This year, many brands have seen Chinese stars as the face of big brands and companies. Popstar Kris Wu became the brand ambassador of Bulgari, the brand that is most influential in China. Prada signed up Chinese leading actress Zheng Shuang and Louis Vuitton making headlines by making BTS their global brand ambassador. Three brands were convinced that signing up these three stars would make them bankable.
They believe that hiring these brand ambassadors was their best marketable move. But destiny has some other plans. In February, Prada had too severe ties with Zheng when a rumor exploded concerning her alleged abandonment of two babies carried by surrogate parents in the United States; in August, the star was seized 299 million yuan (US$46.1 million) by Chinese officials for tax invasion.
In July, Wu was questioned for abuse by a beauty influencer and hence he was dismissed by Bulgari and Louis Vuitton, different brands he worked with. In mid-August, Wu was legally linked with abuse by officials in Beijing.
In May, fan clubs affiliated with BTS began fading on Weibo, China’s Twitter – and when the Friends TV sitcom get-together special was released in China in June, the group’s guest show on the episode was cast out.
In a related strike, Weibo also forced a 60-day prohibition on a BTS fan account for illegally soliciting supplies to support drives such as anniversary ceremonies for members of the BTS. Actress Zhao Wei was given the proper spokeswoman for a different luxury label Fendi, in China last year. But she is doubtful to stay in the position after her title was scoured from the Chinese internet last week, and movies and TV programs she features in eliminated her from streaming platforms without any reason.
Stars are essential when it comes to influencing Chinese buyers on where to buy. Their collaboration indicates high status, says Charlie Gu, the CEO of Kollective Influence, a retailing firm. These labels are not only in obtaining themselves in the crosshairs of the Chinese officials, but they are trying to rein in what administrators perceive as the by-products of the entertainment business.
So how should luxury labels – which owe their survival to the profits of laissez-faire, and which famously return stars millions of bucks to cover their promotional drives? If China is clamping down on some of the most prominent players in the nation, are they leading a precarious tightrope solely by connecting with them? It seems labels have limited options.
“Despite the possible hazard, using a high-profile label representative still continues a particularly powerful method for a label to build up awareness and attract attention from possible buyers,” says Charlie Gu, the CEO of Kollective Influence – a retailing firm based within Shanghai and California.
“Celebrities are very valuable when it comes to determining Chinese clients on where to buy, as their collaboration signifies high rank.” Statistics support this up. According to research published in 2020 by information consultancy Ruder Finn, more than three-quarters of customers viewed answered this was one of the main reasons. One of the most significant determinants in choosing where to use their hard-earned money in the luxury sphere was down to which KOL (key opinion leader) or figure backed the name.
Although, interestingly, this decision is usually a short-term thing. “Labels require to have a sensible expectation about the results of such collaborations,” tells Gu. “While these collabs could siphon possible buyers from a celebrity’s fans, the supporters’ faith usually stays with the star preferably than the names. So a brand certainly requires to reminisce about a game design to promote genuine support among these followers, unless it won’t render into long-term growth.”
Understanding this, how can labels make wise choices about star ambassadors going ahead? China is an unbelievable market in that Western players don’t have much power. The retailing cost of a celebrity can be seriously reduced if the officials turn on them, even for an infringement that would be deemed comparatively trivial in other businesses.
It is tough to understand ahead of time which leads might be targeted. So labels unquestionably require to have answers in place in advance. “It’s constantly great to have a stormy day design when you start these businesses,” states Gu. “It is practically difficult for labels to predict and counter the by-product [from rumors], as they usually occur suddenly and surprisingly.
“So a label should just believe these situations will appear one day, and organize in a policy to transform the attention from a celebrity’s fans into genuine investment in the label from the get go.” Another answer is to apply a variety of expertise from the realms of cinema, music, and game, as this is less dangerous than gambling on one notably bankable player who may immerse in disgrace.
Following the termination of Bulgari’s agreement with Wu, the luxury brand’s latest Dare to Dream drive has more brand representatives in China than in any other business: Lisa from K-pop girl group Blackpink, musician and actress Fan Chengcheng, musician and star Zhao Lusi, actors Wen Qi, Lamu Yangzi, and Ren Min, and lead and model Xu Kai, among others.
Labels have decided to get around the dangers linked while working with Chinese names as representatives by running with East Asian stars who weren’t Chinese. Without a nationalistic force in China and the thousands of issues proposed on Weibo when Korean leads were appointed to be brand ambassadors in China made this course was hard to achieve.
The scrubbing of BTS fan clubs from Weibo this year emphasized its traps. One famous spot for labels is that Chinese customers are usually keen to overlook infringements than Western ones. They are less inclined to point the finger at the brands that connect with a diminished star. “Chinese customers have a realistic picture about the quality of these connections between star ambassadors and labels – it is a sales transaction,” states Gu. “When a star is removed, so long as the group moves speedily and steadily, Chinese buyers won’t put too much responsibility on the label.”