This article was originally written by Tamsin Smith and was published on Jing Daily
American celebrity superstar Kim Kardashian West aims to keep up with China and its beauty-spending boom after entering the fray of powerful Chinese influencers last weekend.
She opened an official account on China’s social media beauty platform, Little Red Book, with an understated video that simply said: “I’m excited to launch my official account and connect with my fans here.”
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A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on Sep 28, 2018 at 8:28am PDT
Chinese netizens and beauty fans immediately responded to the news with excitement and expressed hopes that the reality television star would soon make her cosmetics brand, KKW Beauty, available in mainland China.
“Kim Kardashian is about to put KKW Beauty on Little Red Book and then, if Kylie Cosmetics and Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty join … that will be even better!” one Weibo user known as “Theblond” wrote.
KKW Beauty, which was launched in June 2017, offers classic make-up palettes that cost between US$45 and US$260 in the United States.
China’s e-commerce industry will reach US$1.8 trillion by 2022 and more international brands are setting their sights on the market, according to an August report by Forrester, the US market research company.
However, despite millions of active users, simply joining a platform such as Little Red Book will necessarily secure the future of a brand such as Kardashian’s in China.
“Foreign celebrities have long used their perceived cosmopolitan prestige to endorse brands [in China], but it often ends up being a bit of a fiasco,” Claire Lin, co-founder of China Fashion Collective – an agency that helps promote Chinese designers – told Jing Daily.
“With Kim Kardashian West, her core brand message and brand values are not in sync with the Chinese market.”
The tech start-up Little Red Book launched four years ago promising Chinese beauty fans an unprecedented opportunity to discover and buy international cosmetics brands that were previously off-limits.
Only last year, the site boasted more than 17 million users and, as of this month, it has more than 100 million registered users. That is already more than the 10-year-old e-commerce site Vip.com – with 60 million registered users – which specialises in the sale of top luxury brands.
By providing users with a platform to share reviews and tips, Little Red Book has created a trusted community for beauty followers – and a world of opportunity for luxury brands.
Since the company’s inception, brands such as Lancôme and Dior have taken advantage of its advertising capabilities – as well as the power of Chinese influencers that frequent the site – to promote their products to fans in China.
The site’s influencers, or key opinion leaders (KOLs), can garner millions of followers on their accounts.
For example, Chinese actress and Dior brand ambassador Angelababy now has more than 14.4 million dedicated followers.
Kardashian West is likely to want to use her influence in a similar way to help sell her beauty brand in China’s booming luxury market.
It is a move that could also lead to the American being able to advertise other luxury brands in China – a position that is familiar territory for the star, since her popular Instagram account already features collaborations with luxury labels such as Fendi, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent.
Kardashian West is not the first Western celebrity to join Little Red Book. In May, American supermodel Karlie Kloss – a close friend of singer Taylor Swift – joined the website and now has more than 270,000 followers.
During China’s Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, Kloss shared a video of herself enjoying a traditional mooncake treat while attempting to deliver a message in Mandarin to her Chinese fans.
Yet some people are sceptical about whether a Western celebrity can create a substantial presence on Little Red Book.
“Karlie Kloss joined to promote Estée Lauder’s products, and it didn’t have any lasting impact for the brand,” Lin said.
“For brands to generate sales, they need to rely on the domestic celebrities in their repertoire.
Chanel, Gucci and Dior have powerful and expensive foreign A-list endorsers, yet take a look at their stores or social media-related posts in China – it’s endless Chinese celebrities.”
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A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on Sep 25, 2018 at 9:52am PDT
Since joining the Little Red Book site on Saturday, Kim Kardashian has gained 10,000 followers, which is just a fraction of her huge 118 million followers on Instagram.
“Data has consistently shown that the most popular social posts by brands almost always feature top Chinese celebrities,” Liz Flora, editor of Asia-Pacific research at Gartner L2, said.
“The only foreign celebrities able to get anywhere near this level of engagement have been K-pop stars.
“In our recent ‘Luxury China’ report, the top 10 luxury brand Weibo posts with the most engagement exclusively featured mainland China-based celebrities – for both the fashion and watch and jewellery categories.
Kim Kardashian West might be the social media queen bee in the US, but she’s got nothing compared with the [mainland Chinese boy band] TFBoys in China.”
The number of followers of the boy band support Flora’s claim.
TFBoys boasts more than 177 million followers on Weibo compared with Kardashian West’s 158,000 followers.
“Chinese celebrities are much more accessible, they speak Chinese and they are more helpful to users in terms of content,” Jiaqi Luo, a Chinese millennial and lifestyle journalist, said.
“Most Chinese celebrities on Little Red Book usually give in-depth instructional videos on skincare and make-up. They establish themselves as beauty bloggers and [are] not just celebrities posting selfies.
“Because of this, I don’t think Western celebrities will be much of a threat in terms of traffic compared with Chinese celebrities on the platform.”
So to succeed on Little Red Book, it is clear that celebrities must offer a personal – and beneficial – connection with their fans.
“The trick is finding the right platform in an increasingly fragmented landscape,” Olivia Plotnick, marketing and communications manager at Ogilvy, said.
“Platforms like Little Red Book allow brands to do this while also leveraging an e-commerce-centric customer experience.
“The influencers and brands who succeed will be the ones who build meaningful relationships with consumers.”