In response to the burgeoning “chongwu 宠物,” or pet economy, the number of fluffy KOLs in China is also on the rise. According to local media outlet Jiemian, there were as many as 25,000 pet bloggers on short video app Douyin in 2020. Just like online influencers, these four-legged friends can act, cook, and of course, recommend products to legions of adoring fans.
Animal content is generally popular among both pet owners and people without pets. Many netizens find animal-related content extremely relaxing, and studies show that being immersed in pet videos can significantly decrease anxiety and boost energy and positive emotions. On Weibo, the hashtag #500 million young people are raising pets online# has amassed 210 million views.
Luxury houses have been quick to cater to four-legged friends, including canines, felines, and more. Recently, Gucci released its luxury pet collection, which took pampering to the next level. Now, fluffy companions can enjoy being wrapped in their own GG-monogrammed trench coat or lying on a custom mini sofa bed — items that will set buyers back $930 (7,910 RMB) and $7500 (50,215 RMB), respectively.
But Gucci is not the only one spoiling pets. Celine, Moncler, and Goyard have all made a foray into this category. According to iiMedia Research, the size of China’s pet economy hit $37 billion (294 billion RMB) in 2021, increasing more than 20 percent from 2020. By 2023, the firm forecasts it’ll be worth a whopping $66.8 billion.
As the mainland’s pet population grows (the number of cats raised by Chinese urban households has reached 58 million, while the number of dogs is 54 million, making it a demographic of over 110 million), luxury brands face no shortage of opportunities to diversify their revenue streams. Here, Jing Daily analyzes the five most popular pet influencers for those looking to upgrade their KOL strategy accordingly.
KOL: Erdou (@会说话的刘二豆)
Category: Feline, Scottish Fold
Social Media: Douyin (38.9 Million followers)
Livestreaming: Not available
A Scottish Fold named Erdou, who draws a stunning 38.9 million followers on Douyin, is the most popular fluffy blogger on the Chinese internet. As the account name, @LiuErdouCanSpeak, suggests, Erdou is a talkative cat. Netizens are amused by the daily comic scenes and conversations between Erdou and his “little sister” Guazi, another Schottish Fold — especially when Erdou tries to scare off neighborhood dogs that want to flirt with the pretty Guazi. How can people understand their meows? All content is dubbed by Erdou and Guazi’s pet parent, a girl with a funny North Eastern accent.
Erdou is undoubtedly the most beloved feline among Douyin users. However, the account does not frequently update. In 2021, it stopped posting for nearly one year. Even so, it ranked first in the popular pet KOLs classification on the short video app. The account’s comeback post broke the internet locally, highlighting the virality of its posts and the solid following it has built. For pet-related brands, Erdou provides massive exposure. Nonetheless, four-legged influencers are not necessarily easier on the wallet than human fashion KOLs. In the case of Erdou, his owner charges $60,000 (400,000 RMB) per ad.
As Douyin’s top pet KOL, Erdou could be a viable option for luxury houses’ campaigns or even ambassadorships. The high awareness the feline enjoys among young locals and its ability to drive traffic may help brands’ pet lines go viral: the account averages two to three million likes per post, higher than many local celebrities.
KOL: Golden Retriever Dan Huang (@金毛蛋黄)
Category: Canine, Golden Retriever
Social Media: Douyin (26.1 Million followers)
The life of @GoldenRetrieverDanhuang is about a pet parent with two Golden Retrievers (Dan Huang and Youli) and a Husky named Happy. Together, the four go to the sea to catch crabs, go camping, and produce dubbed comics to document their everyday life. Thus far, the account has raked in over 26 million followers.
Compared to Erdou, @GoldenRetrieverDanhuang is much more active on Douyin (its only channel). Alongside posting short videos one or two times a week, Dan Huang’s owner hosts livestreaming sessions. In the period from April to June, the account hosted 40 live broadcasts on Douyin, promoting pet snacks, mattresses, and hygiene products. According to the app, some items recorded sales as high as 100,000 units. However, at $1-30 (5-200 RMB), price points are low.
Overall, @GoldenRetrieverDanhuang’s positioning does not match that of a heritage house. When selecting ambassadors, luxury brands have to beware of diluting their exclusive status.
KOL: Puff Wang (@王泡芙)
Category: Feline, American Shorthair
Social Media: Douyin (23.5 Million followers), Xiaohongshu (4 Million followers)
Livestreaming: Not Available
An adorable American shorthair, Puff Wang is often seen dressed like a little princess. At home, she has her own castle-like bed, a row of the coveted Beijing 2022 mascot toys Bing Dwen Dwen, and a swing. Her pet parents often spoil her with fancy afternoon parties and picnics. She also has a boyfriend, another popular pet KOL named Ansheng; the two often hang out together and “give” each other birthday surprises.
Active on both Douyin and Xiaohongshu, Puff Wang’s account updates its followers weekly. Although the posts are the same for the two platforms, being present on both still allows it to have a wider reach; combined it has over 27 million followers, exceeding that of the aforementioned @GoldenRetrieverDanhuang. Additionally, Puff Wang’s pet parent frequently provides tutorials on how to raise cats and gives product recommendations.
Today, many young netizens are CP fans (a term used in Chinese fandoms to refer to fans of a couple). As such, the intimate collaboration between Puff Wang and Ansheng is a plus: followers go wild when they’re filmed together.
From a luxury point of view, Puff Wang’s page tone and lifestyle are close to that of a luxury brand. Having multiple channels also helps. Zhag Chao, the spokesperson of 38°C Media, a domestic MCN agency specializing in pets, told Jing Daily: “Xiaohongshu is the channel most suitable for high-end pet products.”
KOL: Golden Retriever Lu Hu (@金毛路虎)
Category: Canine, Golden Retriever
Social Media: Douyin (20.1 Million followers)
Livestreaming: Not Available
Another famous Golden Retriever is Lu Hu. Living in rural Sichuan, Lu Hu is the pet version of China’s famous Youtuber Li Ziqi, who offers its viewers an escape from urban life. Together with its pet parents (a young couple), Lu Hu lives in a country house. The canine is filmed picking corns, collecting wood, and helping its owners to create traditional dishes and handcrafted items such as homewares and lipstick bottles.
Since Li Ziqi stopped updating her social media account, Lu Hu has helped to satisfy the needs of followers seeking out wholesome, nature-heavy content. From 2018 till now, the account has garnered over 20 million followers. With loyal and active fans, the page draws around 10,000 comments per post. People enjoy learning new cooking recipes and consider the account a haven from daily responsibilities and anxieties. Much of the content also promotes good behavior, such as helping the elderly, cooperating with policemen, and giving to charity.
The Verdict: Clearly, the type of content Lu Hu delivers to its target audience is in stark contrast to luxury. However, the famous canine is a great face for brands that want to deliver positive images and messages, such as helping non-profit animal foundations.
KOL: Bonnie (@巨兔波妞麻麻)
Category: Leporidae, Angora Rabbit
Social Media: Douyin (451,000 followers), Xiaohongshu (19,000 followers)
Livestreaming: Not available
Angora rabbits are among the fluffiest animals in the world. Giant but docile bunnies with very long hair, they’re fast becoming a favored pet option among Gen Z. On Xiaohongshu, there are over 10,000 user-generated posts related to the breed.
Bonnie, a huge white Angora rabbit KOL, has drawn over half a million followers on Douyin and Xiaohongshu combined. Running the account is a Gen Z mother to an eight-month-old baby and two bunnies, Bonnie and Bolly, who share weekly short videos of their daily lives.
The docile creatures have won a big following online. Fans enjoy watching videos of the pet parents grooming the flurry animals. A netizen commented: “ It is so satisfying to watch.” But more interestingly, Bonnie is a very intelligent rabbit. The Gen Z mom often posts videos of the bunny playing with her newborn child and teaching the baby how to play with new toys. In the comments section, many users have expressed they would love to have a pet like Bonnie to grow up with their child.
Interest in unusual domestic pets is increasing for not only rabbits, but also ducks and alpacas. Although they are a very niche category, including them in luxury campaigns can help brands boost their exposure and cater to young consumers, who are particularly obsessed with these pets. Plus, Bonnie may also be well suited in children’s campaigns.