Weeks before the intended release date of the “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” movies–which were released on the same day: July 21–an online term sprang from its growing popularity amongst fans. The term ‘Barbenheimer’ became synonymous with the growing excitement of fans debating whether they should watch either “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” or choose both of them and watch back-to-back.

And while the ‘Barbenheimer’ effect was something that was widely accepted by a large chunk of netizens, this was not the same case for Japanese users, considering the sensitivity of the “Oppenheimer” movie theme as it delved into the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the “Manhattan Project” and being responsible for the development of USA’s first atomic bomb.

Recently, the “Barbie” Twitter account handled by its US counterpart reacted to a fan art depicting Barbie (played by Margot Robbie) and Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy) against the backdrop of a mushroom cloud explosion caused by an atomic bomb. While the interaction has been since deleted, this did not sit well with Japanese fans, saying that it was ‘insensitive’ to the real atrocities and horrors brought by the two atomic bomb explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

In response, the Japanese Twitter account of “Barbie”, handled by Warner Bros. Japan, released an apology statement, stating that it regrets the interaction of their American counterparts in regards to these social media postings. It also added that aside from taking it very seriously, they have also asked its American counterparts to take appropriate action. A day after the apology was released, Warner Bros. USA also released a statement, stating that it regrets its insensitive social media engagement, and has also apologised for said action.

While “Oppenheimer” hasn’t been released in the Japanese market considering the sensitivity of the topic, online discussion regarding the movie and the “Barbenheimer” trend persists in the local market. To learn more about what Japanese users think of these recent events, MARKETECH APAC’s dedicated deep-dive The Inner States series tapped social insights and analytics solutions provider Meltwater to learn more about the insights surrounding this online trend.

Negative Sentiment Spikes Following Apology Statement

According to data from Meltwater, further negative sentiment amongst Japanese spiked during the apology statement released from Warner Bros. Japan in July 31 and gradually died out the next day following an apology from Warner Bros. USA.

It is also worth noting that prior to the apology statements from Warner Bros., there has been an uptick already of negative sentiments regarding the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon. Such type of sentiment accounts for 41.5% of online discussion. However, neutral sentiment still dominated with a 54.5% share of online discussion.

Most of the negative sentiment came from Twitter users, accounting to 40% of online sentiment in the platform. Meanwhile, discussions on Reddit leaned towards more positive-driven sentiment, accounting to 40% of discussion. 

For Weldon Fung, social solutions lead for Southeast Asia at Meltwater, the online sentiment analysis shows how marketing–regardless if its fan-driven or conceptualised by a marketing team–must also take into account the cultural sensitivities of the market they target reaching for.

“This incident reminds businesses, especially entertainment ones that operate globally, that cultural nuances and sensitivity is critical to any marketing campaign. And while ‘Oppenheimer’ is a movie specifically filmed in the perspective of the American Manhattan project, its conflation with a more pop cultural brand is a regrettable instance for the Japanese market,” he stated.

What Are The Online Terms That Dominated the Discussion

Evidently, following the uptick in online discussion on “Barbenheimer”, the hashtag #NoBarbenheimer trended in Japanese Twitter, accounting to around ~26,900 mentions on Twitter.

In terms of negative terms being mentioned, the most mentioned is kinoko kumo, which translates to ‘mushroom cloud’. The term signifies the shape of the atomic bomb explosion in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945 respectively. The atrocity done by the United States killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, with many of the survivors, referred to locally as hibakusha, still suffering from the effects of the bombings.

Meanwhile, the most-mentioned positive-centric keyword was ‘apology’, referring to the outcry from Japanese users to have Warner Bros. apologise for their insensitive actions on social media.

Fung also added that following this incident, brands such as those in the entertainment industry should be more careful in how they would target their marketing in the locality.

“It’s moments like this, before and during a campaign launch or in this case a “fan movement” to be utilising tools that can give real-time sensory feedback on the consumer response particularly for key overseas markets. We’ve seen this many times before where things get a little “lost in translation” as it goes overseas,” he explained.

Fung further added, “The more critical point is that tools like social listening become even more important when co-creation with fans is part of the marketing strategy. Consumers and Fans now have more say over the narrative of brands so it’s important that having a real-time sense on where the brand is going at all times.” 

The recent brand ambassador announcement by Shopee Philippines has caused a wide range of reactions amongst Filipinos online, with the majority turning against Shopee for tapping local celebrity Toni Gonzaga who is known for her controversial support of now-president Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. 

As of this writing, Shopee has defended its decision, stating that Gonzaga was chosen for her ‘mass appeal’, and not for her ‘political views’.

Despite this, clamour and discussion regarding Shopee Philippines’ announcement remained. In light of this, MARKETECH APAC has tapped social media monitoring Digimind to learn more about how the negative flak unfolded–as told by social media data.

Are Social Mentions Equal to ‘Boycott’ Sentiment?

Digimind noted in its data that social media mentions of Shopee spiked following the brand ambassador announcement, peaking at 286,495 on September 29. Said day was the time Shopee Philippines uploaded a teaser video of Gonzaga as the new brand ambassador.

However, despite the large volume of tweets mentioning Shopee, social media mentions, specifically those suggesting the boycott, only took 0.4% of all social media mentions. Despite the small percentage, this still amounts to a fairly sizeable volume of4,000 netizens expressing their opinion to boycott Shopee.

According to Olivier Girard, head of Digimind for APAC, influencers will always be on the verge of receiving scrutiny, especially when being associated with a partisan group or cause. 

“While consumers are familiar with the concept of influencers or celebrities endorsing brands, brands now need to have a more stringent process in place when assessing each influencer’s fit for their brand or campaign. Any brand, large or small, runs the risk of facing some level of social scrutiny or backlash when announcing a public figure with uncertainty over the public might receive them,” he said.

Was There a Spillover to Rival Platform Lazada?

 Following the negative flak to Shopee, numerous citizens have shown interest in moving to rival e-commerce platform Lazada, which is also one of the most popular e-commerce platforms in the country.

However, Digimind notes that the social media conversations around Shopee still eclipse those about Lazada, showing that resentment towards the former is much stronger than renewed support for the latter. Over the course of September 26 to October 3, Shopee registered around ~2M social media mentions while Lazada only managed to get around ~145k social media mentions. In addition, Shopee’s mentions reached around ~11m users while Lazada reached around ~5.2m.

“Where brand reputation is concerned, it is therefore critical that brands evaluate potential ambassadors closely in the domain of social media,” Girard said, related to how brands should pick their next brand ambassador.

Who and Where the Discussion is Coming From

Digimind noted a great number of discussions related to Shopee come from sellers themselves and users that are greatly concerned about the welfare of the sellers.

A handful of small businesses and online shops have decided to create a business account, with some saying that they would not support a platform that ‘enables [political lies]’, as well as ‘unjust termination of employees’. Netizens have pointed out the irony from Shopee Philippines’ side in retrenching employees in order to ‘optimise’ operations and then contracting a new brand ambassador afterwards. 

Girard said that it’s important for brands to obtain consumer sentiments to help them prepare communication contingencies ahead of time, as in the case of Shopee. 

“[This] can help brands identify influencer profiles that match their target community and sieve any negative sentiment your marketing and social teams might otherwise miss out on in the macro analysis,” Girard explained.

In the end, the brand ambassador announcement for Shopee Philippines went on as usual, albeit social engagement against them has diminished over time. Time will only tell how these media social sentiments truly play out in the longer run.

Singapore – Customer service tech Zendesk recently announced Intelligent Triage and Smart Assist, new artificial intelligence (AI) solutions empowering businesses to triage customer support requests automatically and access valuable data at scale. By democratising access to these solutions, Zendesk aims to help companies better understand intent and sentiment through account-specific, data-driven models that are customised for individual use cases and drive faster resolutions. 

According to Zendesk’s own study, only 7% of Singapore businesses are qualified as ‘CX Champions’ – those considered the highest standard-bearers – meaning there are only a few organisations in Singapore delivering exceptional customer services. Industry analysts also predict that AI will touch the majority of customer service interactions in the near future – but Zendesk research shows less than a third of companies are currently using AI to help their service teams become more efficient. 

Intelligent Triage and Smart Assist are the next step in Zendesk’s vision to create accessible CX AI for companies of all sizes. The technology uses proprietary industry expertise and insights from trillions of customer data points and applies a vertical lens, creating custom models for businesses that are capable of identifying the intent, language and sentiment of each customer interaction. 

This unique approach to applying machine learning creates more personalised and informed interactions to better serve customers. Specific inquiries, such as “I’m having problems with payment”, can be automatically sent to an agent equipped to handle billing for a quicker resolution, while inquiries that include language written in all capital letters or in a sarcastic way will indicate a highly negative sentiment and be routed to the top of the queue. 

The new capabilities will enable to instantly route and prioritise revenue drivers, ensuring agents are working on business-critical requests. Brands and companies will also be able to analyse distribution of requests so businesses can better plan operations, collaborate across departments and identify improvement opportunities supported by data for more efficient CX operations.

Other capabilities of the new solutions also enable to automatically guide agents on how to best resolve a customer’s issue in real-time, continuously boost accuracy as the AI solutions receive feedback on predictions and recommendations, and detect sensitive information automatically to meet compliance and security needs or extract confidential data like names, addresses, phone numbers, usernames, and financial info for use in workflows 

All these capabilities are offered out-of-the box, included with The Zendesk Suite Enterprise Edition, instead of requiring months of training or costly developer support. 

“When it comes to helping businesses of all sizes improve their CX delivery, an important part of the strategy is lowering the barriers of entry for adoption – and advanced technology such as AI and machine learning are often not accessible without expensive upfront costs,” said Wendy Johnstone, chief operating officer of Zendesk APAC. 

Meanwhile, Cristina Fonseca, vice president of product at Zendesk, said, “Instead of putting bots that aren’t fully trained in front of customers, causing frustration and many times lost business, Zendesk’s fundamentally different approach takes the burden and complexity off of customers, allowing companies to build powerful applications on top of a strong foundation. ” 

Intelligent Triage and Smart Assist technology are initially focused on retail/eCommerce use cases, with more industries to roll out.