Savvy Social Networking Pays Off for L’Oreal China

    In order to achieve stellar results in its first quarter, L'Oreal relied on some savvy marketing techniques to bring attention to its products -- including using singer Li Yuchun as a spokesperson.
    Singer Li Yuchun.
    Angela HouAuthor
      Published   in Beauty

    Tapping Into Singer’s Fan Base, “Deeply White” Campaign Scores With Younger Consumers#

    Singer Li Yuchun.

    In a press conference in Beijing earlier this month, L’Oreal chairman & CEO Jean-Paul Agon emphasized the positioning of China as the company’s key market in the coming years. L’Oreal’s recent 2013 Q1 report – in which its China revenue helped raise earnings above expectation – reinforces the mainland’s importance as a growth opportunity.

    What haven’t received much attention, though, are the marketing strategies that have helped the multi-brand conglomerate achieve such stellar results in China markets.

    Case in point: the launch of L’Oreal’s “Deeply White,” a new product line targeted to younger, mid-market consumers. In late March, the company teamed up with one of the largest e-commerce retailers, "TMall" (天貓商城), on a social media outreach campaign that sent pre-sale promotions to Weibo’s 200 million-plus users, resulting in more than 10,000 pre-orders in four days.

    More to the point, it became the first marketing campaign to make Weibo’s Top 5 Trending Discussions.

    The success of the campaign largely rests on L'Oreal's choice of product spokesperson: singer Li Yuchun (李宇春), whose own already well-established online presence effectively promoted the brand’s message.

    Li rose to fame in 2005 as the winner of the popular TV competition "Super Voice Girls" (超級女聲), pulling in more than 350 million votes. Her compelling stage charisma quickly won her an impressive fan base ranging from teenagers to their middle-aged parents. But her tomboyish style was a marked departure from previous L’Oreal spokespersons, who have included the ethereal Gong Li (鞏俐), Fan Bingbing (范冰冰), and Michelle Yeoh (杨紫琼). The question posed by Li’s selection – can someone with such an androgynous public image represent the aspirations of L'Oreal female consumers? – became irresistibly debatable among young women online.

    L’Oreal shrewdly tapped into the buzz by linking the release of Li’s promotional video to the volume of pre-sale orders. Not only was the timing of the video’s release linked to pre-sale figures, but so was its ultimate length – the greater the volume of pre-orders, the longer the video. In a market where no publicity is bad publicity, the discussion surrounding Li’s selection and the video release attracted two million online fans. The continued discussion has caught the eye of the general public and focused attention on L'Oreal and its products.

    Li Yuchun's L'Oreal ad.

    For L’Oreal, the “Deeply White” campaign was a solid match between promotional strategy and target market. Stylish but affordably priced, the product line clearly targets younger, mid-market “millennials,” and Li is one of the opinion leaders of this generation. Much as Lady GaGa’s fans call themselves “Monsters,” Li’s fans call themselves "Yu Mi" (玉米), literally meaning "Corn". Regardless what such active fan bases calls themselves, brands are taking note of their commercial value.

    While the size of a fan base doesn’t necessarily correlate to market share, says Jing Daily columnist Alexis Bohomme, the ability to channel a fan base into real revenue can determine the winner in these markets.

    So while Li’s image does differ from the L’Oreal spokeswomen who preceded her, it’s clear that her organized, active, and loyal fan base can be mobilized as an effective advertising, marketing, and PR engine. (According to People’s Daily, Li’s self-organizing fan base not only created an online fan club with ongoing announcements of activities, but recently organized more than 100 editors to release weekly newsletters about her.)

    For L’Oreal, the gamble on a neophyte spokesperson – and the smart digital marketing built around her – have paid significant dividends in terms of brand recognition in an increasingly active online consumer segment. As the company continues to expand its presence in second- and third-tier cities and among mid-market consumers, the “Deeply White” campaign signals a promising direction for future brand initiatives.

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