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

October 25,2019

A spokesperson is an authentic human representation of a brand, who can connect with the audience in a unique and meaningful way. This is a critical role that can be very difficult to perform well. Combining dazzling young celebrities with a huge fan base has become the way for many brands to seek "reassurance", especially in China, an emerging market with a large user base and rapid growth. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to convince the 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, now, 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 in which a brand "delivers its message" has been completely transformed.

  • How does a brand "break the circle" and choose the right spokesperson?
  • How does a brand "break the circle" to best utilize its spokesperson?
  • How do spokespersons "break the circle" to even up their 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; for example, Kendall Jenner made 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 few consumers think she is trustworthy.
  3. High cooperation costs and the difficulty of quantifying the IP value.
  4. Vulnerability and risk hidden under seemingly perfect spokespeople.

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

Brands around the world are seeking authentic spokespersons, and have even found virtual idols.

"Break The Circle" to Utilize Its Spokesperson 

Traditional ways of shooting advertisements + hosting activities are also worth rethinking when traditional channels of communication are disrupted. Offering an offline immersive experience is in the DNA of Gentle Monster, the brand that created an offline experience space with installations, multimedia and performance art inspired by Evan Li’s childhood. Gentle Monster used the event to bring Evan Li’s fans into an offline environment, thereby strengthening the brand awareness and goodwill.

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

The brand founder, Liu Xiaolu, admitted that the cinema was not the most cost-effective channel, but what she valued was its precision and experience. "Our users go to the cinema regularly and we want them to see the best quality content and develop an 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 as a simple "brand spokesperson", but a founder of a brand. She has joined hands with the LVMH group to create her own exclusive luxury brand, Fenty. Rihanna is 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, nor has she 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 the LVMH group made this move after long-term observation and an in-depth evaluation of Rihanna, which not only involved considering her real interaction rate and credibility with users as a star, but also valuing her sense of responsibility and professionalism as an entrepreneur. Prior to this, 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 allowing her to retain the ownership and control of the brand.

More and more spokespersons are now breaking the circle from just "touching" brands, to “managing” them. The profits are expected to be enormous, but it also means taking huge business risks and opportunity costs. Unlike being a brand spokesperson, it is hard to enjoy building an own brand. It needs a great deal of capital and a professional team, with the aspiring brand owner being fully involved, hands-on, and taking care of every detail.


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