In a Singapore test, Coca-Cola Co. is dabbling in lifestyle accessories, letting the young and trendy customize their cola by selecting their own shrink-wrap bottle designs. The cola-as-fashion concept has already migrated to the U.S. in the form of a test of funky cola cans in New York clubs, though Singapore's other innovation-a bottle strap to be hooked to jeans' belt loops- has yet to arrive.
But the next big marketing trends won't necessarily come from major marketers. Instead, homegrown Asian trends and products from herbal remedies to flashing key rings and a rapscallion rabbit are tipped to be the next big things to reach the U.S.
Janice Chan, M&C Saatchi's managing director for Greater China, predicts international trends will rise from Chinese herbal medicines and treatment, Cheong-sam dress styles and Chinese embroidery. "We see a strong move to more `natural' treatments," said Gavin Heron, managing director, Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide, Shanghai. "Traditional Chinese medicine has a huge opportunity to be packaged, branded and sold internationally. As the West goes organic, or natural, the strong credibility and history of Chinese medicine will find a ready market."
Movies like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" have raised awareness of Chinese style. "China is hot," Mr. Heron said. "Shanghai is hot. Expect to see Chinese fashion designers establishing their own international labels."
Asia is already the world leader in SMS, or short messaging service, via cellphones. Before the U.S. can even catch up, Asian trend spotters have moved on to MMS, or multimedia messaging services. MMS adds audio and video images to text messages on the latest handsets, allowing users to tune in to FM radio stations and snap photos with built-in digital cameras.
MMS picture-taking has become a craze in Japan through "Sha-Mail," which involves people having pictures taken of themselves in different places doing the "sha" (both arms flung straight up in the air).
As Americans adopt SMS, they may start texting the TV like Asians do. Asian channels entwine SMS participation in game shows and other programming.
Susie Hunt, regional manager for WPP Group's Enterprise IG, sees these Asian trends spreading. One hot item: key rings that flash when your cellphone rings, especially useful if the phone is muted to vibrate or lost in the dark depths of a handbag. The designs-Hello Kitty characters or flashing skeletons are favorites-add to the kitsch experience.
Flower Tea Buds
Far more sophisticated are the flower tea buds cherished by the Chinese. These tightly wrapped small balls of tea leaves hide a flower bud that opens slowly when dropped in a glass of hot water, releasing jasmine tea and the unfurling flower. Ms. Hunt also predicts that feng shui will be the next yoga.
From Tokyo, Steven Muraski, Grey Global Group's director-corporate communications, is watching to see whether Japanese film "Spirited Away" wins the Oscar for best animated film this year as he anticipates. He bets Walt Disney Co. and Miramax are watching, too. "One of the biggest things that will emerge from Japan is a resurgence of its classic, animated films," Mr. Muraski said.
Some trends should stay home. Forget Hello Kitty. The biggest teen icon in Asia in 2002 was Korea's Mashimaro, a viral-and often vile-rabbit that pretends to be a dog to evade the pig police. "It goes around pissing on everything and has developed into a huge merchandising industry," said David McCaughan, regional director-consumer learnings at McCann- Erickson Worldwide, part of Interpublic Group of Cos. Asian teens, particularly girls, accessorize everything from bedroom walls to mobile phones with the rabbit (mashimaro.co.kr/ eng/mashimaro.asp).
He also predicts the next Asian food trend to move to the U.S. will be Korea's national dish, kimchi. People either love or really hate this potent cabbage fermented in garlic and chili, but Mr. McCaughan insists "It's the up-and-coming cuisine."