SK-II, Nars, Fenty Beauty: Which brand performed best in May?

    Global brands are experimenting with state media and influential KOLs, while local players are sticking to their go-to influencers. Who is gaining the most traction this month?
    Image: SK-II
      Published   in Beauty

    After several consecutive quarters of lackluster performance in the Chinese market, SK-II is trying to salvage its sales by upgrading its offline counters and leveraging authoritative online channels.

    From May 1 to 21, the Japanese premium skincare brand achieved a media value (MV) of $1.5 million, according to the WeArisma Beauty Leaderboard tracker*. Nars and Fenty Beauty tied for second, both achieving $1 million in media value.

    However, C-beauty brands are largely outpacing their global rivals by this measure. Domestic skincare label Proya reached a staggering media value of $2.7 million in the first few weeks of May, followed by Winona at $1.9 million and Florasis at $1.5 million.

    Clearly, homegrown brands are demonstrating greater sensitivity to online consumer trends, faster reaction times, and a willingness to experiment with new marketing strategies, such as launching a Douyin mini-series.

    The top international beauty brands in China based on media value. Image: WeArisma
    The top international beauty brands in China based on media value. Image: WeArisma

    SK-II ($1.5 million MV)#

    In May, SK-II claimed the top spot on the WeArisma Beauty Leaderboard tracker with a media value of $1.5 million.

    The brand’s success was largely driven by a Douyin video titled “SK-II Blind Skin Test for Consumers,” posted by the state media outlet Xiaoyang Video (@小央视频). As a branch of CCTV (China Central Television), the account boasts 28.9 million followers on the short video platform. This video shows random people guessing the ages of three participants by blindly touching their faces.

    Interestingly, the guessers believed a 61-year-old woman to be 37, and it turned out she had been using SK-II for 31 years.

    The video generated an impressive media value of $653,500, demonstrating the effectiveness of using authoritative channels and authentic consumer experiences to win beauty shoppers’ trust.

    Additionally, the news outlet Phoenix Web (@凤凰网), with 16 million followers on Douyin, highlighted SK-II’s upgraded counter in Shanghai, further improving the brand’s image. Brick-and-mortar stores enable brands to provide consumers with memorable interactions, fostering brand trust and loyalty.

    Nars ($1 million MV)#

    This month, Nars achieved a media value of $1 million, propelled by content from beauty influencer Aimeijiang Tutu (@爱美酱图图), who has 4.6 million followers on Douyin. Her video testing Nars’ 227 Aragorn lipgloss generated $130,400 in media value. Glossy lipstick is currently trending in China.

    Additionally, beauty influencer Wumiao (喵爷-吴淼), who boasts 5.2 million followers on Weibo, recommended various Nars products using the hashtag “recommended only if useful” in three of her posts. The endorsements collectively amassed a media value of $112,500.

    These figures highlight the importance of partnering with influential local creators to effectively promote products. Such collaborations not only amplify brand visibility but also cultivate excitement among consumers, ultimately driving brand awareness and sales conversion.

    Fenty Beauty ($1 million MV)#

    Fenty Beauty reached a media value of $1 million, largely thanks to Sephora’s promotional efforts. The official Sephora account on Douyin, @丝芙兰SEPHORA, posted two videos urging its 3.2 million followers to explore the new Fenty Beauty counter at its offline stores.

    Sephora’s posts alone generated a media value of $177,900 by targeting the right demographic and sparking interest in Fenty Beauty’s products. Collaborations between brands and retailers create opportunities for engaging content that resonates with audiences and boosts brand awareness in the Chinese market.

    Fenty Beauty’s popularity is expected to grow in the upcoming month after its founder Rihanna — dubbed the “Shandong Queen” by netizens —made a surprise appearance at her cosmetics line counter this week to promote her label and actively engage with local KOLs.

    Unsurprisingly, on the C-beauty side, key players such as Proya, Winona, and Florasis continue to claim the top positions on the WeArisma Beauty Leaderboard tracker, followed by Chando and Perfect Diary.

    The top local beauty brands in China based on media value. Image: WeArisma
    The top local beauty brands in China based on media value. Image: WeArisma

    Proya ($2.7 million MV)#

    In May, Proya emerged as the leading C-beauty brand. Consistently ranking in the top three, Proya saw its online media value steadily grow in May, increasing by $1.2 million compared to the previous month.

    The skincare brand is riding high; in April, the company shared that revenue hit $1.34 billion (8.9 billion RMB) in 2023, up 39.5% YoY, marking the first time a Chinese cosmetics company had closed in on the 9 billion RMB ($1.35 billion) revenue mark.

    In terms of media value, influential blogger Yuantuma (@原图妈), who has 10.9 million Weibo followers, showcased Proya in 10 Weibo posts, generating a total of $783,851 in media value. Her consistent promotion played a crucial role in Proya’s top-three ranking both this month and last.

    KOL @言真inky, with 5.8 million followers on Douyin, also posted two pieces of content promoting Proya’s special sale on May 16, generating $318,756 in media value.

    Regular mentions from trusted influencers keep beauty brands top-of-mind for Chinese consumers, making them appear credible and reliable. Meanwhile, exclusive sales ignite excitement and urgency among consumers, which is necessary to stand out in China’s competitive beauty market.

    Winona ($1.9 million MV)#

    Winona ranked second this month with a media value of $1.9 million, down by $608,000 from last month. The aforementioned blogger Yuantuma (@原图妈) also endorsed Winona in eight of her posts, highlighting the brand’s acne cleansing mask and sunscreen products. Her consistent support for local beauty brands underscores the value of strong influencer relationships in enhancing brand visibility and audience trust.

    Additionally, @BONNIE万洁, who has 9 million Douyin followers, seamlessly integrated a Winona 520 gift box into a vlog about spending the day with her boyfriend. The subtle product placement at the end of the video, blending naturally with the rest of the content, easily captures consumers’ attention and enhances their willingness to purchase compared to direct advertorials.

    Florasis ($1.5 million MV)#

    In May, Florasis largely owed its online success to Chinese lifestyle KOL 言真inky, who helped generate $1.27 million of the brand’s $1.5 million in media value. The influencer featured Florasis in eight short Douyin videos, promoting exclusive livestreaming sales and discounts on the Florasis Jade series this May.

    By working with 言真inky, Florasis was able to promote exclusive discounts and provide early access to new products, driving higher conversion rates and cultivating a loyal customer base.

    In China’s competitive beauty landscape, where trends and product launches abound, it’s important to partner with influential livestream anchors to stand out, especially in light of the upcoming 618 shopping festival.

    * Jing Daily’s monthly Beauty Leaderboards tracker analyzes the media value and social media buzz of beauty brands across Chinese social media platforms. Data provided by analytics company WeArisma can help brands measure and optimize their earned media and influencer marketing ROI.

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