Since the development of the Internet and social networks, brands are more and more interested in their image. The Brand Ambassadors in China have become one of the most effective tools in terms of marketing communication.
What is a Brand Ambassador?
Stars or consumers, the Brand Ambassador promotes a brand directly or indirectly. As examples, there are: word-of-mouth, signs (e.g. Dressed with a specific brand), etc.
In China, this promotional strategy has become almost a premium tool in terms of communication. Luxury companies are the first to have implemented this tool.
In this prestigious area, giving precise positioning and a clear brand image is crucial for the perception of the product’s benefits to the customer: modernity, uniqueness, quality, creativity, etc. Big luxury houses like Chanel, Cartier, and Gucci have rapidly employed celebrities in their communication strategy.
The place of Brand Ambassadors in China
In China, a culture of admiration for “the one who has succeeded” is clearly present; Chinese closely follow celebrities’ gossip and news, as well as mimicking their actions. One of the craziest enthusiasms from Chinese people is probably after Fan Bingbing’s official announcement on Weibo about her boyfriend, marked by these two words: “我们” (wŏmen, translated as “us”).
In the hours that followed the announcement, all major brands have used these terms to launch a huge advertising campaign on Weibo. Among these brands, we note McDonald’s, Durex, China Merchant Bank, Xiaomi, etc. You got it, celebrities in China can create the trend for multiple markets in a same time from a simple “tweet”, a dream for all businesses.
Linking Luxury brands and celebrities, a strategy with consequences
Even if stars are today Key Opinion Leaders (KOL), it is still necessary to choose the right person for the right brand, which is now the biggest challenge for luxury brands. The choice of Hong Kong superstar Coco Lee was precisely the result of a total failure in terms of communication for Chanel.
As one of the most famous singers in China in the past, was she a proper icon for Chanel in China? Apparently not so much, soon after the star had appeared in Chanel’s Ads, the high-end Chinese customers deserted the brand’s shops: they absolutely didn’t want to look like Coco Lee.
Well, things have changed since then but the problem persists. Finding the perfect celebrity for a brand is still as difficult and complicated. The reality is actually related to the complexity of the image carried by these young people who have become popular in a short period of time.
Usually thanks to talk shows or dramas, these rising stars quickly become noticed by the general public, but in return, they are seen with a lack of maturity and therefore sophistication. Thus, finding the “One” that will become the future Fan Bingbing has become the ‘Quest for Holy Grail’ for many luxury brands.
The challenge to build a strong image among Chinese rising stars
Jackie Chan, world celebrity, has become blacklisted from luxury groups. For several years, the China’s former most favorite actor abroad has become the laughing stock of advertising. Thanks to his cinematic success, Jackie Chan held a series of advertising contracts and appeared in many commercials whose brands don’t have a real link to each other.
Thus, he can be seen in the Chinese subway on Canon ad banners, in television for Chinese air conditioners ads or shampoo ads. By the way, it is in this last shampoo ad that the super kung fu star buried his fame marked by the famous onomatopoeia “Duang” he uses in the advertising and Chinese enjoyed using the expression jokingly for several months after.
In fact, the difficulty arises on building a personal image of a celebrity. The recent concept of “celebrity” in China is not mature enough to help these stars properly manage and build a proper and precise image. Generally, they don’t have any long-term vision of their strategy and would rather bet on short-term profitability, which also marks an end of their reputation, as fast as they could get it.
In fact Jacky Chan has been a great case study for luxury brands and other celebrities alike:
Celebrities must be careful about their brand image and how often and with whom they partner with for such an activity otherwise they may encounter the same problems as Jacky Chan.
Luxury brands, however, must find, Brand Ambassadors in China who have only been with a few brands in the luxury industry like with Hugo Boss and Chow Yun Fat. Indeed, it had been the first partnership of the “Chinese George Clooney”.
The best bet for a luxury brand is to choose a rising star rather than an established icon in order to have an influence over what their image will become. This way they can mold the young star’s image to better fit their need thus creating a better symbiosis between the two.
Brand ambassador: double edged sword but worth having in China
Finding the right ambassador for your brand can be difficult, especially in China when you are not so familiar with the different types of celebrities but also more rewarding than in other countries.
Recommendation is more powerful in the Middle Empire than it will ever be elsewhere, so try your luck and go get your perfect fit.