China’s 1990s generation of consumers already view themselves as old-timers. Meanwhile, their post-2000s generation counterparts are emerging as the shoppers to watch. These younger consumers are less attracted by big brands and drawn more by specific products and personal tastes. 2018 saw both international and large domestic brands trying a range of strategies to reach this young market segment.
Youth Idols and Popular Stars Endorse Brands
Brands have reached beyond female celebrities to find endorsers for beauty brands in China. Recent data shows that nearly 50 male stars endorsed beauty brands in 2018. Meanwhile, the number of celebrity endorsements by female stars declined.
In one notable 2018 example, Nivea’s Weibo account introduced Zhu Yilong as the new face of the brand. Within one week, related posts had already racked up 170 million views and 1.6 million. Nivea’s sales volume in its TMall flagship store quickly followed with a large number of Zhu’s fans posting their product purchases online.
Local brands are also targeting hot young idols. Proya has invited Li Yifeng to endorse its brand. Yang Sheng Tang has signed Cai Xukun as their latest endorser. Pure & Mild has recruited Justin Huang to endorse its new product line. P&G’s Safeguard brand signed Yang Chaoyue to promote their hand sanitizer. Safeguard even launched a koi fish version of its product to play off of Yang’s koi social media identity, emphasizing “rubbing for good luck”.
Many of these younger celebrities are unknown among older consumers, but command huge fan bases within young social media circles.
Co-branded Cross-over Promotion and Limited Editions Take Off
IP or “intellectual property” is still a popular buzzword in China’s beauty market. Brands are using a range of intellectual property assets such as licensed brandmarks, cartoon characters, and trademarked cultural images. In one notable example, China’s Palace Museum introduced a very popular line of beauty products in 2018.
In another example of cross-over branding, Maxam, a brand owned by Shanghai Jahwa, teamed up with China’s iconic White Rabbit candy brand to launch a candy-flavored lip balm. News of the partnership flooded China’s social media even before the product hit the stores.
Brands are increasingly looking for creative IP tie-ins to win the hearts of China’s young consumers.
Young Consumers Learn About Products from Social Media KOLs
The combination of social media and local e-commerce platforms has become a core marketing strategy for beauty brands. Many young consumers learn about products by watching videos from key opinion leaders (KOLs). KOL recommendations have outpaced traditional celebrity endorsement as way of stimulating trial among young consumers.
During 2018, shore video platforms such as Tik Tok became the most popular social media platforms and important channels for both local and international beauty brands.