X accounts.
We’ve evolved from old-school textbooks to modern meme-based and pictorial sources of information including Historic Vids (@historyinmemes), Fascinating (@fasc1nate), and History Photographed (@historyinpics). Oppenheimer, anyone?
A starving boy and a missionary in Uganda, 1980 - In 1980 Mike Wells took this powerful photograph of a Catholic missionary holding the hand of a starving Ugandan boy. Mike Wells explained to Holland Herald magazine, in an interview after winning the World Press Photo of the Year… pic.twitter.com/sHDgxhef9g— History Photographed (@HistoryInPics) January 15, 2024
7. Educate me
Beyond history lessons, we are craving schooling on other fronts too. Such accounts as World of Engineering (@engineers_feed), World of Statistics (stats_feed), The Cultural Tutor (@culturaltutor), and HOW THINGS WORK (@HowThingsWork_) are all increasingly popular sources for our daily knowledge fix.
One major “voice” in this space is the Professor Feynman account (@ProfFeynman), named after the American theoretical physicist, which appeared as an interest in more than 30% of the audiences studied.
8. New stars are shining
Every year we see new emerging celebrities with influencer potential. Let’s break these up by category.
In terms of musicians, Ice Spice saw the largest popularity spike among large-scale X accounts with her follower base growing by 435%. Although GloRilla’s follower base is slightly smaller, her fan growth exceeded 200%. Affinity for Nigerian artist TEMS has also expanded. As for general music trends, we noticed a visible uptick in DJ music according to Meta interests, and specifically observed increased popularity in South African-based DJs like @DJTira and @DJZinhle on X.
As far as social influencers go, Michael Reeves the “comedy-tech” streamer is someone who influenced more than 30% of the audiences studied. Other frequently seen creator personalities included ConcernedApe (a video game developer and all-around creative guy), Speed (the YouTuber also known as @ishowspeedsui), Wisdom Kaye (the TikTok fashionista star known as @modsiwW), and Adin Ross (another streamer).
Popularity grew for Matt Taibbi, the author. One entrepreneur who stood out for appearing frequently in reports was Sahil Bloom, an aspirational business leader with an athletic background. Speaking of athletes, interest in the F1 driver, Charles Leclerc, grew significantly in terms of followership as did interest in Jude Bellingham, the footballer. In terms of popular sports teams, Inter Miami CF saw growth of 575%. And, DjMaRiiO is another popular social influencer who talks about sports.
Pop Base is growing as a go-to media source for everything pop culture. In terms of entertainment, interest in the anime-based movie franchises of Dragon Ball and One Piece increased this year on Meta. And Pokémon and Naruto are both still going strong. As for TV, the long-running French soap opera ‘Plus belle la vie’ saw a significant rise in popularity among both Instagram and Facebook users despite the show ending in late 2022. Its strong traction among French speakers seems to have sparked a planned return in January 2024, but unfortunately with one fewer cast member, Marwan Berreni, who recently passed away. This show sounds like a great potential content acquisition choice for a streaming service. Another Suits phenomenon perhaps?
9. Spacing out
The other kind of star mattered this year too. Our fascination with space is still rocketing. There were numerous large-scale space-related accounts that significantly grew in popularity on X over the past year, including NASA itself, various NASA-related handles, and the International Space Station. A Dutch researcher named Frank Hoogerbeets, who studies planetary positions to forecast earthquakes, also saw a dramatic increase in his following. Not to mention SpaceX, of course.
10. Brands for the win
On Meta, we are seeing increasing adoption of the “brands lover” mindset. This means more people are searching brands, wanting to receive information about brands, and expecting inspirational lifestyle content.
Sneaker culture is no exception here with interest in Air Jordan increasing by 39%, and sneaker collecting generally on the rise. In terms of other fashion, affinity for AllSaints grew by over 160% and Abercrombie & Fitch by 34%.
- Organically inclined: Organic and ethical food is still something we care about according to Instagram trends. One brand of fruit spreads, Crofter’s Organic, was seen as a specific interest across a significant number of audiences studied.
- Girl power: Beyond female musicians, there were also female streamers like Rivers (AKA @samyriveratv) of Twitch fame seeing a surge, and accounts like Women Posting W's.
- Morbidity is alive: Whether it was the TikTok trend around the Grimace Shake causing instant death, or the extreme follower growth in accounts like 1000 WAYS TO DIE and Morbid Knowledge, we seem a little obsessed.
So what does this all mean, and why should you care? We’re in the business of audience insights that help marketers understand their consumers and changing preferences. You can use these insights as fodder for considering how 2024 might be the year for launching a book, movie biopic, or documentary featuring historic figures, fighters, or meme pioneers. Or, maybe you’ll want to ensure that your latest product launch is inspired by Korean culture. No matter which vertical you specialize in, it’s useful to know how to draw upon cultural waves to optimize content strategy, ad creative, media planning, brand partnerships, collaborations, product development, and influencer selection.
As we write this, a perfect example of blending these trends together to meet consumer demand is being featured in the news - i.e. the jewellery collaboration between the luxury-brand Tiffany and anime-favorite Pokémon.
Our trends methodology
At Audiense, we have access to lots of social data that is ripe for exploration including from X (Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram.
For X (Twitter): We studied changes in the follower growth of mainstream handles (i.e. primarily those currently boasting over 2M followers) from November 2022 to November 2023, and looked at the most frequently-seen handles appearing across our 2023 audience reports with yet-to-be-assigned categorization.
For Meta: We tracked various interest-related metrics in the months of March-October 2023 and then measured the deviation in the most recent month of October against the overall period average.
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