In 2020, the Kardashians’ fame in China has hit a new high. No matter how you feel about them, you cannot deny their success: the empire of Kim Kardashian worth $350 million and Kylie Jenner’s worth $900 million. This is mainly thanks to the Kardashians marketing genius, which is also trending in the Chinese market.
Steal the Spotlight
Their reality show ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ has already reached the 18th season. It has built a powerful platform for the Kardashians to stay relevant in the public and communicate with the audiences.
The story of the Kardashians started from a reality show
Basically, the reality show ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ made the Kardashians. Kim Kardashian, the most well-known sister, deserves the credit. Before the reality show, she ran into a PR mess when an intimate video of her and an ex-boyfriend spread across the internet like wildfire. Kim Kardashians saw her Despite the rapid success in the western world, the Kardashian’s fame was slow to catch on in China until recently.
Arousing viral discussion
The traffic economy is an economy based on digital platforms. Content creators and consumers realize the effective flow of information and generate economic benefits within the platform. In the digital era, traffic is not only driven by offline presence or advertising, but also in-time blooming information exchange online.
The Kardashian’s fame as officially hit China
Trending topics in the China are fast-changing. But the Kardashian are good at maintaining their presence by creating new dramas and the ‘magic’ of the Kardashians in China also worked. In the latest season of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, the scene of the fight between the sisters went viral on Weibo. The topic climbed to the 2nd of the Hot Search List in Weibo on March 28, with 200 million views and 27,000 discussions. Back to the last season, the dramatic break up between Khloe Kardashian and Tristan Thompson also raised a hot discussion, generating 130 million views and 12,000 discussions on Weibo.
Source: Weibo, Hot topics in terms of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’
How to mimic the Kardashian success in a Chinese way?
In China, vlog is a powerful tool
In fact, it is unrealistic and cost-inefficient for individuals or even brands to create a reality show to approach the public. To reach the Chinese market, Vlogs is a good alternative. Vlog is a video-blog, a casual, conversational video posted on social media, many Chinese KOLs use vlogs to reach their audience. According Bilibili, the most popular video platform for vlog in China, vlog has still seen a growing trend. One successful example of applying vlog to marketing could be the OPPO R17 campaign ‘Discover the beauty of the night’. The brand invited some famous vloggers to create short vlog with OPPO R17 about cities such as Tokyo, New York and Hong Kong and capture the beauty of night. The Weibo topic relating to that has already reached 620 million views.
Source: Biliob Index, the popular index of ‘vlog’
Stay Active in Social Media
Taking a picture and uploading it online may seem easy and mindless, but each of the Kardashian sisters gained a lot of reward that comes from a single post. With a mix of brand deals and sponsored ads, the Kardashians make money by just name dropping products and brands in their social media posts. It is estimated that Kim Kardashian makes about $500,000 per Instagram post, Kourtney and Khloe about $250,000 and the Jenners about $400,000 each, although some sources say Kylie Jenner earns up to $1 million per post.
From the reality show to social media, the Kardashians always find the best way to communicate with their audiences. The population targeted by a brand’s communication on social networks determines the content to publish. Moreover, interactive content and videos are particularly appreciated in the Chinese market. The Kardashians understand what their audience enjoys, and tailor their posts in such a way to maintain that connection. They share their lives as mothers and celebrities.
Additionally, they give their fans sneak previews of the new release of their brands. Through Instagram and Snapchat, followers are effectively given a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at life in the spotlight. The constantly updated in social media. It feels like ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ but in an unscripted, unedited, and intimate format. The result turns out well. Take Kylie Jenner for example, she is constantly active on her Instagram stories has more than 400 million daily active users. Moreover, they used social media to interact with the audiences. Kim Kardashian regularly engages with her followers and gives them insight into her world, like asking her followers for fashion advice in a tweet.
Presence of the Kardashians in China
Kim was the first one in her family spotted the value of the Chinese market and leveraged the social media trends in China. She joined several trending Chinese platforms and which at the end turned out impactful. On October 27, Kim Kardashian opened her official account on Xiaohongshu (小红书, also known as Little Red Book or RED). Now she has more than 220,000 followers. On the social commerce platform, Kim balances the sales content with personal content her Chinese audiencescrave. The most engaging content of her Xiaohongshu account is about her family and her regular fashion. In Xiaohongshu, she interacted with her followers in the Chinese way. In her latest post about the launch of KKW fragrance, she said ‘Happy new year’ in Chinese.
Source: Xiaohongshu, the most engaging posts in Kim’s official account
However, Kim Kardashian’s traffic on Xiaohongshu is nothing compared to her Instagram following. So how can she start to gain momentum in China?
Kim collaborated with a Chinese influencer to expand her audience
To amplify the brand effect and present the product advantages in a more efficient way, Kim Kardashian leveraged the impactful e-commerce channel. In the Double 11 event of 2019, Kim joined the livestream collaborating with Viya (薇娅), a livestreaming expert in Taobao/Tmall. Even though the influence of Kim Kardashian is strong globally, her livestreaming index in Tmall didn’t tell the same story. The views of Viya’s livestream reached 10 million while the views of Kim’s livestream are less than 15,000. Nevertheless, the livestream worked in terms of boosting sales. At the end, 6,000 fragrances were sold within 30 seconds. Before the livestream, the total sales of the KKW fragrance were only 52. This livestream also raises a hot discussion in Weibo. To conclude, the collaboration enabled Kim Kardashian to win both sales and attention in the Chinese market.
Source: Taobao, Double 11 livestream of Kim Kardashian and Viya
What could be next – Short Video Platform
In order to be digitally active, accessing the vitality of the social media platform and keeping up with the trends in China is crucial. In the Chinese market, the structure of social media is changing fast. From 2017 to 2018, the usage of short video platforms soared by 6.2%. The trend remains upwards till now: the short video market in China soars on traffic growth especially that the Coronavirus crisis boosting the at-home economy. It is changing the monopolized BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) structure in the market. There is no doubt that the short video platforming is leading the new social media trends in China.
Data Source: QuestMobile TRUTH, the proportion of usage duration of App, by platform
Construct favorable public image – the Chinese way
The Kardashians in China are controversial figures since it started with the PR mess of Kim Kardashian. However, Chinese customers respect her as fashion and beauty figures in general and the Kardashians brand gained endorsement among them.
How the Kardashians level up their public image?
In the US, the Kardashians have made philanthropic moves which impress the local audience. On one episode of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’, focused on Khloe Kardashian and Kim Kardashian’s mission to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness. The Kardashians influence did work. Kim Kardashian stated that the episode inspired over $1 million worth of donations to the Alexandria House, a shelter for women and single mothers in LA. They also leveraged their presence on other famous platform to do goods. Both Kylie and Kim completed the donation to specific issues on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’. If philanthropy can turn someone’s image around in the US, what works in China?
Source: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian donated
The Chinese audience is strict
Because of the unique and fragmented characters of the Chinese web, information and trends in China evolve at far higher speeds than anywhere else in the world either positively or negatively. Consequently, maintaining a favorable public image is crucial for your voice in this market. It applies for both celebrities and brands. In 2020, Chinese celebrities have tremendous pressure to maintain a clean, positive image. The tolerance of Chinese netizens is low. In the Chinese digital world, you might be admired by the public on minute, then suddenly be criticized by everyone the next.
The leading Chinese KOL Zhang Dayi (张大奕) was involved in a scandal. It went viral among the Chinese netzines. The topic #Zhang Dayi is a mistress# (#张大奕小三#) raised 780,000 discussion and gained 450 million views. Some of the netizens posted proposals to block Zhang Dayi. The company Ruhan, highly linked to Zhang Dayi, has been at stake due to the scandal. The stock price plummeted, with a maximum drop of 10% and the market value has evaporated by approximately $22 million (approximately RMB 150 million). The man involved in the mistress scandal is Jiang Fan, president of Taobao, Tmall, Alimama Business Group, was removed from the partners of Alibaba.
Thus, a proper brand position and a favorable brand image would be compulsory in order to enter the Chinese market.
Source: Baidu Index, Chinese Netizen search frequency of Zhang Dayi
As famous figures or signs, their public image can be further exploited and converted properly into business. The Kardashians have become fashion and cultural icons and have infused their brand into everything they do. Each sister has taken their success and translated it into the means of businesses, lifestyle apps, brand deals and etc.
How the Kardashians achieve their success in business
Some of the Kardashian sisters have already found their own brands ranging from cosmetics to clothing. Their marketing strategies are highly consistent: using its own social media platform to promote products and inviting the big-name celebrity to post on social media. Among all the sisters, Kylie Jenner is most successful one in business: her brand ‘Kylie cosmetics’ is already worth $1.2 billion.
As fashion icon, the Kardashians also jump out of the industry to talk to their audiences. Take Kim Kardashian for example, she launched a video game ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ which is available on IOS and Android for free. It reached 1 million download and 5 million revenue by April 2020.
Can someone mimic the success of the Kardashians in China
While Kardashians’s following clearly shows some differences between western and Chinese consumers, it also highlights the power of influencer marketing in both cultures. Chinese consumers highly reward those who reach out using their culture and language. Kim Kardashian first used Weibo in English and got little traction, then she hopped on Xiaohongshu and used some Chinese, and got more traction. Then she did a livestream just for Chinese on 11.11 2019, and her fame in China hit a new high.
The global success of the Kardashians is not an accident. In the era of digitalization, colossal attention and traffic keep the money-spinning franchise running. However, attention and traffic would not maintain forever. It is crucial to find the right touchpoint to stay active online. The Kardashians successfully spot the growing social media trends in China and replicated their online impact to the Chinese market. Empirical evidences prove that favorable public image matters in China.
Negative image can destroy a public figure for a long-term period. Company in the Chinese market should be careful of building its image and stay consistent in the future. Famous figures like the Kardashians made a great amount of money by just posting pictures in the social media. The Chinese market also provides great opportunity of leverage the famous figures, which help companies exposed in the public and achieve success quickly. All in all, the Kardashians marketing tactics over the years are worthy of praise and provides useful guidelines even for marketing players in China.
Author: Dongni He