12 Jul 2024 23:03

Advertising & Marketing

Lessons from China on effective celebrity marketing

Chinese brands have long relied on proven celebrities to attract attention and add appeal. However, the explosion of social media, rapid growth of local brands and the e-commerce revolution are challenging brands to adapt their strategy. What does a brand need to do to effectively leverage celebrity in China today?

Kantar Millward Brown’s analysis of our Link pre-testing database indicates that mere presence of celebrity in creatives does not guarantee long term engagement. Here are three strategies that we have found work well to ensure you get a good return on your celebrity investment.

Cast a wider net

Most brands continue to forge alliances with limited number of top stars. No surprise then that on average top celebrities endorse over 10 brands each and this number is increasing (Source: 2017 CelebrityZ report – Kantar Millward Brown’s leading celebrity ranking offer). Depending on only these few top stars means it is difficult for marketers to uniquely build resonance with their brand. Rising young stars (such as Lu Han) offer the opportunity to connect with today’s high-income Millennials, whose wide exposure to trends, discerning tastes and a willingness to pay premium are coveted by most brands.

Balance short term and long-term focus

Enticed by millions of fans, brands court top celebrities without having a long-term view on how well they fit with the brand’s positioning and character. Matching the brand character with the celebrity character is key to unlocking the true potential of the synergy. Nestle Milka successfully married its warm soft persona seamlessly with the ‘innocence’ profile of Zhang Yi Xing (in the top 20 celebrity list, nicknamed ‘Little Sheep’ by his fans) to drive sustained engagement with consumers. This matching of personality becomes even more relevant for China’s lower tiers (the next frontier of growth) where the personality of the celebrity should be down to earth and relatable to the people who are less advertising-literate, and looking for rational and simple marketing messages.

Spread your bets

Social media has spawned internet celebrities who have captured the imagination of millions of fans. Brands can leverage potential to garner short term gains and if matched well with brands’ personality can also result in effective brand building. For instance, Oppo and Vivo sign up multiple celebrities and rotate their exposure over a few months. This approach works since the celebrities are matched with each phone model, complement each other and cater to the overarching brand proposition delivering a consistent brand voice. A unique advantage of this approach is minimum collateral damage to the brand when celebrities go rogue or get embroiled in scandals.

Picking the right celebrity is only half the battle. To ensure the best return on investment brands need to create content appealing to the target audience that showcases the celebrity and the brand. But choosing the right celebrity can improve the odds of success dramatically. But what do you think? Do these rules apply everywhere or is China unique when it comes to celebrity marketing? Please share your thoughts.


Written by Maneesh Choudhary,Managing Director, Beijing & Guangzhou Kantar Millward Brown

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