Will China’s Attempts to Rein in Celebrity Culture Affect Global Luxury?
Beijing’s latest crackdown on celebrities, idols, “effeminate males,” and “extravagant pleasures” has made many Chinese parents who hope to “curb addiction” and destructive behavior in minors very happy. But retailers might fear this clampdown could hurt their bottom lines.
Since the luxury industry has become over reliant on brand ambassadors and idols in China, it is safe to say that this crackdown will have a powerful impact. According to data from iiMedia Research, China’s virtual idol industry was worth an estimated $540 million in 2020, an increase of 70.3 percent year-on-year, and could reach $970 million in 2021. Therefore, let’s look at how this phenomenon will affect global luxury.
Recalibrating the marketing plan
Necessarily, luxury retailers will need to shift from celebrity influencers to cultural opinion leaders and creative tastemakers. Micro-influencers who command higher engagement rates, own sound positions in niche markets, and show high levels of expertise will also win in this new context. Naturally, these new opinion leaders will also have to be “party-approved” and “promote socialist core values.”
In this setting, luxury brands will struggle to create authentic brand experiences that resonate with both global and Chinese consumers. In fact, embracing patriotic marketing in China and pursuing stronger connections with Communist idols could negatively impact a brand’s global image.
Virtual influencers will gain more power
Teens are already hooked on the digital world, and the retail industry has followed them into the metaverse.
But on the flip side, older consumers (millennials, Gen Xers) have been feeling influencer fatigue. Consequently, brands have replaced celebrity endorsements with less-scandalous alternatives, like virtual idols and computer-generated, animated figures.
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