The Branding Power of C-pop Stars
C-pop and K-pop have experienced exponential growth over the past 5 years, both in the West and in mainland China. Millennials and Gen Zers have become infatuated with the C-pop and K-pop movements, so much so that they represent one of the primary forms of entertainment for young people in China to consume in their past time.
So, what’s contributed towards the recent spike in popularity and influence that C-pop and K-pop hold over the younger generation? For starters, there have been a number of Chinese musicians that have become extremely successful and popular. Notable Chinese pop stars first made it as group members of K-pop bands that eventually grew in popularity. From there, these pop stars leveraged their fame and eventually disbanded to either pursue a solo career or other endeavors.
C-pop and Branding
But why is this relevant to branding and marketing? Brands from all price ranges are constantly looking to collaborate with personalities that have massive influence and popularity over millennials and Gen Zers. After all, these are the two generations that currently possess the largest and most frequent purchasing power in China.
As a result, famous C-pop/K-pop stars meet the requirements that brands are typically looking for. Brands are looking for influencers that have a large following, positive reputation, and can generate hype and excitement. And so far, C-pop celebrities have demonstrated success in helping brands boost their brand awareness and drive sales.
This article will take a look at some notable examples in which famous brands partnered with just as famous C-pop celebrities to kickstart their marketing campaigns. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate to brands (especially foreign brands who are new to marketing and branding in China) that nowadays, collaborating with influencers is almost an essential strategy to augment your brand and increase popularity.
KFC and C-pop
KFC has had a long history when it comes to collaborating with popular C-pop stars to become ambassadors of their brand. Prior to 2021, KFC had continuous collaborations with Lu Han. Lu Han is a Chinese singer and actor, known for being a member of the South Korean-Chinese boy group Exo. After leaving the group in 2014, Lu Han went on to pursue a solo career as well as star in several films and television series.
Needless to say, KFC saw an opportunity to collaborate with one of the most popular and trending C-pop musicians at the time, who could represent the brand and convince their fanbase to also support KFC. From 2016-2019, Lu Han starred heavily in KFC’s advertising and promotional material. You could find him dotted around online and offline across cities in China, from large metro posters to video advertisements on your phone. He’s even donned Colonel Sanders’ iconic suit and glasses!
Unfortunately, maintaining your popularity and influence is a constant and arduous challenge for celebrities to upkeep. Lu Han’s decline in popularity over the past couple of years resulted in KFC’s decision to look for a new ambassador that would freshen up and invigorate their brand. In comes Wang Yibo.
Similar to Lu Han, Wang Yibo is a famous Chinese pop star who first debuted as a member of the South Korean-Chinese boyband Uniq in 2014. His trajectory also mimics many of his C-pop colleagues, having gone on to pursue careers in film and television. Since 2020, KFC has partnered with Wang Yibo and is now the ambassador for the fast-food chain. He continues to appear as the main star in KFC’s advertising campaigns and promotional material, garnering millions of views on Chinese social media platforms.
The likes of Lu Han and Wang Yibo have given KFC’s presence on social media a big boost in viewership and following. And while KFC has always boasted a formidable and wide-reaching level of brand recognition, their partnership with Chinese idols further consolidates their brand reach – especially amongst loyal C-pop supporters who are fervent on showing their loyalty through their purchasing decisions.
Jackson Wang x FENDI
When it comes to collaborations with influencers, luxury brands are vigilant in capitalizing off of the latest trends in order to garner the most hype and attention towards their newly released collections. Both FENDI and Jackson Wang benefitted from each other’s status and popularity, making their eventual collaboration extra impactful.
Jackson Wang is a Hong Kong rapper, singer, and dancer. His rise to fame started from being a member of the South Korean boy group Got7 in 2014. Since then, Wang has pursued a successful solo career and is the founder of his own record label, Team Wang.
But what brought Wang and FENDI together? Back in the fall of 2017, Wang released a music video to his single ‘Fendiman’, which was shot outside FENDI’s headquarter in Rome. The single, consisting of Wang rapping about FENDI, garnered lots of attention. It ranked #1 in two iTunes charts, and Wang subsequently performed the track at the FENDI FF Reloaded event in Shanghai the following year.
The stars aligned. FENDI not only saw an influencer that was popular and relevant amongst millennials and Gen Zers, but was genuinely passionate about the brand itself. In July 2019, the FENDI x Jackson Wang Capsule Collection was launched worldwide. The collection was an amalgamation of Wang’s distinct fashion style with the FENDI DNA. The collaboration bridged the fashion and music world together, bringing fans of Jackson Wang over to the fashion world.
This resulted in both FENDI and Wang receiving immense growth in popularity and attention on social media. Since their very first collaboration, Wang continues to work with FENDI. In summer 2021, Wang was announced as a spokesperson/ambassador for FENDI’s men’s collection in China.
Brand collaborations with popular C-pop artists over the years has indicated that for brands, aligning themselves with C-pop celebrities has been essential in boosting sales and raising one’s profile in the Chinese market – particularly amongst millennials and Gen Zers.
However, brands must also consider and be wary of the potential risks that come with this route of branding. This is especially true in the case of C-pop stars that have in recent years found themselves in tremendous controversy, with associated brands having to distance themselves from negative PR.