FEATURE | It Is Time for Brands and Spokespeople to Break the Circle

October 25,2019

A spokesperson is an authentic and human representation of a brand, who can connect with the audience in a unique and meaningful way. It’s a critically important role, and one that can be very difficult to do well. 

Especially in China, an emerging market with a large user base and rapid growth, combining  dazzling young celebrities with a huge fan base has become a way for many brands to seek "reassurance". Unfortunately, it is much more difficult to get a brand's real users to pay for it. 

What went wrong? In the past, users were a little like the audience of a theater, absorbed in the performance of the brand. However, nowadays, the user experience is more akin to walking in a carnival in an open square, with all kinds of street performances coming from all directions.

The relationship between a brand and its spokesperson has been turned upside down, and the stage where a brand "delivers its message" has been transformed completely .

  • For a brand, how does it "break the circle" and choose the right spokesperson?
  • For a brand, how does it "break the circle" to best utilise its spokesperson?
  • For a spokesperson, how do they "break the circle" to level up their own relationship with the brand?

"Break The Circle" to Choose The Right Spokesperson

Today, brands have 4 unspoken challenges when they use spokespeople. 

  1. Overexposure, especially when they use the same face at the same time -- Kendall Jenner, for example, had 22 different advertisements in one month.
  2. A mismatch between the amount of exposure and the amount of real interaction with users -- Kim Kardashian West is certainly visible on social media, but research shows that lots of consumers do not think she is trustworthy.
  3. High cooperation costs and difficulties of quantifying IP value.
  4. The vulnerability and risk hidden under the seemingly perfect spokespeople.

In China, due to an extremely developed social media and e-commerce landscape, users' attention and purchase behaviors are now highly overlapped, which directly leads to a deepening "marketization" of spokespeople. The results are obvious: The scope of spokespeople’ work has been continuously refined, the number of objects that can be used by spokespeople for a brand has increased, costs have been reduced, new stars who are more real than superstars are emerging, such as talents from various TV shows and KOLs, who overall may be more effective at directly increasing sales… in today’s world, we now see many "ordinary people" act as brand ambassadors, brand friends, and even superstars on the Internet (such as Austin Li, a recently popular online beauty blogger).

Around the world, brands are searching for more authentic spokespersons, and have even found virtual idols…

"Break The Circle" to Utilize Its Spokesperson 

After traditional channels of communication are disrupted, traditional ways to shooting advertisement + hosting activities are also worth rethinking.

Offering an offline immersive experience is in the DNA of Gentle Monster -- the brand created an offline experience space with installations, multimedia and performance art inspired by Evan Li’s childhood. Through the event, Gentle Monster brought Evan Li’s fans to an offline environment, strengthening the brands’ awareness and goodwill.

Compared with the huge investment by big luxury brands, local Chinese lingerie brand NEIWAI spent just three months to complete its entire marketing plan -- shooting was done by the professional team that is familiar with the spokesperson Du Juan, and they customized a publicity campaign for Du Juan: "You Know Both Inside And Outside Of Me". In terms of communication medium, NEIWAI also chose a new channel -- showing these 3 commercials in cinema. 

The brand founder Liu Xiaolu admitted that the cinema is not the most cost-effective channel, but what she saw was the precision and experience of the cinema. "Our users go to the cinema regularly and we want them to see the best quality content and develop earnest desire."

"Break The Circle" to Level Up The Relationship With The Brand 

Rihanna has 70.5 million followers on Instagram and her price for being a spokesperson is astronomical. Today, her role in the fashion world is no longer a simple "brand spokesperson", but as a founder of a brand -- she joined hands with LVMH group to create her own exclusive luxury brand Fenty. Rihanna became the first black woman to head a luxury brand for LVMH.

Speaking about the unusual partnership, Jean Baptiste Voisin, Chief Strategy Officer of LVMH, said: "Rihanna is not the most famous person, or has the most fans, but she has charisma. I'm sure there are other celebrities who have more fans, but they're not Rihanna."

It is believed that this move was made by LVMH group after long-term observation and an in-depth evaluation of Rihanna, which not only considers her real interaction rate and credibility with users as a star, but also values her sense of responsibility and professionalism as an entrepreneur.

Before that, Rihanna already had a Fenty Beauty collection with LVMH, and a fierce sportswear and footwear collection with Puma.

Adidas also pledged to help Beyoncé revive her brand Ivy Park, while retaining Beyonce's ownership and control of the brand.

More and more spokespersons are now breaking the circle from just "touching" brands, to now “managing” them. Profits are expected to be large, but it also means taking huge business risks and opportunity costs -- unlike being a brand spokesperson, building your own brand is hard to enjoy, even if you have access to strong capital and a professional team. You have to be fully involved, hands-on, and take care of every detail.


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