As China continues its crackdown on celebrities and influencers, the entertainment industry is undergoing a complete reshuffle. With the fall of key personalities, namely Deng Lun, Viya, and Cherie Li, new ones are seeing a meteoric rise and taking over their positions. These unusual KOLs — such as fitness trainer Liu Genghong, New Oriental’s English course teacher Dong Yuhui, @CrazyLittleBrotherYang and @Diandilahai from lower-tier cities — alongside fashion influencers Fil Xiaobai and Jia Zhang are reshaping China’s lucrative consumer market.
Brands must pay attention to these faces in the coming new year. Jing Daily takes a look at China’s top KOLs of 2022. For more of our end-of-year reviews, see here.
The pandemic has unexpectedly made a hit livestreamer of singer and actor Liu Genghong. On Douyin, Liu and his wife Vivi Wang have sparked a fitness revolution: They brought workout exercises to people’s living rooms. The duo gained more than 64 million followers within a single month and their livestreams have been viewed roughly 100 million times.
Fila was quick to spot their popularity, and has become one of the first international names to be worn by the couple. Videos where the two praised the comfortable sportswear and recommended netizens purchase similar items when exercising have received 1.32 million likes in total. Read more.
Crazy Little Brother Yang (@疯狂小杨哥), Zhang Qingyang, a 25-year-old from the eastern Chinese province of Anhui who often shares videos of the funny pranks he plays upon family members, has become the first Douyin blogger to build a 100 million-strong following. His lighthearted videos are beloved by young netizens aged between 18 and 30.
Thanks to his amusing but sincere presentation, Yang has quickly built a rock-solid reputation among online shoppers. According to Chanmama data, from September to November 2022, an average of 36 million people tuned into his live broadcast room. Sales for each livestream ranged between $3.5 million and $7 million (25 million to 50 million RMB). Read more.
In June, the new channel from Oriental Select went viral on Douyin after one of its teachers, Dong Yuhui, hosted a viral bilingual livestreaming session attracting 12 million viewers and $3.12 million (21 million RMB) in gross merchandise value.
Given the government crackdown on its industry, the Chinese online teaching company New Oriental set up Oriental Select, its livestreaming arm, teaching language and culture while also selling everything from agricultural products to beauty items. With a content-driven approach, it distinguishes itself from more typical livestreams by offering free English, history, and culture lessons instead of the usual product features and discounts. Star teachers like Dong Yuhui are gaining popularity with this dynamic approach. Read more.
Douyin influencer Yan Hao, or better known as @diandilahai (@垫底辣孩), has seen his popularity skyrocket thanks to his fun, witty videos that pay homage to luxury houses. His newfound fame has been building since April 2022 when he started producing content that recreated luxury brands’ campaigns — Prada, Dior, and Balenciaga — from items lying around his house and village. The “little fresh meat” KOL now has more than 7.26 million followers.
The Douyin star has already collaborated with several domestic labels, while many others are using his account for engagement. International names are lining up, too. So far, he’s worked with Giorgio Armani and Lancôme. Read more.
Labeled a “first-generation KOL,” Fil Xiaobai has hustled to stay on top. Since starting her Weibo account in 2011, Fil has branched out into livestreaming to better engage with her followers, sharing her product suggestions and purchases from overseas boutiques. She has also grown an impressive portfolio of luxury clients, shooting with brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci.
When many other renowned content creators were suffering from burnout or hesitating to join emerging platforms, Fil buckled down and embraced the new trends. She grew her profile on various platforms including Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Bilibili with consistent high-quality content, amassing over 7 million followers. Read more.
From students pursuing degrees in colleges and universities to ultra-high-net-worth individuals, the Chinese diaspora has provided a substantial consumer base for international brands. Given their shared cultural backgrounds, overseas Chinese influencers like Jia Zhang are one of the most prominent groups that influence this demographic.
Distinct from most influencers, who usually focus on one area in particular, Zhang’s content can include hip-hop, outfits, grooming and fragrance products, style tips, and even tutorials in English slang. His swag and personality have lured 336,000 followers to his Xiaohongshu account in just two years. From vlogs to product recommendations, his videos have helped contribute to a more dynamic male consumption landscape while sparking opportunities for companies to leverage this newfound openness. Read more.