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Li Ziqi comeback

Li Ziqi’s comeback: will she regain her popularity following a two-year hiatus?

If you need soothing videos, you need not search any further than Li Ziqi’s captivating rural vlog, which has garnered an impressive audience of nearly 18 million on YouTube. She hand-made soy sauce with beans, hand-dyed calico dress, and turned wood into furniture. People commented that her life is what they’ve been dreaming of. With fine filming skills, Li Ziqi showcases the breathtaking beauty of China’s countryside and offers a glimpse into a tranquil and carefree rural lifestyle, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city. However, this enchanting narrative took an unexpected turn in 2021 when Li Ziqi filed a lawsuit against her Multi-Channel Network (MCN) partner, Weinian. This legal dispute resulted in her sudden disappearance from the public eye for a perplexing period of two years, leaving fans waiting for her return and uncertain about the future of her soul-enriching content.

After a two-year absence, Li Ziqi made her long-awaited return on September 15th, this time with a new title: Ambassador for the China Association of Young Rural Entrepreneurial Leaders. Her comeback created a commotion across Chinese social media, sparking numerous hashtags and generating a wide range of comments, both positive and negative. With the changes that have taken place during her hiatus, the question arises: will Li Ziqi’s comeback regain her previous level of popularity and continue delivering high-quality content?

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Li Ziqi’s two-year absence: exploring the changes that occurred

Following Li Ziqi’s temporary suspension of video production, a multitude of similar video producers gained traction, both locally and internationally. One notable example is Peng Chuanming (彭传明), who has devoted himself to reviving ancient Chinese techniques in cooking, paper making, traditional cosmetics, and farming. Another example is Zhang Tongxue (张同学), who creates content centered around rural life and situational dramas set in rural areas. “DianXiXiaoGe滇西小哥” creates cooking videos that bear a resemblance to Li Ziqi’s style, but with a more cheerful ambience. These videos often showcase interactions with fellow villagers and family members, adding a jovial touch to the content. An international example is “Bếp Trên Đỉnh Đồi,” which translates to “Kitchen on the Hill” in English. This channel closely emulated Li Ziqi’s videos in terms of content creation and video editing techniques.

Li Ziqi's competitors from China; rural life KOL; DianXiXiaoGe滇西小哥
Source: TikTok, screenshot from DianXiXiaoGe’s video

In general, Li Ziqi’s current competitors exhibit a diverse landscape and adopt a similar style as well as approach. In China, these creators are commonly referred to as “三农领域创作者,” which translates to “content creators in the agricultural field.” They focus on producing content related to agricultural business, agricultural communities, and agricultural workers.

Challenges ahead: exploring the hurdles following Li Ziqi’s comeback

Challenges of regaining lost fans during absence

During her absence, she lost the attention of her local audience. Adapting to their preferences, which now favor regular updates, presents a substantial challenge. This shift contrasts with her previous style, characterized by meticulously crafted content that could take months or even years to prepare for a single topic. Publicly available data reveal a significant loss of 8.35 million fans across three Chinese platforms—Douyin, Weibo, and Kuaishou. Notably, she lost a staggering 6 million fans on the Douyin platform alone.

Moreover, there was a declining trend in terms of Li Ziqi’s flagship store on Tmall due to the absence of promotional activities to drive traffic. In 2020, the brand achieved impressive sales of 1 billion yuan on Tmall. However, this figure dropped to 676 million yuan in 2021, reflecting a decrease in sales. In the first half of 2022, the sales of Li Ziqi’s brand on Tmall amounted to 170 million yuan, marking another substantial decline of 51 percent compared to the previous year.

Monetizing her IP “李子柒” and channel independently

One of the biggest hurdles she faces is the ability to generate revenue from her intellectual property “李子柒” and her channel without relying on her former Multi-Channel Network (MCN) – Weinian. This transition will require her to have sound business execution and strategic planning. Li Ziqi’s success has inevitably attracted imitators and copycats who attempt to replicate her style and content. Dealing with the presence of such competitors and staying ahead of the game can pose challenges.

Nonetheless, there remains optimism for upholding Li Ziqi’s influence and popularity, exemplified by her YouTube channel‘s remarkable acquisition of 2.7 million new subscribers. This underscores the enduring appeal of her content among a worldwide audience, even in the absence of fresh content or active promotional efforts.

There is a possibility that Li Ziqi may establish her own food and agricultural produce brand, or even engage in rural revitalization campaigns. Notably, she appears to be safeguarding her intellectual property (IP) by refraining from creating additional sub-accounts (小号) under her name during the ongoing lawsuit. This suggests her intention to protect the brand name and leverage her existing IP as well as the food brand developed under her pseudonym, 李子柒, in future endeavors.

Staying relevant in the field before Li Ziqi’s comeback

Furthermore, despite her inability to post on her video accounts, Li Ziqi has remained active in various mainstream media interviews and official or quasi-governmental events using her original name, Li Jiajia (李佳佳). In October 2022, she participated in Chinese and foreign exchange activities, including interactions with the Azerbaijani ambassador to China. She was also invited to take part in the Guangzhou 2021 Asian Youth Leadership Forum. Additionally, Li Ziqi recorded a new program for CCTV titled《跟着冰冰来种田》, set to air on CCTV17 in the near future. These developments suggest that she has plans to actively engage in agriculture and contribute to rural revitalization efforts.

Unlocking opportunities: exploring potential avenue for Li Ziqi’s future successes

Li Ziqi has the potential to adapt to the new trend of ultra-short videos. Her content’s emotional resonance and her past success in transitioning to shorter formats indicate that she can navigate this shift. The key challenge lies in maintaining the essence of her meticulously crafted content while meeting the rapid update demands of short video platforms.

Li Ziqi has already demonstrated an ability to adapt some of her long-form content into shorter video formats on both Douyin and TikTok, attracting a substantial following before her disappearance. This suggests that she is not averse to experimenting with different formats.

As for content, her videos carry significant emotional value for their calm and meditative features coupled with the current surge in national pride and the Guochao trend. Thus, her revival of Chinese ancient techniques and calm portrayal of the countryside are likely to continue resonating with her local and overseas audiences.

Key takeaways from the challenges and opportunities faced by Li Ziqi’s comeback

  • During Li Ziqi’s absence, she lost a significant number of local fans who now prefer regular updates. Adapting to this shift while maintaining her meticulous content creation style poses a challenge.
  • Li Ziqi needs to monetize her intellectual property “李子柒” and her channel without relying on her former Multi-Channel Network (MCN), Weinian. This requires strategic planning and sound business execution.
  • The success of Li Ziqi has attracted imitators and copycats attempting to replicate her style and content. Staying ahead among them is a continued challenge.
  • Li Ziqi has the potential to adapt to the trend of ultra-short videos, given her past success in transitioning to shorter formats and the emotional resonance of her content. Her revival of Chinese ancient techniques and portrayal of countryside life hold significant emotional value and are likely to continue resonating with her audience.