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Filipinos Are Suckers for Western Pop Culture. Here's Proof

Numbers don't lie.
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
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That Filipinos are obsessed with Western pop culture is common knowledge. We sing and dance to the music of American pop stars, watch the latest Disney and Marvel blockbusters, and worship Hollywood celebrities. That’s not even up for debate. 

So the question is, just how much influence does the West have on Filipinos?

The answer, based on the latest study by the iPrice Group, is quite a bit.

Ecommerce aggregator iPrice studied the impact of Hollywood brand ambassadors and western media coverage in Southeast Asia by observing the Google search volume of certain products and variables that have been “trendy” in the West due to media coverage and/or celebrity influencers. These variables include the brands Crocs and Yeezy, green hair dye, and cryptocurrency. 

According to iPrice’s data, western pop culture significantly skews the Philippines’ online purchasing interest.

Photo by iPrice Group.

1| Crocs

Footwear bearing the Crocs brand has often straddled the line between hopelessly uncool and latest fashion must-have. Based on iPrice’s research, Google searches for the brand in the Philippines would spike every time Crocs would engage in a collaboration.

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In July 2020, for example, Crocs announced a partnership with KFC: chicken-themed sandals that were either mesmerizing or horrifying, depending on your taste level. But Google searches for Crocs spiked 121 percent that month in the country compared to January 2020.

A few months later, in September 2020, Crocs announced a collaboration with rapper-songwriter Bad Bunny, followed by one with Justin Bieber, which caused Google searches to skyrocket 185% versus the beginning of the year.

By December last year, searches for the brand surged further by 278 percent following an endorsement by actress Priyanka Chopra and a partnership with pop superstar Post Malone.

Filipinos’ obsession with Western media is even more glaring compared to our neighbors in Southeast Asia. iPrice data show that, in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia, the Google search volumes aren’t as huge. For instance, searches for Crocs reached only over 37,000 in Indonesia, a country that has more than 3x the Philippines’ Google population.

2| Green hair

Any fan of pop darling Billie Eilish would know that she’s been rocking the green hair look since at least 2019. She even appeared on the cover of Elle magazine with her trademark green roots, and then posted it on Instagram. According to iPrice, Google searches in the Philippines for green hair dye increased 72 percent in the Philippines versus the month before and after the Elle cover.

In March 2020, Eilish made an appearance at the Oscars and debuted on the cover of fashion bible Vogue. Again, searches on green hair dye spiked 141 percent compared to the beginning of 2020.

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And it didn’t stop there. Every time the Grammy-winning pop star released content, searches for green hair dye increased. In May 2020, she released a short film and endorsed it on Instagram. Two months later, she came out with the animated music video for “My Future,” in which she appeared with, you guessed it, green roots. Google searches for green hair dye reached its peak then as it surged more than six times versus the beginning of the year. Another spike came when the “Therefore I Am” music video came out in November 2020.

Perhaps they’re not as big fans of Eilish, or they’re not followers of Western pop music at all, but other Southeast Asian countries just weren’t as interested about green hair dye enough to Google it, at least not as much as Filipinos were.

3| Yeezy

In 2016, Kanye West performed in the Philippines for the first and so far only time during the Paradise Music Festival. The venue was packed, proving that the controversial rap superstar had a massive Filipino following. 

Expectedly, every time West announced any exciting reveals, there were remarkable spikes in the Philippines’ Google searches. In December 2020, about a month after declaring he would run for President (again) in 2024, the rapper announced the release of Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Yeezreel. Searches for Yeezy soared 132 percent compared to the beginning of the year.

The same thing happened in July 2020, when West announced a team-up with Gap. Searches for Yeezy increased 37 percent compared to the beginning of the year when he announced the release of the 2020 Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Bred. 

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4| Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency isn’t exactly new, but Filipinos’ interest about it surges each time a well-known celebrity, mogul or so-called “influencer” mentions it.

West talked about cryptocurrency in Joe Rogan’s podcast in October 2020. In December 2020, Elon Musk tweeted about Dogecoin. Those sent searches for cryptocurrency soaring by 53 percent.

In February 2021, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Jay Z, and Snoop Dogg started all mentioned cryptocurrency. Tesla announced its $1.5 billion purchase of Bitcoin in the same month. At the end of March 2021, Snoop Dogg announced the release of his first NFT collection. Shortly after in April 2021, Paris Hilton talked about Bitcoin and NFT as well. Searches for cryptocurrency in the Philippines reached a two-year high after: 542 percent compared to the month West talked about it in Rogan’s podcast. 

According to iPrice, we can’t discount the possibility that cryptocurrency is just a hot topic at the moment, especially since surges in search volume were also observed in other Southeast Asian countries.  But all these statements from Western influencers undeniably helped spread the information to the general public.

All of this just further proves how much Filipinos are suckers for Western pop culture, and will latch on to almost anything, as long as it’s delivered by a famous pop music artist, social media influencer, or Hollywood celebrity.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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