Bryce Whitwam
Nov 16, 2022

Authenticity reigns supreme for Chinese brands engaging influencers abroad

SHANGHAI ZHAN PODCAST: The CEO of relay.club, which helps Chinese brands manage influencers abroad, says social media users are hyper-aware of those espousing messages they don’t believe in.

Authenticity reigns supreme for Chinese brands engaging influencers abroad

Chinese brands going abroad face several challenges including cultural gaps regarding influencer expectations. “Domestically, there’s the expectation that Chinese brands can exert control over the influencers in terms of words they use and the production of the shots,” says Jim Fields, CEO of China-based, relay.club, “because it’s very much a brand dominated space in China in terms of what the influencers are allowed to do.”  

“But in the West, influencers get their start by building deep connections with their followers by making amazing content. It doesn’t matter how much you pay them. If they don’t believe in the product, they won’t represent your brand,” says Fields.

Fields says that this has largely to do with the fact that the financial models for influencers abroad are different from China.  Most Western influencers are already earning a healthy advertising revenue stream off of platforms like YouTube, while China’s video platform, BiliBili, is a completely different system,” says Fields.  “In China, if an influencer wants to monetize their platform, they have to insert their content with advertisements.”

Fields always recommends his clients to focus on the quality of engagement, and not to over-index on follower count. “There are a lot of influencers who are content Swiss Army knives, but we see that the more specific the influencer is to your brand, the more likely you’ll be able to convert sales,” says Fields. “Even though they have a small group of followers, hiring a small army of domain experts can be highly effective.”

Fields says his company gets all sorts of requests from unique China brands looking to expand globally. “We recently got a request from a brand that creates re-useable water balloons,” says Fields. 

Jim Field's interview is available on the Shanghai Zhan podcast, a "raw, lively, and regular debate about China tech, advertising, creativity and the intersection of it all", hosted by Ali Kazmi and Bryce Whitwam.

The podcast is now available now on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogleStitcherAmazon Music, Xiao Yu Zhou and via RSS.

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