According to research carried out last year by Kantar Group, China’s Generation Z will account for 40 percent of all Chinese consumers by 2020. This cohort is likely to be the most free-spending, savvy generation of consumers that China has ever seen, and that makes them an enticing prospect for brands and marketers, which makes Gen-Z influencers in China valuable.
However, brands cannot take Gen Z (also grouped together under the labels of “post-95s” and “post-00s”) for granted. They are discerning shoppers who research purchases in depth. They are more likely to take word of mouth recommendations from trusted sources rather than be swayed by expensive ad campaigns. This includes acting on the advice given by online influencers or KOLs—30 percent of the respondents to the Kantar survey said that they could be influenced by recommendations from celebrity KOLs. Even more, participants said that in the late stages of making a purchasing decision, they would pay attention to suggestions made by their favorite “mini” KOLs—influencers with smaller followings who present a friendly, intimate and relatable persona online.
This presents an opportunity for brands who can figure out who China’s Gen Z is listening to, and where they’re engaging with these KOLs. This list rounds up five Gen-Z Influencers in China, also celebrities who are having a major impact on Gen Z consumers right now.
5 Gen-Z Influencers in China
The first Gen-Z Influencers in China we are going to talk about is Benny, this 23-year-old Beijinger is part of a group of “beauty boys” who have earned a huge, devoted following for their makeup tutorials and product reviews. His peers in that realm include Zeng Xuening on Bilibili and Wang Yuepeng on Weibo, but with over 4 million Weibo followers and more than 1.6 million on Bilibili, Benny (birth name Dong Zichu) is among the most influential. He often introduces himself as “Benny Bitch” and is known for his fast-talking, sometimes acid-tongued videos reviewing and testing cosmetics, makeup brushes and occasionally other types of products. His effortless presence in front of the camera is part of his appeal, and his videos are also laced with humor. His androgynous look and striking features are other aspects of his charm. Many of Benny’s followers are female, but he’s also a keen advocate of men wearing cosmetics—in fact, he launched his own brand, Croxx, which was one of the biggest success stories on Tmall during 2018’s Singles Day sales.
As one of the Gen-Z Influencers in China, as well as blogging/vlogging about daily life, her romance with fellow KOL Liu Yang and their travels to a seemingly never-ending itinerary of European cities, 23-year-old AQin regularly reviews a range of beauty products. As one of the Gen-Z Influencers in China, the Chongqing-born, Shanghai-based influencer puts a fun-loving spin on her content, but her modeling also reveals a moodier side that can at turns evoke old-school glamour or the alternative stylings of photoshoots from 1980s magazines like The Face. In her videos, she sometimes refers to her hectic, frequently sleep-deprived schedule as a jumping-off point to discuss the importance of an effective beauty regimen. AQin’s product reviews have helped her build a Weibo fanbase numbering 10 million users, and she’s moved with the younger generation onto Xiaohongshu, where she currently enjoys a respectable following of 130,000. Cosmetic brands like MAC have recognized AQin’s ability to reach fans across multiple platforms, teaming up with her to promote its lipstick.
Jackson Yee (易烊千玺)
The youngest member of boy band TFBoys, 18-year-old Jackson Yee (Yi Yangqianxi) is one of China’s “little fresh meat” crop of fresh-faced male Gen Z stars. This has been a breakthrough year for the Hunan-born Yee, who was named eighth on Forbes’ 2019 China Celebrity 100 list. In a year that saw him speak at a UN forum, he has also had starring roles in two of the year’s most popular dramas, The Longest Day in Chang’an and Legend of Youth. Yee’s almost 80 million followers on Weibo make him among China’s most sought-after stars for brands. Yee has recently appeared in campaigns for Tmall, Adidas Neo and Evian, and his appointment as Asia-Pacific brand ambassador for Bottega Veneta brought that brand invaluable publicity in 2018. Yee was one of several high-profile stars who severed ties with luxury brands during a summer of politically charged controversy. While Yee walked away from a lucrative contract with Givenchy, it’s unlikely the uproar will diminish his huge fanbase.
Taiwanese-born Ouyang first found fame in childhood as a musical prodigy. She studied cello and piano at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music and still performs, but her musical gifts also gave her a springboard to the worlds of film and fashion. Still only 19, she has worked with Jackie Chan both as co-star and co-producer (on Bleeding Steel and A Whole New World respectively). She has been the face of luxury brands including Chanel’s Gabrielle fragrance and French brand Maje. However, the face Ouyang presents to her nearly 6 million followers on Xiaohongshu is that of a down-to-earth teenager taking selfies (wearing minimal makeup) and posting vlogs about the minutiae of her day-to-day life. Her Weibo following, approaching 17 million at the time of writing, suggests a talent that is anything but ordinary. A new survey has just seen Ouyang displace Yang Mi as the female star with the greatest influence on the clothing purchases of China’s post-95 generation, suggesting that the young musician’s influence is only growing.
With almost 2 million Weibo followers and a further 270,000 on Instagram, it’s fair to say that, 21-year-old Natasha Lau has a wider network than the average college student, as one of the Gen-Z Influencers in China. Perhaps she gained the instinct for networking from her mother, a wealthy Shanghai socialite. Lau has divided her time over the past few years between frequent endorsements and campaigns for brands including Fendi and Cartier, and her study of fashion management at Parsons School of Design in New York City. She has frequently collaborated with Dolce & Gabbana before that brand ran afoul of Chinese netizens in 2018. Her social media posts often feature her modeling, but outside of her luxury brand collaborations, her style is often more natural, less obsessed with the pursuit of perfection than many other influencers. Fans also appreciate the fact that she’s proud of having a fuller figure than most Chinese models. The media has also taken note: Lau was hailed as one of “Asia’s Most Stylish” by Hong Kong Tatler in 2018.