Why Levi’s and other brands are betting big on Chinese podcasts

    Levi’s is riding the podcasting wave in China alongside Coach, Lancôme, and Louis Vuitton. Will it succeed?
    Photo: Levi’s
      Published   in Fashion

    What happened

    On April 25, Levi’s released the first episode of its maiden Chinese-language podcast series titled Speaking with ‘Lee.’ As the denim giant dips its toes into this burgeoning medium in China, it marks a strategic, deeper foray into the hearts, and ears, of Chinese consumers.

    Other brands have also been exploring the podcast medium in a bid to engage consumers on a more cultural and intellectual level. Local labels like Neiwai, Maia Active, and Pop Mart have gone down this route. Of the global brands, Gucci, Coach, Lancôme, and Louis Vuitton have all launched digital podcasts on Chinese platforms like Ximalaya, Vistopia, and Xiaoyuzhou.

    The Jing Take

    In China, the podcast is packed with plenty of potential. Launched in 2020 by Shanghai start-up Jike, Xiaoyuzhou is seen as a coming-of-age platform known for its high user stickiness and has grown rapidly, with brands like Levi’s, Lancôme, and Coach launching initiatives there."

    Levi’s teaser episode, provocatively titled To Be a Vanguard, First Go Crazy, sets the stage for an engaging auditory journey. Hosted by TV presenter Jiang Sida, the series promises an eclectic mix of contributors. These include Pang Kuan, frontman and keyboard virtuoso of revered New Pants band, and local bloggers Luo Zhenni and Zhang Ke. Adding a scholarly dimension to the discourse is cultural luminary Ma Jiahui.

    Levi’s podcast will feature Hong Kong writer Ma Jiahui (left) and Chinese musician Pang Kuan (right).
    Levi’s podcast will feature Hong Kong writer Ma Jiahui (left) and Chinese musician Pang Kuan (right).

    Levi’s joins the ranks of several forward-thinking brands tapping into the potential of podcast marketing in China. Earlier this year, Coach covered topics like fashion and relationships in its own Coach-branded China podcast series on Xiaoyuzhou, aimed at resonating with young individuals and fostering self-reflection and empowerment. Influential podcasters like Heartbeat Girl engaged listeners.

    Late last year, Louis Vuitton debuted the Louis Vuitton [Extended] podcast on Xiaoyuzhou. Initial episodes delved into personal memories relating to Shanghai’s Suzhou Creek area and Shanghainese breakfast culture. Attracting over 86,000 listeners and 20,000 followers in 10 days, the brand’s podcast captivated local audiences with its cultural narratives.

    In January 2023, Lancôme used Xiaoyuzhou to unveil a marketing venture spotlighting its signature product, Advanced Génifique Wrinkle & Dark Circle Eye Cream, by engaging seven handpicked podcasters to share their tales of burning the midnight oil on their individual channels. Despite lower click rates compared to visuals, the initiative fostered authentic engagement by using personal stories and addressing common sleep-deprivation woes in China.

    Miu Miu, however, was perhaps a global forerunner when, in 2020, it debuted Miu Miu Musings — three all-female debates held in Beijing, London, and New York, moderated by Penny Martin — that have now been turned into podcasts, albeit in the English language. It won’t be long before more brands jump in, especially in China, where the clientele is more responsive to novel ways of marketing.

    As brands seek to cultivate meaningful brand narratives and engage with audiences in new ways, many are trying to set a precedent for innovation and authenticity in the ever-evolving landscape of consumer culture. With podcasting, an immersive audio experience, an attempt is made to forge deeper connections with audiences, transcending traditional marketing boundaries.

    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.

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