4 Astonishing Weibo KOL Marketing Trends to Know (2019)
Weibo is arguably the most influential social media platform in China. With its 462 million MAU, the commercial potential of this platform is immeasurable. Not to mention almost every celebrity or KOL you could possibly name in China is on that long list of active users.
With their frenetic fans and the entirety of China’s strongest purchasing power (Gen-Z) gathered up here, Weibo has outshined all traditional media and become the best place (and the most fierce battleground) for advertising and product promotion online.
I know you must be wondering which KOLs and celebrites among these are favored most by Chinese marketers? Moreover, when taking a closer look at these celebrities, marketers, and consumers, what are the e-commerce trends that are taking place on Weibo right now?
As a heavy Weibo user myself, I will share with you my observation and personal perspectives on each of the topics above. The examples selected for discussion here have no particular order and are representative of each category rather than an exhaustive list. Hopefully, they will bring some inspiration on how to tailor-make your marketing strategy for Chinese consumers.
Table of Contents
- The Most Popular Weibo Celebrities In Early 2019 Read Now
- Weibo Celebrity & E-Commerce Trend #1 – The Ultimate Ambassador of All Brands Read Now
- Weibo Celebrity & E-Commerce Trend #2 – Fan Economy Read Now
- Weibo Celebrity & E-Commerce Trend #3 – Male Spokesmen for Feminine Products Read Now
- Weibo Celebrity & E-Commerce Trend #4 – The Pursuit of Celebrity’s Pick Read Now
The Most Popular Weibo Celebrities in Early 2019
Most Popular Singer on Weibo – Cai Xukun (KUN)
If you’ve followed Chinese social media recently, it is impossible for you to not know the singer Cai Xukun (蔡徐坤, a.k.a. KUN). Born in 1998, KUN rose to fame almost overnight as he became the winner of the web talent show Idol Producer in 2018.
With 3 billion total views, the show’s tremendous success also brought KUN his. As the leader of NINE PERCENT, the boy band comprised of top candidates from Idol Producer, KUN has taken the throne of the most popular Weibo celebrity ever since.
Check out the official celebrity influence rank made by Weibo, and you will have an idea of how incredibly popular KUN has become only months after the show.
On this comprehensive ranking system, reader counts, interactions, social influence, and popularity are all taken into account. KUN has the top rank on almost every category, and he is second to none in daily, weekly, and monthly charts.
Yoseido, a little-known Chinese cosmetic brand, was the first business KUN collaborated with. This company ended up making a fortune out of its outstanding foresight in picking KUN as the right brand ambassador. Said to have only sold 3 thousand pieces before announcing their collaboration with KUN, the sales of its facial masks skyrocketed to 2 million RMB in only one afternoon and have now reached over 10 million in total.
The success of Yoseido is no pure coincidence. Soon after KUN assumed the spokesman of L’Oreal, 28 thousand bottles of L’Oreal’s Youth Code were sold 1 minute after its launch on May 25th. The whole series was completely out of stock only 2 weeks later, achieving a sales record of 25.8 million RMB.
Most Popular Actor on Weibo – Zhu Yilong
As you might have noticed from the Weibo Celebrity Influence Chart above, Zhu Yilong(朱一龙) managed to secure the next place after KUN. It is interesting to note that Zhu did not gain his popularity like other “little fresh meat” (小鲜肉 or “little fresh meat”, means good-looking young male celebrities). Instead, he diligently worked his way to fame and is now in the 10th year of his acting career. Co-starring with the actor Bai Yu in the crowd-pleasing 2018 web series Guardian (镇魂), Zhu Yilong captured the hearts of millions with his poised appeal and refined acting skills.
What comes with fame are invitations from various brands. From Refa to Thermos to Lenovo Smartphones and even Youku, Zhu Yilong has endorsed businesses in a variety of industries including: cosmetics, food and beverages, electronics and websites.
Thanks to his quiet, low-key, and a genuine character that is known to the public, Zhu Yilong manages to speak to distinct groups of these brands’ target audience with the same sincerity.
Most Popular Teenage Idol on Weibo – Jackson Yee
When we think of Chinese boy bands, we think of TFBoys. That’s how widely-acknowledged the teenage boy band still are 6 years after the group’s debut in 2013.
Following the boy band’s early positioning as a group of cute, energetic boys, Jackson Yee (易烊千玺, often called by his real name Yi Yangqianxi) also presented himself as a fresh-faced, slightly feminine boy like the other members. But that changed dramatically in 2017 when each band member’s personal style started to emerge and they each established their own studios.
Quickly shaking off the sweet young boy setting, Jackson Yee evolved into a grown-up that seems to be a lot more mature, cool-headed, and masculine than before. The abrupt transition in personal style earned him substantial attention from the public, including the fashion industry. Acknowledged to have a “high fashion face” and with his distinct personality, Jackson Yee is frequently caught on the cover page of fashion magazines. With this strong publicity and attention from the fashion industry, Jackson has since become the Weibo celebrity spokesman for multiple high-end brands.
The No.1 Fashion Icon on Weibo – Yang Mi
After starring in the widely popular TV Series Palace (宫锁心玉), Yang Mi was instantly crowned as the best-known actress in China. What draws even more attention than her film and television works is her remarkable fashion taste. For several years, Yang Mi’s street snaps have continuously occupied Weibo headlines and her page has become every girl’s fashion bible. Almost every item she wore (even the fake versions on Taobao) would go out of stock mere moments after being seen by the public.
Amassing 103 million Weibo followers, Yang Mi is the No.1 fashion KOL in China and no one has been able to take her title after all these years. Brands are clearly aware of the commercial value the fashion icon can create. Only one season after Yang Mi became the brand ambassador of the designer brand Michael Kors, the brand’s sales in Asia skyrocketed 42.5%. The newly-launched P&G fabric-softener Downy also became a top-seller in the clothing care category on Tmall thanks to just one promotion on Weibo Yang Mi published for them.
And now, the Chinese fashion icon’s influence has begun to spread even further. Alongside Kendall Jenner, Jean Campbell, and Willow Smith, Yang Mi was appointed to be the only Asian global ambassador of Stuart Weitzman in January 2019. Will Yang Mi create the next legendary sales figure for them? We are ready to wait and see.
Weibo Celebrity & E-Commerce Trend #1 – The Ultimate Ambassador of All Brands
While some Weibo celebrities specialize in one area, others are simply generalists who can sell anything. They produce convincing and effective Weibo commercials for every product from budget brands to high-end luxury, and they all look extremely appealing in spite of their seemingly contradicting identities. These celebrities might be very different from one another, but one common ground is that they have huge fan bases behind them.
The King of Weibo Commercials – Luhan
First known to the public as a member of the Korean boy band EXO, Luhan (鹿晗) returned to China as a solo performer in 2014. In the same year, he became the first Chinese social media user to break the Guinness World Record with 1.32 million comment counts on one of his Weibo posts.
With an enormous fan base, the singer/variety show actor’s Weibo is filled with commercials for all types of products ranging from KFC to Cartier. One of the largest beneficiaries of Luhan’s commercial value is L’Occitane. The company’s collaboration with Luhan brought them a 26.9% sales increase in China, including a 250% surge through the online channels.
The Beautiful Foodie – Dilireba
Chinese idol/actress Dilireba (迪丽热巴, a.k.a.Dilraba Dilmurat) soared in popularity for the lovable role she played in the Chinese TV drama Diamond Lover (克拉恋人) in 2015. Apart from being an actress, Dilireba’s later appearance as a member of the heated variety show Keep Running further expanded her fan base. The Uyghur actress has captivated her audience with her exotic beauty. As of now, she has accumulated over 62 million followers on Weibo, and the number of her brand endorsements on Weibo even surpasses Luhan.
Different from other skinny female celebrities, Dilireba is famous for her “foodie” persona. That might explain why among her huge piles of brand partnerships many are from the food and beverage industry. After all, brands all want to convince their consumers that enjoying their products won’t keep girls from being fit and pretty – just look at Dilireba!
The Grassroot Superstar – Zhao Li Ying
Unlike most other professional actresses who graduated with a performing arts degree, the TV drama star Zhao Li Ying(赵丽颖) was raised in a rural family and worked her way up to her current fame. Zhao’s iconic baby face also differentiates herself from the pointy-faced crowd and makes her appear to be kind-hearted and innocent. This adorable appearance combined with her hard-working attitude helped her accumulate a fan base with users of all ages.
With 84 million followers on Weibo, Zhao Li Ying’s endorsed brands are also quite diverse with an inclination towards targeting female consumers. Interestingly, the Dior brand ambassador also represents the gas appliance company Vatti and laundry detergent brand OMO.
Weibo Celebrity & E-Commerce Trend #2 – The Fan Economy
The Fan economy, referring to the economic benefit driven by the mass-purchase of literally anything an idol is promoting simply to support him/her, might not be something unique to China, but the extent of it could go far beyond your imagination. The immeasurable financial power of Chinese fan clubs is jaw-dropping and definitely worth any businesses’ investment if they can find the right ambassador.
The Rising Pop Queen – Meng Meiqi
Remember KUN from Idol Producer earlier? Well, there was another similar Chinese talent show called Produce 101 that also went viral in 2018 but focused on female idols-to-be instead. With 185 million votes, Meng Meiqi(孟美岐) was crowned the champion of the show and later the leader of Rocket Girl 101, the girl group made up of the show’s finalists.
Sexy and fashionable on the outside, Meng Meiqi was invited to post work primarily with beauty brands (including Armani Fragrance, Kiehl’s, MAC, SK2, and Tom Ford Cosmetics) and make posts endorsing these brands to her 18 million followers on Weibo. However, on the inside, Meng Meiqi is always praised for being independent, caring, and ambitious. She was nicknamed “eldest brother” (山支哥) for her lovable personality and leadership potential.
This spirit of being bold and acting fast has definitely been passed down from Meng Meiqi to her fans. In her fan club’s 2018 first season expenditure review, a total amount of 16 million RMB was splashed on supporting their idol, and a huge chunk of which was spent on her endorsed products and magazines.
Weibo Celebrity & E-Commerce Trend #3 – Male Spokesmen for Feminine Products
Another special Weibo e-commerce phenomenon is using male spokesmen for products targeting female consumers. Though not being intuitive enough for many, such practice is so prevailing to the point that it is somehow difficult to find male/gender neutral product endorsed by certain male Weibo celebrities.
The Gen-Z heartthrob – Dylan Wang
In summer 2018, the remake of love drama classic Meteor Garden was launched in multiple Asia countries and also on Netflix. Despite the overwhelming popularity in southeast Asian countries, the TV Series did not perform as expected in its homeland, China. Nonetheless, the leading actor Dylan Wang (王鹤棣, also known as Wang He Di) still won over the hearts of many with his natural acting skills and bad-boy charm. The 20-year-old celebrity’s Weibo follower count has grown to over 7 million now. Arguably, the majority of his fan base are Gen-Z girls captivated by Dylan Wang’s handsome face and his witty, easygoing real-life personality.
If you now look at Dylan Wang’s Weibo posts, it is not so hard to interpret why he was featured in a wide collection of female-oriented brand commercials. In one of his posts, Dylan Wang lies on the sofa with an Estee Lauder lipstick on his hand, and he wrote: “You must look amazing wearing this #420 EL lipstick.” By putting Dylan Wang in pink bubbles, businesses are seizing the opportunity to make their teenage target consumers’ fantasy come true.
Weibo Celebrity & E-CommerceTrend #4 – The Pursuit of The Celebrity’s Pick
Making up the largest group online, the Chinese Gen-Zers seek to connect with their favorite Weibo celebrities in increasingly personal ways. For instance, purchasing items from that these Weibo celebrities use in their day-to-day lives has become the latest trend. This does not refer to the products these idols endorse for commercial purposes, but the personal favorites that can truly reflect their tastes.
The Puppy-Love of the Nation – Turbo Liu
The 22-year-old movie actor Turbo Liu (刘昊然, better known as Liu Haoran), well-received with his boy-next-door charisma, represents how “first love” is ideally perceived in the eyes of many Chinese. The most recent film Turbo Liu starred in, Detective Chinatown 2, grossed an astonishing 3.4 billion RMB owing to his popularity.
In January 2019, the Weibo headline #WhatPerfumeDoesTurboLiuWear# topped the Weibo hot search results with a total of 220 million reads and 23 thousand discussion counts.
It all started with a fan of Turbo Liu’s sharing a video of her escorting the 22-year-old movie actor at the airport. “My clothes picked up Turbo Liu’s perfume and it smells like him now!” her Weibo post wrote. Almost immediately, the post had gone viral on Weibo and soon triggered heated discussions. Most believed the correct answer was Chanel Bleu, resulting in an unexpected win for the brand who were able to receive a ton of attention without any effort!
Summing it Up
As said, with so many active celebrities all on the same platform, Weibo is by far the hottest place for brand promotion and celebrity collaboration. And when the right marketing strategy is combined with a suited Weibo celebrity spokesperson for your brand, the possibilities for your business to soar in China are limitless.
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