Image via Business of Fashion
As our global marketing economy becomes increasingly intertwined with influencer marketing, where sharp focus is placed on key individuals and their connection to a specific audience rather than the old fashioned approach of directing broad attention toward a large target market, a greater and greater allocation of budget and branding considerations is being directed toward these clout-wielding digital denizens worldwide.
In China, influencers are referred to as KOLs, which stands for “Key Opinion Leaders.” Perceived as experts in their respective fields, they have copious social followings and genuine conversion clout – micro-businesses that help major companies reach millions of new customers in order to drive consumption. KOLs are also known as Wang Hong (网红) in Chinese, or “Internet Celebrities.”
From Papi Jiang, the lightening-tongued cultural vlogger with a decidedly feminist bent to Gogoboi, the scathing fashion guru turned red-carpet celebrity-critic impresario, there is an increasingly populated field of everyday netizens who have turned themselves into blogging powerhouses. They are becoming increasingly influential with platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, Youku, and Miaopai. Recently, live streaming, or 直播, has been a popular way for KOLs to reach their audience in an immediate, intimate and effective manner using dedicated apps such as YY and Six Rooms.
Listed below are 5 of the top movers and shakers in the China KOL landscape. These are all names to know and people to watch as the KOL landscape in China continues to evolve and mature:
With over 50 million followers across her platforms, 30 year old Jiang Yillei, known via the online moniker Papi Jiang, is arguably the biggest KOL in China. Papi has tackled topics that resonate greatly with her Gen X, Gen Z audience, from gender stereotyping to cheating boyfriends, from celebrity culture to regional dialects. Her satirical videos feature sped-up social commentary, a digitally altered voice and biting quips. In March 2016, Papi became the first viral Chinese start-up to attract VC money: a group of four institutional investors put $1.8 million into her company. Not only does Papi Jiang have her own platform, called Papi Tube, which serves as a training ground for up-and-coming content creators, in one of her videos Papi also sold an advertising spot for a record amount. In a 2016 auction, Shanghai online makeup retailer Lily&Beauty reportedly paid $3.4 million for the first advertisement in a Papi Jiang video.
The most influential style blogger in China, Gogoboi, or Thomas Ye, arguably, has made a name for himself through his unusual approach to critiquing Chinese and international celebrity style. He possesses a writing sense so unique and, at times, so outrageous that it immediately garnered the nation’s attention on Weibo. A former English teacher, turned fashion features editor for Grazia, Gogoboi regularly entertains his legion of millions of fashion-obsessed netizens with scintillating gossip and a biting acerbic observations, while raking in, recently, major partnerships with Cartier, Lancome and Burberry.
Tao Liang, known to China’s well-heeled cognoscenti as Mr. Bags, is the go-to authority on style for multitudes of affluent women throughout the Mainland. He once helped brands move 1.2 million RMB ($173,652) worth of designer handbags in just 12 minutes. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University, Mr. Bags came to fame on the college-centric social media site Ren Ren (a Facebook-ish of China) and now is courted by the likes of Gucci, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Bergdorf Goodman, even pitching in on the design-front creating special edition totes with high-labels such as Tods.
One of the most popular WeChat bloggers out there, Cheng Yan, known better as Shiliupo Baogao, 石榴婆报告 in Chinese, or the Pomegranate Grandma Report, attracts a wide array of readers with content rich with fashion trends, gossip from Hollywood and celebrity street style. With her fan base easily topping the one million mark, Cheng Yan charges as much as 100,000 RMB for commercial advertisements on her WeChat public account.
Touted as the Kim Kardashian of China, Angelababy, born Yang Ying, is a Chinese-born model, actress and singer currently based in Hong Kong. Melding the line between actress and influencer, Angelababy is the reigning queen of Weibo. Infamous for her 2014 wedding to Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming, the lavish nuptials reportedly came with a price tag of USD $31 million. Angelababy, today, can be found sitting at the front row of Dior shows and gilding the silver screen along with notables such as Liam Hemsworth.