KOLs and Celebrities Shouldn’t Replace Your China Strategy

    Buzzworthy names in China's celebrity scene no doubt have high appeal for brands, but making the most of your China strategy must go beyond the photo shoot.
    Salvatore Ferragamo worked with Chinese celebrity model Ming Xi (奚梦瑶) for its FW 2016 eyewear campaign. (Courtesy Photo)
    Rémi BlanchardAuthor
      Published   in Retail

    KOLs and celebrities are undoubtedly unrivaled ways to boost brand awareness in China. Results in terms of visibility and followers’ engagement are usually beyond expectations, even when a collaboration is a basic one.

    In this context, many are tempted to follow the easy path and simply feature the face of the latest “hot KOL” in a post. After all, this will eventually help grow brand visibility over the short term.

    However, what is often overlooked is the harm that this approach can do to the audience’s perception of the brand in the long run.

    Each luxury house boasts a unique identity and embodies distinctive values. Therefore, a brand should not be represented by a celebrity already collaborating with a competitor to avoid creating confusion within its target audience, and itt is essential to make sure that the celebrity shares common values with the brand.

    There is even more work to do to appeal to Chinese luxury consumers who are becoming more sophisticated and discerning than ever. On top of seeing the face of their favorite celebrity on social media, they thirst for accessing exclusive content.

    Last year, Burberry partnered with singer Kris Wu, also known as Wu Yifan (吴亦凡), to offer followers an exclusive immersion into the brand’s FW 2016 fashion show. The celebrity released a series of posts subtly showcasing Burberry’s key pillars enriched with his perspectives. Burberry managed to subtly reinforce its branding by featuring Wu with the iconic trench coat in an elegant British setting, while ensuring massive social media coverage with the star.

    Salvatore Ferragamo worked with Chinese celebrity model Ming Xi (奚梦瑶) for its FW 2016 eyewear campaign. (Courtesy Photo)
    Salvatore Ferragamo worked with Chinese celebrity model Ming Xi (奚梦瑶) for its FW 2016 eyewear campaign. (Courtesy Photo)

    In Q4 last year, Ferragamo invited model Ming Xi (奚梦瑶) to uncover the brand’s Italian lifestyle in Florence and create exclusive Weibo and WeChat content to showcase its eyewear collection.

    These campaigns could have been enhanced even further by employing celebrities to trigger audience engagement on their social media platforms via user-generated content. Always looking forward to interacting with stars, followers are particularly eager to enter a contest when their favorite KOL, as a lure, asks them to participate.

    It is essential for brands to see beyond the noise that KOLs and celebrities generate and first agree on a concept that will help generating the right buzz.

    It is only after determining the campaign idea embodying its identity that the brand can consider looking for the relevant celebrity or KOL to collaborate with.

    Rémi Blanchard is Strategic planning manager at Mazarine Asia Pacific, an agency dedicated to advising luxury brands in their communication strategies all over Asia.

    Discover more
    Daily BriefAnalysis, news, and insights delivered to your inbox.