In 2011, third-year college student Huang Yihan started a personal photo studio with his partner Wu Yuqi, a makeup artist, to service their schoolmates in the Zhejiang Communication University’s broadcasting department who needed outstanding professional pictures. A decade later, the modest venture has turned into an empire with over 6 million users.
Today, Himomaster (海马体) is the favored cross-border collaboration partner of many beauty and fashion names. Dao Nguyen, founder of fragrance and beauty marketing agency Essenzia by Dao, believes that “besides its reputation for integrated professional services including makeup and clothing rental, the high standards of Himomaster and its high price range are perfectly congruent with the positioning of beauty and luxury brands.” For instance, it was the very first domestic studio that British cosmetics label Charlotte Tilbury ever teamed up with.
With a dream of “making the world more beautiful,” Himomaster is more than an ordinary photo studio. From tapping the latest hanfu hype driven by the popular C-drama A Dream of Splendor to creating Harry Potter’s Hogwarts school uniforms, Himomaster is drawing on fast-moving trends to fulfill millennial and Gen Z’s wants and needs. All of this goes well beyond the still image.
In an era where photo studios are gradually being replaced by smartphones, Himomaster has managed to inject fresh energy into this sunset sector by helping companies create viral topics. Here, Jing Daily analyzes their three most meaningful collaborations.
With a mission to break prejudices on the color pink, London-based beauty line Charlotte Tilbury and Himomaster partnered up to showcase the different shades and attitudes that the long-misinterpreted hue can express. The collaboration, entitled “Pink Lady,” explored three different shooting and makeup styles — Elegant Girl, Modern Lady, and Party Queen — to show the sweet, cool, daring, and fun aspects of the tint. Not only were customers able to book shoots at select Himomaster locations, but they were also given access to Charlotte Tilbury’s hit makeup series Pillow Talk.
To amplify the social reach, Himomaster and Charlotte Tilbury also launched the Pink Lady challenge asking users to share before-and-after pictures of themselves a year apart to show their dynamic personalities. On Xiaohongshu, many netizens took part in the initiative and some were reposted by the house to further enhance the engagement. According to Launchmetrics data, the partnership received an impressive $160,000 (1.14 million RMB) Media Impact Value (MIV).
Photoshoots and makeup go hand-in-hand, and this campaign immediately resonated with fans of both disciplines. Additionally, by picking a color that is often associated with controversial messaging, the two managed to create a heated conversation around their tie-up. Olivia Plotnick, founder of Chinese social media content & strategy agency WAI social, stated that “through the pink color which the public is familiar with (but often dare not try), both parties had the possibility to show their fashion sense and professionalism.” Last but not least, the initiative also attracted a wave of male fans, helping both groups to reach a larger, more inclusive audience and explore new potential targets for the future.
Niche sports activities — frisbee, land surfing, and cycling — are filling social media feeds due to digital natives’ propensity to share their everyday lives on blogging apps. In light of this trend, Himomaster launched the option of sports photoshoots for its users. To promote the new project it cooperated with the popular athleisurewear make Lululemon to conduct offline yoga training. People attending the sessions could receive beautiful pictures captured by Himomaster’s professional photographers while they were exercising. “It is a good way to create exposure and a special bond with youngsters willing to create memories — and share the results on social media,” commented Nguyen. As per Launchmetrics’ findings, the collaboration hit $13,600 (96,800 RMB) MIV.
As rising wellness awareness pushes young people to pick up exercise habits and new sports hobbies, events around this theme receive great interest from locals. Plotnick believes that, with young demographics enthusiastically embracing outdoor activities, the collaboration benefited from its perfect timing. “The initiative closely integrates the brand image with the needs of consumers,” she remarked.
After the graduation season, college students are usually busy applying for jobs. To help graduates stand out among the thousands of CVs (which in China, usually come with ID photos), Himomaster and Shu Uemura came together to create the perfect lighting and makeup combination for an ID photo. The concept has been made available in over 115 Himomaster photo studios, allowing students from all over the country to access the service easily. The promotional post attracted many netizens to share their first ID photoshoot experience. In total, the team-up received $67,400 (480,000 RMB) MIV as per Launchmetrics.
Thanks to its nuanced understanding of Chinese culture, traditions, and lifestyles, the homegrown photo studio Himomaster shrewdly taps important occasions to create topical conversations and cater to the needs of the young. This collab is a case in point. And the business now benefits from a strong reputation, bolstered by its savvy choice of partners. Plotnick explains how “Himomaster is famous for its exquisite ID photoshoots and Shu Uemura's eyebrow pencil is also known for being one of the best products in the beauty industry. Therefore, when the two brands launched their campaign, it was a very short communication journey for consumers to understand the value behind it.” Wise, careful choices have meant a string of successes for the outfit. It’s exciting to imagine what might be next.
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