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The 5 biggest social media trends we saw in 2023

The 5 biggest social media trends we saw in 2023

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Trends come and go, and in 2023, we’ve certainly seen some that have taken the internet by storm.

Whether it’s a viral trend on social media or a yearly marketing tactic that has been adopted, consumers and brands alike have gobbled it up, created their own renditions and made a huge impact in the ever-changing industry we know as digital marketing.

While the longevity of said trends remain to be seen as we head into the new year, here are the top five biggest trends MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has tracked in 2023.

Don't miss: 10 media trends marketers should take note of in 2024 

1. Girl Math

Personal finance became sexy throughout the month of August this year with the introduction of ‘Girl Math’. Girl Math is a TikTok trend where women (and men) explained and justified spending habits – no matter how exorbitant the price tag might be.

The girl math trend originated from a recurring New Zealand radio segment by the same name hosted on the Fletch, Vaughan & Hayley morning show. In the segment, listeners send in details about purchases they have made, and co-host Hayley Sproull and other producers will try to justify the spending.

Users on TikTok later picked up on the segment and started making videos justifying their purchases from a SG$6,500 Van Cleef Bracelet to topping up Starbucks member cards.

In the world of ‘Girl Math’, consumerism and buying sale items is a form of saving, and expensive purchases are technically free or cost-effective if you use it multiple times, making it cheaper per cost of use.

For example, if you purchase the SG$619 Supersonic Hair Dryer from Dyson, and dry your hair once every day for a straight year – that’s only SG$1.69 per use. See? Girl math.

Today, the #GirlMath tag has received over 1.9 billion views.

2. Lavender Sharpie

A scandal involving Sharpie markers left the internet a frenzy this year. TikTok page @welovemarkers, whose identity remains unknown, garnered 38.5 million views at the point of writing after narrating the affairs of the fictional ‘Sharpie High’.

The series started with a scene in ‘Sharpie High’, a school seemingly inspired by teen dramas Gossip Girl and Riverdale, and involved Sharpie pens named after their respective colours. Things at ‘Sharpie High’ were fine until Lavender, showed up. @welovemarkers currently have 10 videos documenting the drama between the Sharpie pens Lavender, Pink, Purple, Blue and Mint.

Netizens became heavily invested, some even spawning videos and making tweets cancelling the lavender colour in good fun. The trend went so viral that it caught the attention of the official Sharpie account.

In response, Sharpie changed its profile picture to one that cancels out the colour lavender. Sharpie also uploaded videos that included users removing the lavender Sharpie from its multi-colour packs.

3. The Barbie movie

This July, towns were painted pink in conjunction with the release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.

The marketing team had a whopping estimated US$150 million budget and used it to good use with numerous collaborations. Fashion brands such as dUCK, Aldo, Zara, Crocs and more put out hot pink collection, a giant Barbie dreamhouse with AirBnb was activated and a building sized 3D ad was erected in Dubai. Even stationary from Typo, coffee from Flash Coffee and suitcases from Béis were Barbie-themed.

With such a reach, the Barbie movie has made significant impact. So much so that some marketers might argue that seeing anything even remotely associated to Barbie – such as actress Margot Robbie or anything pink for the matter – created awareness of the Barbie brand.

The impact was later magnified when it was revealed that the movie would be released on the same day as Christopher Nolan’s anticipated Oppenheimer movie – birthing another trend, #Barbenheimer, where fans battled online to show loyalty to either movie, made memes and even detailed itineraries of how they were going to catch both movies on the same day.

4. Trendjacking 

This year, many brands participated in trendjacking.

Trendjacking is a marketing strategy where brands create content based on popular topics, sounds, hashtags or events using the relevance of these social media trends to promote products or services. It is basically jumping onto a hot topic to capitalise its momentum and gain more exposure for the brand. 

We saw this as early as June when the Taylor Swift's Eras Singapore tour was announced. Although tickets didn't go on sale until July, brands such as foodpanda, Frank by OCBC and Ikea Singapore hopped on the trend and released TikTok videos and social media posts related to the craze of buying expensive concert tickets. 

Also in June, British rock group Coldplay announced that its coming to Asia, and will be performing not just one, but six nights in Singapore. Brands from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia joined in the hype, some of which include Durex Malaysia, Netflix Indonesia and Trust Bank Singapore. 

Most recently, brands trendjacked Spotify's viral Wrapped campaign and released their own versions. Some of those brands were Lazada Singapore with a graphic revealing Top Activities such as ‘Crying to 9% GST’ and 'Saying “omg cute but do I rly need it?” when you shop on LazBeauty’.

5. Tube girl

In August 2023, 'tube girl' arrived on the scene. Malaysian content creator Sabrina Bahsoon filmed herself dancing and lip-syncing on the London Underground, also known as the Tube by locals, and uploaded it on TikTok – birthing the ‘Tube Girl’ moniker and trend.

The original video, captioned, ‘Being the friend who lives on the other side of the city so you gotta hype yourself up during the commute,’ stunned TikTok users with Bahsoon’s confidence. The video garnered 13.3 million views and 844.3k likes.

Up till the point of writing, the #TubeGirl tag has amassed 1.8 billion views, with other users and brands hopping on the trend and recreating Bahsoon’s videos. It didn’t take long for the trend to make its way to Asia, with local brands such as Carousell, Shopee and Uniqlo hopping on board too.

Related articles:
IKEA UK trendjacks Balenciaga's US$925 towel skirt with creative version
5 important consumer trends brands should look out for in 2024
Double 11 meets AI: How brands can leverage the trend to boost long-term sales 

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