In “Chinese Whispers”, we share the biggest news stories about the luxury industry in China that haven’t yet made it into the English language.
In this week’s edition, we discuss:
- A Weibo advertising rule labeling a Valentino Ad as spam,
- Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning’s debut at Paris Fashion Week, and
- A radical design change to WeChat’s subscription accounts.
1. Valentino Oversight Reveals a Hidden Weibo Advertising Rule – Sohu
This week Italian luxury powerhouse Valentino was hit by the opaque advertising rules of Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform in China with over 400 million monthly active users.
On June 21, Valentino’s Chinese ambassador Zhang Yixing wrote a post on the platform about his recent attendance at the brand’s menswear fashion week in Paris, and tagged Valentino’s official account. However, this post was immediately marked as spam by Weibo, prohibiting users from liking or commenting on it.
Although far from the first time Chinese celebrities have used Weibo to engage with luxury brands, this appears to be the first time celebrity endorsement has been marked as spam. Many marketing experts have said it was likely to be the case that Valentino did not pay for advertising on Weibo, a cost that is not publicly-known to many labels.
Though the influence of Weibo has lessened in recent years due to the exodus of users and government censorship, it remains a key stomping ground for Chinese celebrities working with luxury brands. The rules and costs of marketing and advertising on Weibo is far from transparent to brands and agencies. Last year, ParkLu, an influencer marketing agency in China, reported 10 hidden rules about the platform based on talks with agency insiders, KOL (key opinion leader) surveys, and independent testing.
2. Chinese Sportswear Brand Li Ning Debuts at Paris Fashion Week – Jiemian
On June 21, China’s sportswear brand Li Ning hosted its first runway show at Paris Fashion Week Men’s for the Spring’ 19s season, following its buzzy overseas debut during New York Fashion Week in February of this year. Chinese media outlet Jiemian believed Li Ning has succeeded in using international fashion shows to position itself as a luxury streetwear label among China’s millennial consumers. Ahead of the Paris show, the brand released lookbooks and videos on social media in an attempt to capture the attention of consumers.
For Chinese designers, global fashion weeks—whether in New York, Milan, Paris, or London—have become an important marketing tool for building global recognition and improving fashion status in China. However, this investment does not pay off equally for all players.
3. WeChat Diverts to a Newsfeed Style for Subscription Accounts – LadyMax
As of June 21, China’s top social media platform WeChat has redesigned the interface of subscription accounts to appear in the style of a more direct newsfeed, in efforts to improve reading efficiency and convenience for users. Previously, the subscription accounts were presented in a classic RSS style.
Chinese fashion media outlet LadyMax argued the change is likely to lead to a reshuffle of the country’s key opinion leader (KOLs) market as the new style offers more balanced and equal exposure for all accounts. The traditional advantage that bigger KOLs have over smaller ones will disappear. One of the top fashion influencers Becky Li echoed the concern, saying that “it is now getting hard for users to find their accounts.”
Not just for China’s KOLs, WeChat’s subscription accounts have been an important marketing and branding channel for luxury brands. A news-style feed, which better fits with Chinese users’ reading habits, is poised to benefit brands using the app by enhancing the open rate of content, and thus increasing the effectiveness of communication.