Singapore-based influencer marketing agency Gushcloud International has partnered with four Chinese social media platforms - Bilibili, Weibo, Xiaohongshu and Douyin - as part of its expansion into China. At the same time, it also signed model Naomi Campbell (pictured left) to debut in China on Weibo; NBA Lakers basketball player Kyle Kuzma (pictured centre) on Douyin; as well as Singaporean lifestyle influencer Jamie Chua (pictured right) and American investor Jim Rogers and his family on Bilibili and Xiaohongshu.
Weibo is known as the Facebook of China, while Bilibili and Xiaohongshu are known as the YouTube and Instagram of China respectively. Meanwhile, Douyin is the Chinese version of TikTok, both of which are under ByteDance. Through the partnership, Gushcloud will assist in building up the influencers' social media presence in China via all the Chinese platform partners. Concurrently, the agency will represent them exclusively in China with key brand deals.
“The local Millennials in China are currently extremely interested in foreign content and foreign talents who might be able to offer new insights towards content categories like beauty, fashion, sports outside of China. During this COVID-19 season where people are viewing more online content, it is an excellent opportunity for talents interested in growing a strong audience in China to partner with us,” said Fay Ying, country director of Gushcloud China.
In a conversation with Marketing, Althea Lim, group CEO of Gushcloud International, said: "Data has showcased that the younger Millennial audience in China resonate with fashion, beauty, lifestyle content outside of China. Besides that, the NBA is extremely popular with young male audiences in China. Hence, when we thought about which celebrities to bring into China, some names were thrown out from the platforms and they consisted of these three names."
"For Chua, we exclusively work with her on her digital platforms. Both Campbell and Kuzma are friends of Russell Simmons and all it took was a few phone calls where they decided to take the plunge with us," Lim added.
Simmons came on board as Gushcloud's president last year to help the agency become a global company, expanding its portfolio of American-based talents and clients. As president, he facilitated the launch of global entertainment company, production studio and talent management firm, GC Studios, in Los Angeles in June.
“We are excited to work alongside these social media network platforms in China where we can directly engage with the platforms, understand their content needs and pave the way for celebrities and digital talents outside China to engage with their Chinese fans in China," Lim also said. She added that this move will also allow its talent agents to broker higher value "East meets West" business deals for its talents entering China.
The agency chose to venture into the China market as it noticed many brands attempting to enter the China market and vice versa. With a population size of close to 1.4 billion people, of which the population is largely mobile and have gone digital, China presents a key market for the agency to engage audiences in a market that uses completely different social media platforms from the rest of the world, according to Lim.
Besides the mentioned influencers, Lim also said the agency is actively looking to onboard 20 more influencers by the end of the year. She revealed that the agency has recently onboarded food content creator and chef Joshua Weissman, who has more than 2.7 million YouTube subscribers, as well as The Hacksmiths, who has more than 6 million subscribers on YouTube. The agency will also be announcing another top rapper and celebrity who will probably enter China in the fourth quarter of 2020.
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Difference between Southeast Asia's influencer scene compared to China's?
While companies in Southeast Asia and China both use influencers to drive awareness of products and services, Lim told Marketing that influencers in China have gone into sales and performance marketing, an area which their Southeast Asian counterparts are still struggling with. Besides that, livestreaming, live commerce and social commerce are extremely popular and experiencing high growth in China whereas Southeast Asia is still in the nascent stages of it.
"The influencer scene in China is highly mature. The ecosystem and industry is well-built with academies guiding young influencers to enter platforms. Besides that, platforms and technology work closely with management companies to develop more influencers in China," Lim also said.
Lim advises Southeast Asian brands looking to enter the China market to set aside a "significant amount of budget" for the entry.
While it is the largest market globally, Lim said China is also the noisiest market, hence brands must have a strong unique selling point to enter the market.
Besides that, she added that Southeast Asian brands need to understand the various platforms before entering, as well as the audiences these platforms serve in China and to find a platform fit for their products in China.
"The key challenges are definitely language and cultural differences in business strategy. Brands also need to really take time to understand the ecosystem that exists in China for them to be able to introduce their brand to audiences into China. The ecosystem involves platforms, logistics, influencers and audiences," Lim said.
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