Beauty Brands Big on China’s New Streaming Show

    Can a popular KOL, fascinating global locations, and a weekly box of curated beauty products be the recipe for China's next hit show?
    Can Melilim Fu (above), a popular KOL, fascinating global locations, and a weekly box of curated beauty products be the recipe for China's next hit show? The beauty industry hopes so. Photo: Courtesy of Melilim Fu
    Jessica RappAuthor
      Published   in Beauty

    Beauty brands have no shortage of choice when it comes to working with KOLs for video and livestreams, but when they focus exclusively on beauty, the content of these collaborations can become repetitive and predictable. But one Chinese influencer promises to mix things up this year by meshing cross-border e-commerce with beauty and travel content in her new streaming show.

    Beauty KOL Melilim Fu will launch Beauty Adventure, in the spring of 2020, and each episode will follow Fu to an overseas destination where she’ll hang out with a local beauty influencer and learn about that country’s beauty products. Episodes will run between 15 and 20 minutes in length and will include around five minutes of advertising. Each show will include interviews, information about local beauty standards and traditions, visits to local landmarks, a health and wellness segment, and tutorials that show viewers how to use the featured beauty products.

    Fu and her co-producer, Elijah Whaley, hope to reach between 15 and 52 million viewers per episode. They expect the audience for Beauty Adventure to be evenly divided between those drawn from Fu’s personal videos on Chinese platforms Xiaohongshu, WeChat, and Douyin (which each regularly receive no less than 10 million views) and those who find the show through her streaming partners.

    Beauty Adventure’s target audience of Chinese Gen-Z females (age 14 to 24) presents a very lucrative market for brands, and Whaley and Fu believe that the show’s recipe — livestreamed content leading to e-commerce — is an optimal one for brands that want to turn views into conversions. Chinese Gen Zers are certainly enthusiastic online shoppers: An Accenture survey found that 70 percent of Chinese Gen Zers between the ages of 18 and 22 make purchases via social channels.

    Gen Zers also happen to be the main drivers behind the rise of livestreaming content in China. “Beauty Adventure's target audience is largely post-‘95 females that are digitally native,” Whaley tells Jing Daily. “Streaming video is about all they know.”

    According to Whaley, they’ve already secured an agreement with the Chinese video-sharing site Bilibili and “a handshake” agreement with another video platform called iQiyi. They also want to add Weibo into this mix. “The toughest part of China's media landscape is the distribution,” says Whaley. “In many cases, you can't buy it even if you have the budget for it.”

    Fu’s large online following is well-aligned with such an audience as her fans include over 950,000 followers on Weibo, 104,000 on Xiaohongshu, and more than 2,000 WeChat “super fans.” Nearly 90 percent of Fu’s Weibo followers are female, and 72 percent of those followers are under 25 years of age. “Girls want to be swept away by beauty,” says Fu. “My videos fulfill fantasies by being visually fantastical and emotionally alluring. This show is going to take girls to places they have never been and seduce them with beauty concepts that are completely foreign.”

    It’s common to see beauty KOLs overlap the travel genre, but Whaley said that examples of well-produced, digitally-streaming content that packages beauty with travel are rare. Whaley and Fu believe Beauty Adventure fills that content gap while also offering up a cross-border e-commerce element.

    “This show has a real production budget,” states Whaley. “It's not a travel vlog. We have a producer, a director, and a full production crew. Melilim's videos have always stood out for their production values, and we are going to take that to the next level. We feel it's unfortunate that most Chinese KOL beauty videos are light on production quality and are going in the opposite direction.”

    Thus far, confirmed locations include Mexico, the Netherlands, Australia, and Lebanon. The location selection process partly reflects the types of destinations Chinese Gen Zers want to see. However, Whaley and Fu also want Beauty Adventure to surprise — as well as inspire and empower — young Chinese women. In some cases, the choice of location allows the show to highlight “beauty cultures that are far from the Chinese norm,” as Whaley puts it. “Our goal is to challenge broadly accepted beauty aesthetics in China to push girls to become self-actualized and feel empowered, especially if they don't fit ‘the norm.’ So, choosing more exotic locations and people is important.”

    Access to influencers who can embody Fu’s goals is another factor helping to decide locations. No guests have been confirmed thus far, but a promotional document states that an ideal episode could see Fu talking about body positivity with somebody like Dutch YouTube star Nikkie de Jaeger, whose 12.4 million subscribers make her one of the world’s top-three beauty influencers. “We will focus on influencers that already have some level of popularity in China, but that's not the main decision-maker,” Whaley says. “Again, it's about challenging viewers, so we will go with influencers that have something to say that we think it is important for Chinese viewers to hear.”

    Fu said the show may not be to everyone’s tastes—and that’s the point. “I know there will be harsh critics that say things like ‘tanned skin is ugly,’ ‘curvy women aren't beautiful,’ and ‘too much makeup is just trying to cover up something ugly,’” she says. “But there are a lot of girls in China who are ready for a paradigm shift in what is ‘beautiful,’ and I think a show like this will play a small part in opening minds.”

    The Chinese market certainly remains an attractive prize for international beauty brands, and an intriguing component of Beauty Adventure will be its e-commerce element, which intends to offer overseas brands a unique opportunity to connect with Chinese Gen-Z girls and women. Viewers can subscribe to receive a weekly Beauty Adventure Box ahead of each episode that contains a curated selection of local cosmetics from that week’s featured destination. The relevant episode will then reveal information about the products and offer tips on how to use them.

    “The Beauty Adventure Box is an important element because we really want to get the featured product into the hands of viewers as inexpensively as possible,” Whaley adds. “Also, it creates an opportunity for us to over-deliver by integrating an experiential design element into the unboxing, turning the mundane into something special and worth sharing.”

    Fu and Whaley also want to allow viewers to buy featured products by clicking directly from the stream. “It is going to depend on the distribution platform,” she says, “but that's the genius thing about China — most content and social media platforms have integrated click-to-buy.”

    This all adds up to an ambitious attempt to speak to young Gen-Z women through a mix of genre-crossing content, a diverse cast of influencers, and an experiential offline component (in the form of the Beauty Adventure Box). At the same time, the show promises international brands a sophisticated content-to-e-commerce vehicle that will introduce their products — perhaps for the first time — to a highly desirable cross-section of young consumers. If Beauty Adventure proves successful, it’s a model that influencers and brands beyond the confines of the travel and beauty industries will be keen to try.

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