Little Fresh Meat, the Chinese nickname for young good-looking men who are considered as beautiful as women, are the bread and butter of many luxury brands in China. From lipsticks and skincare to watches and jewelry, these celebrities — so popular with female fans — have proven to be a very efficient shortcut to boost product sales and brand visibility. In the past, actor Wang Kai helped Estée Lauder eye cream to achieve record sales, the sales of a Guerlain lipstick named after Yang Yang skyrocketed, and a WeChat Moments ad by SK-II featuring Wallace Huo increased the brand’s sales on JD.com sixfold in one day.
For August, among the top 5 most buzzed celebrities on the consulting agency R3’s list, three are considered little fresh meat, with No.1 Xiao Zhan, and No.4 Wang Yibo both ranking high for the first time. Xiao Zhan got his start on the reality program X-Fire, where he trained to be an idol. From there, he went on to be the lead singer for the idol group, X NINE, but he gained mainstream popularity with the recent hit costume drama, The Untamed (陈情令). Fans praised his rigorous attitude and excellent acting skills. He was also featured in a blockbuster fantasy movie Jade Dynasty (诛仙), which topped Chines mainland box office with $111.64 million (270 million yuan) during the three-day Chinese Mid-Autumn holiday. Xiao Zhan has yet to sign on with any other luxury brands except fine jewelry brand Qeelin under the Kering group, and several FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) brands, such as McVitie’s, Olay, and Lays, etc.
Wang Yibo, who ranked No.4 this month, shared a similar career path. The 22-year-old is part of the South Korean-Chinese boy band UNIQ and his popularity up-ticked was also due to his role in the show, The Untamed (陈情令). Wang’s profile is more diverse — he’s also a professional motorcycle racer signed with MLT YAMAHA. Wang hasn’t signed on with any luxury brands except being the spokesperson for Japanese skincare brand Shu Uemura.
Both Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo’s popularity are likely to continue, as it was recently announced that both will be cast in some upcoming TV shows with well-known female celebrities. Xiao Zhao’s next rom-com, The Luckiest Couple on Earth (余生，请多指教,) is in production with as his female co-star, Yang Zi, who also ranked highly in our July celebrity list.
It’s hard to say how long little fresh meat celebrities can keep being fresh among fans in China. Clearly, popularity for a young Chinese actor or actress can be closely tied with the TV shows they are cast. Given this, luxury brands should be aware of the latest and most popular TV shows to cast for their possible next ambassador. The 29-year-old Hu Han has faded from the top position and was criticized for his performance in the latest box-office flop movie Shanghai Fortress (上海滩). And many are already courting favors with the next little fresh meat celebrities. The actor Li Xian, in 3rd place, down from the second spot last month, has appeared in several recent fashion events. In early September, he was spotted at Cartier’s high-end jewelry brand dinner and on the GQ red carpet.
Another concern is that many celebrities do not sign exclusively deal with brands and change too often, which is financially very good for the celebrity, but it may not create strong enough brand loyalty, as fans will follow the celebrity rather than stick to the brand.
The following ranking of the 20 top celebrity influencers in June is calculated by using data from Weibo’s Fan Base (calculating Activity, Adorable, and Social Influence Indexes), Toutiao, Baidu, and WeChat.
Weibo assumes the most weight, as it’s the platform where fan engagement can be traced. The Baidu, Toutiao, and Wechat indexes are more based on search behavior. The data from Weibo helps indicate the commercial value of each celebrity, especially for the Adorable Index where fans actually use a pay function to express their admiration for a celebrity.
- Activity Index: The Activity Index counts the number of interactions on Weibo, which is a statistical indicator of interactions (including forwarding, commenting, likes, replying to comments, and comment likes on Weibo) generated by the content posted by the star over the past 30 days (including posts and comments).
- Adorable Index: This refers to the fans’ contribution to the celebrity. Weibo has a mechanism where fans can contribute their admiration to the celebrity by giving virtual flowers which aren’t free. The adorable index is generated from the number of flowers the celebrity receives monthly.
- Social Influence Index: There’s a large number of users publishing microblogs daily that mention celebrities. These microblogs are read by other users, and the number of readings reflects the recent popularity of a celebrity. In addition, a large number of users search for celebrities on Weibo every day, and the search volume generated also reflects the recent popularity of those celebrities. This data adds up to the social influence index of the celebrity.