Who Has the Most Influential Power?

Written By Lydie Liu, Founder & President, Premiere Consulting Group
Edited By Yun (Betty) Xu, Medill IMC Class Of 2015

Published on 10/21/2015


How to achieve runaway success in a market with 1.3 billion consumers is probably the earnest aspiration of the vast majority of companies cultivating in China’s market. My company, Premiere Consulting, has helped hundreds of multinational companies to accomplish their marketing objectives in the Chinese market, from European luxury goods brands with long histories to many young Internet companies in Europe and America.

At Premiere Consulting, we believe such aspiration can be best achieved in China by appointing celebrity endorsers. Today, as the Internet links China together with the world, there isn’t a way that can help a company or a brand become famous so rapidly and broadly overnight in a market with such huge quantity, such complex regional disparity and such different segments of consumer groups as appointing celebrity endorsers.

According to my numerous experiences with clients, companies that initially did not intend to appoint celebrity endorsers in the Chinese market carry out very frequent cooperation with celebrities. Such companies may not traditionally appoint celebrities in their original market, or just not intend to appoint local celebrities. These companies include worldwide luxury brands such as OMEGA, Cartier, Montblanc, Piaget, Tissot and Mercedes-Benz. But in the end, each one of these brands turned to Chinese local celebrities. Some companies appoint celebrities to endorse products, while other organizations appoint celebrities as their brand ambassadors. OMEGA took a dual approach, choosing Zhang Ziyi, a world famous actress from China, as their brand ambassador, while also bringing in several Chinese celebrities to serve as a face for the brand throughout different brand communication campaigns and PR activities.

So here comes the big question: how do you evaluate the influential power of the celebrity and determine whether he/she is the right fit for your brand?

Throughout my experience, I’ve seen companies struggle to make a decision about which celebrity to appoint. These decisionmakers, reliant on intuition and former knowledge/experiences relative to the celebrity, need help evaluating whether these factors are truly appropriate for the brand. Not to mention, this approach of evaluation based on former experiences often led to a failed marketing result. After appointing a male celebrity to endorse a male sports car, it is frustrating to realize that in reality, 80 percent of the fans of this male celebrity are actually young women. In this example, the brand completely failed to attract the attention of the target consumers and inspire their desire to buy. It is too difficult and risky for companies’ significant decisionmakers from overseas market headquarters to determine whether to choose a pop singer, a TV show star or a leading actor in a romance show.

Assisting clients with the search, select, judge, appoint and evaluation process has become one of the most important aspects of our daily work since celebrity endorsement activity has become such a significant marketing strategy. We create for our clients a set of evaluation systems to help them scientifically and objectively choose a celebrity partner, rather than simply telling them which International Film Festival award the star has won or the remuneration of the celebrity.

At Premiere Consulting, we have developed a set of indexes and metrics to judge the influential power of celebrities after nearly decade-long practices, experience accumulations and testing through a combination of interviews, expert research and big data mining (Figure 1). The three most important dimensions determining the influential power of a celebrity are: popularity, likability and credibility. Meanwhile, we’ve also studied over 10 sublevel and third-level dimensions under these three major dimensions, such as how “hot” the celebrity is at the time, professional degrees, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) index, etc. Each dimension gives us more rational support to provide evidence for the different demands of each client. For example, focusing on the “hot” factor of the celebrity may be sufficient for promoting the trend-following products of that season. Through this research, we’ve identified that the primary determining factor of a celebrity’s influential power is the degree of fondness from the public.

Figure 1
Figure 1

By applying these models and evaluation methods, we finally helped OMEGA shift their international focus and appoint Chinese local stars as endorsers in the Chinese market. Since we helped OMEGA evaluate the influential power of four international brand endorsers (Nicole Kidman, George Clooney, Cindy Crawford and Daniel Craig), the company was surprised to find that in China, the influential power of international celebrities was 100 times less than the equivalent weight of local Chinese third-line stars. In other words, if you used size to compare the influential weight of an international star to a local celebrity, Zhang Ziyi’s would weigh the size of a watermelon, compared to just a ping pong ball for Nicole Kidman.

We continue to apply this model as we conduct the annual year-end influential power test of a brand and its endorsers. Our current focus is in the luxury industry; this industry is the most concentrated place where brands appoint front-line stars, and also where we have the most concentrated clients.

In our most recent study with luxury brand BVLGARI, we evaluated Shu Qi, a famous actress from Hong Kong and a brand endorser for the company since 2014. We conducted a comparison among the five most popular female stars currently in the Chinese market and the five luxury brands they endorse. Through the study, we rank the following stars in terms of the matching level of their comprehensive influential power to the brands they represent: Shu Qi and BVLGARI, Zhang Ziyi and OMEGA, Zhao Wei and Jaeger-LeCoultre, Zhou Xun and IWC, Lin Chiling and Longines. We are able to use our models in practice now to help our clients with the data tracking of their brand ambassadors’ influence.

This data is changing the way we market our brands. It is plausible to quantify the influential power of stars to strengthen our marketing communications efforts, to ensure we are finding the right personality fit for our brand and delivering the right message to our audience. In today’s busy, disparate global market, attaching the right image to a faceless brand entity can significantly impact consumers’ willingness to pay attention to your brand. [END]


Betty_Liu Lydie Lydie Liu is the president and founder of Premiere Consulting Group. She currently leads Premiere Consulting Group in Beijing and Shanghai and is responsible for growing its operations across China by supporting clients such as Tiffany & Co., Lexus and Nine West on brand building and communications strategy development.
Use this one please, thanks! Betty Xu worked for Singapore-based Yanlord Group as a marketing representative. She has also worked for China Daily, China Resources Land Group and Siemens Ltd. China, as well as interned at Ruder Finn Asia, a leading PR agency. Betty received her first master’s de gree from Renmin University of China, majoring in international journalism and communications.

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