The Covid-19 outbreak has negatively affected many industries in China, forcing FMCG brands to seek new promotion strategies in a bid to stay afloat. One of them is an intensified collaboration with social media influencers, which can help brands achieve success despite the crisis.

Like influencers in other parts of the world, social media influencers in China operate by reviewing, promoting, and selling FMCG products online. Known as “Wanghong,” meaning internet celebrity, the influencers mainly hold live broadcasts on Chinese platforms, such as Tiktok and Weibo.

This is because Facebook, YouTube and other non-Chinese online platforms are typically blocked in the country. In addition, the influencer scene in China is generally more organized compared to other countries. For instance, Chinese influencers often work for an agency and openly cooperate and support fellow influencers of the same agency. FMCG brands can benefit from this as an agency can push out a campaign using multiple influencers simultaneously, greatly increasing exposure and sales.

Influencers as part of a winning strategy

Utilizing Wanghongs can be a successful strategy, especially during the outbreak when more people are on social media. According to the GlobalData 2020 Coronavirus (Covid-19) Recovery Consumer Survey, 70% of consumers in China admit that they intend to spend significantly, slightly more, or same time as before on browsing social media  in the foreseeable future.

Targeting this audience with products that consumers are buying more of during the outbreak could present an opportunity for brands. According to the same survey , consumers in China are buying significantly more, more, or stockpiling from categories such as household cleaning products (56%), chocolate & confectionery (28%), beer (23%), and make-up (19%), compared to before the outbreak.

Indulgence and the comfort market

Many indulgence-focused products are also displayed differently, with a focus on their “comforting” character amid stressful times of the lockdown. One of the examples is the instant noodle brand Ramen Talk, which increased sales dramatically during the outbreak. In the first quarter of 2020, Ramen Talk re-positioned as “Wanghong Noodle” in an influencer campaign, resulting in CNY100 million in sales.

The instant ramen with thick soup could be seen as an alternative to restaurant meals, appealing to shoppers yearning for pre-lockdown dining and socialising experiences. The product was promoted on a live show by influencer Li jiaqi, one of the most famous Wanghong in China.

Hundreds of thousands of Ramen Talk sold on the day of the broadcast in April 2020. The success shows that a well-thought social media strategy using influencers can reach many consumers during the lockdown.

Influencers provide brands an opportunity to maintain their market presence and brand relevance, and can serve as an option to brands looking for growth opportunities during and after Covid-19.

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