I’m friends with this girl on WeChat, Xiao Wanzi. She’s super cool yet approachable, and someone everyone wants to be best friends with. We all turn to her for beauty advice. She’s always sharing the latest tips and tutorials with us on her WeChat Groups. And it’s not just beauty. She’s also a trend setter, always posting the best pictures on WeChat Moments from the hottest new restaurants and travel destinations around the world.
Xiao Wanzi isn’t real.
She is a fictional character, a homegrown KOL of sorts, created by popular Chinese domestic cosmetics brand Perfect Diary in an effort to develop a closer relationship with their customer base. Ranked number one on Tmall in the beauty category, Perfect Diary has been one of the most talked about Chinese consumer brands of 2019, and Perfect Diary case studies are often cited whenever people are looking for an example of a brand leveraging Chinese marketing trends.
From being an early adopter of Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu), the wildly popular social media and e-commerce platform, to launching in-demand limited-edition brand collaborations, to opening wildly packed offline popup stores, Perfect Diary has experimented with every trendy marketing tactic possible.
Xiao Wanzi is yet another successful experiment, one combining influencer marketing with another hot topic in the China marketing world — private traffic.
What is private traffic?
As online traffic is becoming more and more expensive in China, the term ‘private traffic’ (私域流量) has become one of 2019’s content creation buzzwords. The Western equivalent of private traffic would be a blog or an email list, which are their owned channels. However, in China, people rarely visit websites or use email, so influencers and brands have begun seeking out ways to “own” their follower base by creating private traffic while still on social media sites. One way to do this is by creating WeChat groups on personal WeChat accounts and there are numerous examples of Chinese influencers who have hundreds of private groups for their fans.
Xiao Wanzi’s WeChat groups
Perfect Diary saw this trend developing and, instead of creating Perfect Diary branded groups, they realized they could develop a closer relationship with their customers by personify their brand through the fictional character Xiao Wanzi. Today there are hundreds of “Xiao Wanzi” personal WeChat accounts run by Perfect Diary employees, with all with the same profile image and Moments posts. Each of these accounts operates dozens, if not hundreds, of WeChat groups filled with the brand’s customers.
They don’t end up there by accident. Perfect Diary is actively funneling customers and WeChat followers into Xiao Wanzi’s groups. Consumers can easily add Xiao Wanzi as a friend through the brand’s WeChat Official Account, and once they do, they can receive a free product sample. And after purchasing a product, customers will be sent a virtual red packet which they can only redeem after adding Xiao Wanzi as their WeChat friend.
What goes on in these groups?
“It is quite a sorority vibe,” shared Chinese grad student Kejie Yi. “Everyone is sharing what beauty tools they have, the results they get, how effective they are. It is like a bunch of close girlfriends chatting. Xiao Wanzi is mostly in charge of bringing up topics and making sure that the group is active. There is also another character in the group called Xiao Meizi (小美子), who helps Xiao Wanzi answer questions.”
Group members also get exclusive promotions and first access to new products. But what makes this tactic so effective is that Xiao Wanzi is not only sharing beauty advice, but she also asks group members how they spent their weekends and makes an effort to get to know and help members of the group. To them she feels like a real person, a real influencer, that they can trust, and in turn, that makes them trust Perfect Diary and become loyal consumers.
It just goes to show, people trust people. Even fictional ones.