Luxury fashion brands marketing to China’s affluent consumers can no doubt benefit by leveraging the huge social media followings of local fashion bloggers. However, this strategy can leave brands with more questions than answers. Investment company Exane BNP Paribas’ recent report, The Shopping Guide: Bloggers in China, explores exactly to what extent these influencers can be helpful.
The report illustrates that thanks to their vast number of followers, fashion bloggers are equally useful or even better than media coverage and advertisement to create buzz in China, unlike in the West, where bloggers are less influential for luxury brands compared to celebrities and fashion media outlets. This is because the rise of fashion bloggers and the development of the Chinese luxury market happened in tandem.
However, when it comes to actually transferring popularity from the fashion bloggers to luxury brands, brands have to pay attention to more than just a blogger’s number of followers. Luca Solca, the author of the report and the head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas, said social media following is not a good enough metric to gauge a blogger’s value. “The number of social actions [likes, shares, and comments] and posts is a much better indicator of social media traction,” he said.
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“The real ‘effectiveness’ of key opinion leaders (KOLs) also derives from their personality, specific writing style, visual style, unique skills or level of authority within the fashion industry,” said Patrice Nordey, the Shanghai-based chief executive officer of digital inception agency Velvet Group.
What is possibly the biggest reason for brands to be cautious about seeking a one-on-one partnership with a Chinese fashion blogger is the unclear relationship between sales and influencer marketing. After Gogoboi’s November Fendi campaign, the brand’s parent company LVMH reported in its 2016 annual report that Fendi saw sales growth in China’s market. The two events may be correlated, but such correlation does not imply causation.
Mr. Bags’ recent collaboration with Givenchy is another interesting case. Turning WeChat into a social e-commerce site, Mr. Bags gave his followers access to buy his exclusive Valentine’s Day edition Givenchy “Mini Horizon” handbags. He reported that 80 handbags were sold out in 12 minutes, but it remains unknown if such an astonishing achievement can be completely credited to his influence or if it’s a result of “hunger marketing,” a promotional strategy used by brands to boost customers’ desire to buy their new products by limiting supply.
There is no doubt that Chinese fashion bloggers will continue to play a significant role in the luxury fashion industry.