The Art of Lying Down – Loser Culture Is Here

Adam Crane

By Strategy

Creative Director

Date: 5 April, 2018

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Brands are constantly telling us to ‘break your limits’ and ‘be your best self’, but not everyone is welcoming this kind of message with open arms.

This month, ROTHCO Cultural Strategist Cat Shaw-Halford explores the world of ‘Sang’ – a rising rebellion against the grind of expectation.

Rather than buying into a culture of toxic competitiveness, a small sub-culture borne from the internet is steadily rising in solidarity with overworked Chinese millennials, who are constantly striving against the odds. The pressures that play on Chinese youths are also present in Western cultures, so expect to see a similar trend taking root in Europe soon.


How is this trend emerging?

With skyrocketing property prices, over-demanding yet underpaid jobs making living and saving near impossible, plus increasing pressure from families and society, Chinese millennials are feeling cheated by the system. ‘Sang’ is their reaction.

A fight by lower-class citizens against the pressures to be successful, ‘Sang’ is a movement from the nation’s self-proclaimed ‘losers’ that’s being expressed through memes and, increasingly, international media.

Zhao Zengliang, a ‘Sang’ internet personality posted: “I wanted to fight for socialism today but the weather is so freaking cold that I’m only able to lay on the bed to play on my mobile phone,” in another she posted “I wish I could wake up to retirement tomorrow”

Offline, the ‘Sang’ culture is doing for some millennial brands what the Emo culture did for the eyeliner business. In July, a new Beijing-based tea stall ‘Sung Tea’ became a viral sensation when it launched with a menu featuring the likes of ‘My-ex‘s-life-is-better-than-mine Fruit Tea’, ‘Can’t-afford-a-house Macchiato’ and ‘Achieved-absolutely-nothing Black Tea’.

The makers of Hello Kitty have created a cartoon icon for the movement – ‘Gudetama.’ He’s a grumpy egg, cracked too early on the wrong side of the shell. He can be found on t-shirts, kitchen sponges, and suitcases and is loved by children and adults alike. His catchphrases include ‘meh’ ‘ugh’ ‘never mind’ and the always relatable ‘seriously… I can’t’.

Watch here – it’s addictive!


What are brands doing this well?

Samsung’s new TV ad for its smartphone app permanently tracks the alertness of drivers and warns them before they fall asleep. Aptly named ‘Copilot’, it plays on the constant pressure that people feel to ‘be the best’. The ad uses the essence of ‘loser culture’ to show the viewer that no matter how much you think you can, you most certainly cannot drive when feeling tired. 20% of traffic accidents occur due to drowsiness, so this honest message breaks through the noise and makes viewers stop and think.

“A culture that taught us that it is always good to make an extra effort, that if we try, we can always win – it allows ourselves to do things, to evolve and be better,” the project’s Chief Executive Creative Director Joaquin Espagnol told Ad-Age, “but the truth is that there are some things we cannot do – no matter how often mass-media beats the drum of invincibility.”

Why this is important to us?

People are tired of ‘No guts, no glory’ marketing. Traditional milestones like home ownership and children are being forced further into the future. It’s been estimated that 40% of homeowners, by next year, will have to use ‘The Bank of Mum and Dad’ in order to get a mortgage.

Communications should start to playfully embrace the ‘Loser Culture’, relieving some of the mounting pressures that millennials are faced with… rather than adding to them.

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