What Happened: Following the explosive backlash against China’s top livestream anchor Li Jiaqi last week, one Chinese domestic haircare brand “Fenghua” has become an overnight sensation by offering three new cleansing packages on its livestreaming channel priced at 79 RMB ($10.82), the same price of the eyebrow pencil that sparked Li’s controversy. Fenghua made headlines and gained about 500,000 new followers across all its social platforms in just one day.
Li Jiaqi, also known as ‘Lipstick King’ and Austin Li, apologized on Weibo on September 11 for inappropriate remarks he made to a consumer during one of his broadcasts on Taobao Live, Alibaba’s livestreaming platform.
A viewer complained to Li during his September 10 livestreaming session that the cost of an eyebrow pencil from Chinese beauty brand Florasis, priced at $10.80 (79 RMB), had gone up. In response, Li suggested that people on low incomes who couldn’t afford the product hadn’t worked hard enough.
Several domestic brands followed Fenghua’s lead. Sportswear brand Hongxing Erke, Shanghai Sulfur Soap and Shanghai Baiyu Toothpaste also launched product packages for 79 RMB on their livestream channels a day later, pushing online traffic to new heights.
Interestingly, neither Fenghua nor any of the other brands that joined this trend have attempted to monopolize traffic. On the contrary, they have promoted each other’s products through their livestream sessions and encouraged netizens to pay attention to other lesser-known labels. Some Chinese netizens have dubbed this as a “domestic brand team building” movement.
The Jing Take: Just a week after Li Jiaqi’s controversy, Chinese domestic beauty brands have astutely leveraged the unfolding trend, resulting in a marked increase in followers and revenue. They have also helped to acquaint young consumers with brands that were once a staple among their parents’ generation.
The reasons why this trend is taking off are multifaceted. Firstly, brands are presenting products that are both affordable and of high quality. This appeals particularly to a generation that is recalibrating its spending habits in light of an economic deceleration.
Secondly, many local beauty brands are grappling with dwindling sales and market share. Whereas Florasis, the brand behind the infamous eyebrow pencil, can afford the steep marketing cost of securing Li’s endorsement, financial constraints make such high-profile marketing campaigns a distant dream for others. Hence, when Li commented on the challenges faced by homegrown brands, some consumers felt an intrinsic responsibility to champion businesses in need.
This wave of support is not just driven by economic considerations but also by a deep-seated national pride. The movement has given Chinese shoppers a sense of purpose: to rally behind local brands. And their involvement isn’t limited to purchases; many are actively participating in promotional campaigns. Some netizens have even floated the idea of an exclusive shopping app dedicated to domestic brands and products.
While this digital whirlwind has been advantageous for C-beauty players, with the exception of Florasis, a question arises: Can they sustain their newfound popularity?
The challenge now is building a long-term relationship with consumers that will last once the controversy and hype dies down.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.