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  • Writer's pictureAkina Wong

Chinese KOL wins Brad Pitt in Breitling’s campaign in China, and here is why

Updated: Oct 3, 2021

Being young, empowering and more generous when it comes to consumption is what the new generation of Millennials and Gen Z are known for. And one thing to remember for marketers in China – they are loyal followers of idols and celebrities. With 51% of an estimated 300 million post-95 consumers favouring brands collaborating with celebrities, celebrity endorsement has become a key to engaging with this lucrative demographics in China.

In the digital age, however, these popular stars are given another title knowns as KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) who include actors/actresses, singers and influencers, to drive online engagements with those young consumers who are also savvy social media users.

The rise of KOLs has reshaped the landscape of digital marketing in China, where KOLs’ ability to interact with audience is a more valuable trait than big names in bringing an effective campaign result. Breitling’s current campaigns might set an example of that.

On the eve of Labour’s Day this year, the luxury watchmaker collaborated with Zhang Yunlong (Leon Zhang) a Chinese actor who is a top-tier KOL with nearly 15 million followers on one of China’s most popular social media Weibo. The campaign generated 74,000 voice – the best campaign result seen at Breitling over the past 12 months, data recorded on Vfluencer shows.

By contrast, the campaign coming out just few days after that features its three global brand ambassadors, including Adam Driver, Brad Pitt and Charlize Theron, only brought about some 1,700 likes on Weibo since its launch.

The 30-second advert video showcasing its products with the three celebrities’ smiling faces popping up the screen turns to be confusing to Chinese Internet users, with some wondering the meaning of the video. While others show disappointment of seeing this luxury brand go down the route of selling commercials, “I used to like the brand, but recently I’m a bit overwhelmed by its advertising,” one Weibo user wrote. “Why don’t you use Chinese celebrity now that you are promoting on Weibo? It’s such a waste of money,” another user followed.

The global campaign was coupled with a virtual summit, which is a series including a short documentary on product designs and interviews with its brand ambassadors. Due to the lack of direct interaction among the brand and its representatives, and ordinary users, as none of the three spokespeople is on Weibo, the summit video was engaged by roughly 1,000.

On the other hand, the Chinese actor’s promotion post was endorsed by 45,000 with 12,000 forwards and 13,000 comments. By including Zhang’s Weibo handle, Breitling’s posts relative to this campaign have attracted thousands of engagements.

In addition, taking advantage of the local celebrity, Breitling held an exhibition tour and invited Zhang to the physical showcase in Hefei, which drew a considerable turnout on site. “It’s the person I like, it’s place I’m familiar with and this is the watch I like,” one user commented.

The campaign featuring Zhang brought the normally hard-to-reach celebrity to the public and created a sense of closeness not only between the actor and general users, but also between the brand itself and Chinese consumers through the medium of KOL.

What made Breitling’s campaign with Zhang outperform the other is the actual presence and interaction from the celebrity, be it online or offline.

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