Influencer and KOL marketing in China forced to rethink under new regulations | WARC | The Feed
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Influencer and KOL marketing in China forced to rethink under new regulations
Celebrity fan culture has come under regulatory crosshairs in China as officials seek to quell what has been called a “chaotic” scene – brands are now reconsidering their place in this newly problematic idol worship.
Why it matters
Influencers, often termed KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) in a Chinese context, trade on their online fame – this is, after all, what brands want to align themselves with. For many brands operating in China, over half of marketing dollars are spent on KOLs, the New York Times reports.
That fame is now a target of the Cyberspace Administration of China, which has called for an extensive list of curbs (link in Chinese) on online celebrity activity that will have a direct impact on brands.
- The focus of this new regulatory pressure is on obsessive fans, often referred to as “Stans”, a reference to a song of the same name by Eminem who narrates such a relationship. However, some measures have targeted celebrities themselves. Certain individuals, such as actress Zheng Shuang, have been fined for tax evasion, while others have seen their names scrubbed from social media altogether.
- Platforms have recognised the need to adapt. iQiyi cancelled an idol show in response, having already drawn criticism earlier this year after fans bought so much milk from a sponsoring dairy brand (having been induced by celebs) that huge amounts of wasted product ended up in sewers.
- The government is particularly keen to quell activities of fan clubs that encourage members to buy products from brands endorsed by the fanclub’s idol.
- Some analysts put it down to the loneliness of a generation who have built up unhealthy relationships with stars, a relationship that many many brands have employed as a marketing tactic.
Like the regulatory crackdown that has come for tech companies in the last few months, this is mostly about keeping entities in line with a reminder that nobody or no company is bigger than the state. The likelihood is that even with curbs on inducing fanatics to buy, an equilibrium will fall into place where KOLs fall into line behind the state, before the industry resumes.
Sourced from the New York Times, Cyberspace Administration of China
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