How to Promote a Celebrity in China

How to market a celebrity in China through personal branding? 

Chinese consumers are hooked on fame and celebrity with international stars from outside of the nation is highly prized if they are known. With the nation’s 350 million ‘middle class consumers, celebrity endorsements for products & services have become big business for all parties.

The problem for celebrities in China

The main problem that reputable celebrities around the world face are that they are simply not known in China. If you are unknown you are not a star.

The Chinese gather all their information online which is the key problem but also a powerful solution. The Chinese internet is effectively ‘cut off’ from the rest of the web by the ‘Great Chinese Firewall’.

Content in English outside of China becomes useless and regardless of the celebrity’s status if they are not promoting themselves actively in China they will most likely be invisible to this 1.4 billion-strong population.

Celebrity Promotion in China offers Huge Opportunities..

As an international star you have many advantages, the Chinese love overseas celebrities, and there is less competition from other famous figures who will likely not be developing their personal branding in China. This will help a campaign stand out.

This levels the playing field somewhat, an intelligent personal branding strategy can significantly raise the profile of an overseas celebrity with greater exposure possible.

The barriers to entry actually create massive opportunities for clever individuals. The whole online eco-system is ring-fenced so you must develop a star’s reputation and visibility on the right Chinese platforms.

You have a very large, active and above all captive audience on a number of extremely effective platforms for celebrity branding.

Visibility + Reputation = Success

This is the online formula you need to keep in mind. You create visibility and increase the positive reputation of a star, on the most effective digital platforms, to engage communities of Chinese users interested in your niche.

Developing the right content: ‘international Stars reflect Luxury’.

When it comes to content how do you curate and produce the best? The first thing to consider is your target market. Chinese follow celebrities because of the positive qualities they associate with them. As an ‘international star,’ there is a strong association with luxury and prestige.

You can tap into this by featuring the celebrity in luxurious scenarios and narratives. Storytelling is very important to brand the celebrity, why did they come to China? What is their purpose for being in China? What can they offer fans that sets them apart?

For the Chinese keeping ‘face’ is so important, this is the notion of status and reputation. The stars they follow are part of their own image, they invest emotionally and it becomes part of their own identity.

Using social media as a Launchpad for growth

With the previous point in mind, you can see that social media is very important for personal branding. The Chinese spend on average an hour per day browsing social networks making this the most active user base on the planet.

WeChat.. a celebrity’s best friend

 WeChat is king in China with over 850 million active monthly users. A celeb needs to create an official, service account and share quality content to grow their following. Followers will receive push notifications with updates appearing in their chat feed. This is fantastic for exposure. The more followers the greater the star’s status.

Messaging services can also be used to directly engage with fans, this is important on WeChat, as users expect stars to be social with them and reply to their posts.

The other great technique is posting in groups, these are very active and built around specific interests. This allows you to target potential new fans based on relevant interests. For example, in sporting WeChat communities, if you are promoting a tennis star, you can also create and promote conversation topics to create a ‘buzz’.

Weibo is the perfect platform for celebrity promotion

 Weibo (literally ‘micro blog’) is the perfect platform for promoting a celebrity because it is a much more ‘open network’, unlike on WeChat, users can see posts from anyone and don’t have to be connected first.

Weibo, like WeChat, is ideal for content promotion and engaging with fans. On Weibo, there is a strong culture of re-sharing posts and commenting which helps with virality.

Cross-promotion between Weibo and WeChat is also important. You can embed QR codes (links) into Weibo posts driving traffic to your WeChat page or specific content.

Partnering with Famous Chinese ‘Opinion Leaders

There is also a host of ‘key opinion leaders who has already built a large and impressionable following around themselves. These KOLs can be recruited to share your content and partner with a star to build their reputation in China. Joining forces with famous Chinese celebrities increases your legitimacy and profile, the key here is forging the connection with the right agencies.

Breaking into the Chinese E-Media

The traditional printing press (like in the rest of the world) is declining. The most effective solution is to be featured in the e-media. To do this you need to create a Mandarin Chinese PR campaign with quality content shared via the most effective portals.

Connections with journalists and publications are everything here. It must be noted that a certain style of writing is best, the Mandarin Chinese language is very direct. There is less ‘wordplay’ in Chinese PR, and clarity and directness are more important.

Tapping into Forums

Forums are still very popular in China, users will often search on forums for information, discussion, and content. A celebrity needs to build their presence here. ‘Baidu Tieba’ is a large player (akin to Reddit) where content is up-voted by the community to increase its visibility.

Forums such as ‘Tianya’ or ‘Douban’ are strongly commented based, you can start relevant conversations/topics and link these to a celebrity. In a more collectivist society, the views and opinions of others in forums are very important for creating a celebrity.

Celebrity branding with fewer competitors outside of China allows your marketing campaign and promotions to stand out. There are however many hurdles to jump and it is essential to find a trusted, local partner to develop your interests.

Need a Personal Branding Agency?

We are a specialist digital marketing agency based in Shanghai, China. We focus purely on the Chinese market and deeply understand personal branding in the aptly termed ‘mysterious orient’. We look to form serious partnerships with serious projects as ‘your team on the ground’ in China.


  • Hi Benji, great article and great breakdown. I work in China quite a bit and am just starting to navigate this social network!

  • Bernard

    Great article. I think that it won’t be easy to a celebrity if we are not visible. But I think that it’s the same in Europe. Even if they don’t use WeChat and Weibo like in China, they also will use social media like Facebook, Twitter or Youtube. For the partnership with a KOL is quite the same in Europe, they can contact someone who are already famous to gain visibility but it’s quite difficult. But I don’t think that in Europe, they use forum to be have more reputation.

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