For brands looking to boost their presence on Chinese social media, tapping into China’s pop idol fever has become a proven method to gain millions of interactions from a single post.
Celebrities remain crucial for luxury brands’ social engagement in China, as Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China 2019 finds that celebrity content drives 94% of social engagement on Weibo in both the fashion and watch and jewelry categories.
And among those celebrities, it’s the boy band idols that reign supreme. Bottega Veneta and Chopard both earned the highest share of Weibo engagement in their respective categories after appointing as brand ambassadors members of the TFBoys, China’s most popular boy band (which also drove massive engagement for luxury last year). Bottega Veneta had the most popular Weibo post among all fashion brands when it announced TFBoys member Jackson Yi as its new brand ambassador, earning over 12.5 million interactions. Chopard also earned first place among watch and jewelry brand posts with its announcement of Yi’s bandmate Wang Yuan as its own ambassador.
Boy band members from China’s popular idol-making web shows also continue to generate some of the largest engagement numbers for brands. Three of the top ten fashion brands’ Weibo posts feature members of the boy band Nine Percent that was formed on the smash hit iQiyi reality competition Idol Producer. As Prada works to stage a China market comeback, it also recently announced Nine Percent member Cai Xukun as its first Chinese ambassador.
A significant reason for the numbers that these stars can produce is the intense devotion of their fan bases, which develop highly organized fan clubs that rush to show their support for the brands that hire their favorite idol. This idol culture has sparked a massive “fan economy” in which idol groups’ followers will spend big money not just on concert tickets and merch, but also the items the pop stars promote and even crowdfunded billboard ads in Times Square for their birthdays.
While many of the pop idols earning the highest engagement were born after 1995, there’s also still immense fandom for veteran pop stars. Kris Wu, a solo hip-hop star who got his start with a K-pop boy band, serves as brand ambassador for both Louis Vuitton and Bulgari, which earned the number one and two spots in Gartner L2’s Luxury China Digital IQ Index ranking this year.
And while it’s mostly boy bands, female pop idols can also drive engagement. Victoria Song, a singer who has a similar K-pop group-to-solo career trajectory to Kris Wu, was featured in a Weibo video post by Jimmy Choo that placed among the top 10 fashion posts for engagement and earned over 5 million views. In the beauty category, meanwhile, members of the Rocket Girls 101 girl group have successfully driven social engagement for brands.