2017 was a massive growth year for China influencer marketing campaigns. The industry matured, the quality of content rose, and influencer marketing has become mainstream. Influencers are slowly but surely gaining respect and being treated as professional content creators instead of just another distribution channel. Brands are giving influencers more creative control and launching products exclusively through influencer platforms. And then there are the influencers who know their worth and are sidestepping brands entirely, creating their own multi-million dollar companies.
Here are some of 2017’s most talked about China influencer marketing campaigns:
Tod’s X Mr. Bags
Luxury brand Tod’s collaborated with handbag guru Mr. Bags (Weibo: @Bags包先生) to sell 200 specially designed bags which sold out within 24 hours of going on sale. One of the styles, the wave backpack, sold out all 80 pieces within five minutes.
Why did they sell so well?
While Mr. Bags has partnered with other brands in the past, this collaboration was unique because he played a major role in designing the entire collection. The styles he created clearly resonated with his followers, and that’s not a coincidence. He chose the color blue for the bags because he did research on Weibo and WeChat and found out that posts featuring blue bags received the most likes and comments from his followers.
His followers also know that he is obsessed with quality. To further demonstrate the great care that went into the production of the bags, he filmed a video sharing the behind-the-scenes process of making the bags.
Mr. Bags didn’t let his creative ego get in the way. Instead, he used data to find out what his followers wanted, and designed the bags based on that. This, combined with his trustworthy reputation, and the fact that only 200 bags were produced, was a surefire recipe for sales success.
This year, Airbnb ramped up their efforts in China in a big way, rebranding with the Chinese name Aibiying meaning “welcome with love”, tripling their local workforce, integrating local payment options and providing 24/7 customer support in Mandarin (among other changes).
They’re targeting the young middle class, a group of people who are increasingly acquiring a taste for independent travel. To reach this demographic, Airbnb ran China influencer marketing campaigns collaborating with several influencers and celebrities such as @Bags包先生, @我的旅行小马甲, @小墨MO, @Fil小白, @Ming奚梦瑶, @jolie罗晓韵, and @安东尼 inviting them to stay in different featured homes and experience foreign life around the world.
The campaign was very successful, helping them gain a lot of popularity in the market. During the China influencer marketing campaigns, the hashtag #爱彼迎旅行体验# generated 13.2M views and 6K discussions on Weibo. Airbnb was mentioned 2.04M times on WeChat the day of the campaign’s launch, a 2000% increase.
The skincare brand SK-II has become a champion of women’s rights and fighting dated social norms in China. Last spring, SK-II collaborated with Chinese actresses Jiangxin @蒋欣 and Tang Wei @汤唯 to produce a short film called “Life Has No Limit“ that immediately went viral all over Chinese social media. The film speaks to the Chinese cultural phenomenon of 剩女 shengnv or “leftover women” and encourages women to avail themselves of ageism and pursue their dreams.
China influencer marketing campaigns surrounding difficult and emotional cultural topics can be hit or miss. SK-II took an enormous risk putting this out, but it has turned out to be an extraordinary marketing strategy for the brand.
Givenchy x Gogoboi
With more than 7 million followers on Weibo and WeChat, Gogoboi is indisputably one of the most popular luxury fashion bloggers in China. Earlier this year he launched his own WeChat integrated e-commerce store through WeChat’s new Mini Programs feature.
On July 14, Givenchy launched its new Duetto handbag collection on this platform, becoming the first luxury brand to do so. The launch was done discreetly through a WeChat post in which Gogoboi asked 10 of his coworkers to model the bag. Under each photo he gave his signature snarky commentary and then he gave readers the opportunity to vote for their favorite model. Only at the end of the post did he mention that the bags were available to purchase in his shop.
The campaign was a resounding success. The featured black-and-white style was sold out within half an hour of the campaign going live, and within 72 hours, all of the available styles were sold out.
This campaign was a big win for WeChat Mini Programs, demonstrating their effectiveness in a huge way.
MINI Cooper x Becky Li
In one of the most legendary China influencer marketing campaigns of all time, popular fashion influencer Becky Li sold 100 limited edition MINI Coopers, priced at 285K RMB, in a mere 5 minutes. Becky is known for her high social media content-to-commerce conversion rates, but this campaign was extraordinary because no one has ever heard of a fashion blogger selling cars through a messaging platform.
It was also the first time MINI released a product exclusively through an influencer.
This year, thanks in big part to China influencer marketing campaigns, Victoria’s Secret was one of the most talked about brands in China. This is exactly what the brand needed. With declining American profits, they’ve got their sights set on China’s growing lingerie market, opening a store in Shanghai earlier this year, one in Beijing in November, and plans to open a total of 18 stores by the end of 2018.
They launched the China brand the biggest and best way they knew how, by hosting the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in Shanghai. Hundreds of Chinese celebrities and influencers attended the invite-only event and the Weibo hashtag #vsfashionshow# has received over 210M impressions to date.
Tapping into China’s growing fitness industry, Victoria’s Secret has been promoting their Victoria Sport line through free “Train Like an Angel” exercise videos on Weibo and an offline ballet class in Shanghai. The class was taught by VS angels’ coach Mary Helen Bowers. Fashion KOLs @邵玉菲Sophia, @李喵喵_夕雪, and @念奺是陳小派老娘 attended the class and shared the experience with their followers. The topic #TrainLikeAnAngel# has generated 15.5M views on Weibo.
In their recent campaign, Gudak proved you don’t need a Weibo or WeChat account to create organic buzz in China.
Gudak Cam is a ¥6 smartphone photography app created by a Korean startup called Screw Bar. The app replicates the old-school film development process by limiting the number of pictures users can take and requires several days to “develop” the images before they can be viewed.
Earlier this month, the hot topic #gudak# tracked over 7 million impressions and almost 8K discussions on Weibo. The topic became popular mainly from organic buzz generated by fashion and photography bloggers like @纪懵懵, @买菌, and @宇华在苏格兰.
This goes to show that companies do not need to wait until they have set up social media accounts in order to promote themselves in China. Get your product into the hands of the right influencers and they will do the work for you.
Influencer brands have had a huge year, achieving massive sales during the 11.11 Singles Day shopping festival and solidifying their place in China’s e-commerce industry.
Lin (Weibo: @Lin张林超 ) is one of many influencers forgoing partnerships with big brands, instead focusing on building their own fashion empires. She leverages her 4.4M fans on Weibo and 4.6M fans on Yizhibo to market her brand on Taobao and to drive foot traffic to her two brick-and-mortar stores in Shanghai.
Taobao’s Store Trading Index ranked her fashion brand LIN EDITION LIMIT in the top 30 for sales on Singles Day 2017, one of a record-breaking 6 influencer brands to make it into the top 30. She was also ranked 3rd in the E-commerce Influencer Value Index.
While brands are still deciding whether or not influencer marketing works, Chinese influencers are creating their own stores and out-selling brands. Companies need to evolve and adapt their marketing strategies more quickly or risk being left in the dust.