The Next Big Thing

Celeb and model-studded M4 smartphone launch shows Meitu's social media savvy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 April, 2015, 3:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 April, 2015, 10:34am

Chinese smartphone maker Meitu's star-studded launch party for its latest device shows how the company is targeting a very different audience.

While in the past, smartphone makers have put on elaborate stage shows in front of packed out ballrooms to launch new products, rarely do events involve a red carpet, dozens of models and internet celebrities, and several cherry blossom trees for better selfies.

That was how Xiamen-based Meitu, which made a name for itself with its photo-editing app, introduced the M4 smartphone in Beijing last night.

Dozens of models and celebrities, including Hong Kong-based model Angelababy, were invited to the event, posing for photographs against a pink flowery backdrop before making their way along the red carpet to the venue.

From the outset it was clear this wasn't a typical smartphone event, gone were the posters touting the device's specifications and value for money, instead there were several large cherry blossom trees under which stood a crop of topless male models, smiling and taking selfies.

On the other side of the mini-forest, female models – all Chinese – were doing the same. It was this group that attracted most of the photographers’ attention.

Photos of the models, both male and female, spread across social media, making Meitu one of the top technology topics discussed among Chinese internet users.

This knack for courting social media buzz and attention, especially from female customers, is what helped the company, founded in 2008 as a software developer, make the jump to successful hardware manufacturer, according to its chairman Cai Wensheng.

Cai, a renowned Chinese angel investor, said the company's latest round of funding brought its valuation to US$2 billion.

Its flagship photo-editing app Meituxiuxiu has 440 million users, while its relatively new short video app Meipai has 130 million users, Cai said.

“It’s very seldom that an internet company competes three rounds of funding in a year,” Cai said, adding that investors included Innovation Works, IDG, and Qiming Ventures.

The company completed its series A, B, and C rounds of funding in 2014, raising US$360 million in total, he said.

While Meitu has mainly focused on growing its Chinese consumer base, Cai said the company was rapidly expanding into new markets including Singapore, Taiwan and the US.