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How much will you spend on your idol?

With the continual development of the Internet, many merchandisers have capitalized on the celebrity economy it hosts. No matter the type or scale of the business, they all like to invite famous celebrities to endorse their products in order to translate the celebrity’s popularity into profit for the business. Meanwhile, the rise of Instagram, blogs, and smartphones unveils one other side of this phenomenon: many entrepreneurs are now treating online fans equal to potential customers. These new business opportunities have created a “celebrity economy,” signaling a new era of the Internet.

Years ago, when we only had the traditional methods of communication, a celebrity economy could be described by one famous song: “In the past time, horse and car walked far, the letter was slow, so that a life is only long enough to love a person.” During these times, only superstars and well-known celebrities had the opportunity to promote products on television and other types of media.

Nowadays, content marketing has jumped on the celebrity economy bandwagon. Media can be managed by everyone, and celebrities can come from all sorts of backgrounds; they are no longer limited to those who sing or perform on stage. With so few barriers to entry, those who are to succeed must be creative and interesting, and with so many media platforms raising the bar in advertising, entrepreneurs must brainstorm unique ways to gain the loyalty of fans since old-fashioned celebrity endorsement is falling in popularity.

Whose fan are you today? And who will be your idol tomorrow?

How popular are “celebrity economies?”

Taking Tmall Fan Celebration Festival as an example, the annual income earned by Tmall is over a trillion yuan. The next trillion-point milestone, however, depends on the influence of the celebrity economy. According to statistics from Tmall published June 18, fan population within the total customer base is 30% higher than its non-fan population. Similarly, the conversion ratio of online brand promotions is five times higher for the fan population than the non-fan population. These figures clearly tell the benefit of a celebrity economy.

Some websites have exposed the incredibly high paychecks of a number of new actors, such as Yifan Wu and Han Lu, both Chinese idols. These two are some of the highest paid, each raking in roughly 70 million yuan for one movie. Even though such high pay shocks most people — their enormous pay often makes news headlines — it is thanks to the fan market behind them that causes businesses to rush to them with their checkbooks open.

During the 2016 Summer Olympics, videos and screenshots of an interview featuring Chinese swimmer Yuanhui Fu speaking the phrase “I have used all my power…” were widely circulated on social media. She now has more than four million fans and is highly regarded by younger generations. Some keen Taobao sellers capitalized on her popularity and quickly incorporated Fu’s likeness and sayings into stickers, packaging, eyeglass frames, and swimming caps just to name a few.

Adding to this celebrity phenomenon, celebrities of a more sarcastic, “punny,” jokester type have arisen from the popularity of people sharing puns on the Internet. These types often cooperate with brands to handle content marketing on their behalf. Their main marketing platforms are mostly on social media, including those such as Instagram and other blogging services, and allow the celebrity promoters to get close to and interact with the fans. These punster celebrities are approachable and funny, which helps the brand win people over in a relatively short amount of time.

How do we value “celebrity economies?”

Fans are a symbol of a culture or a pursuit of spirit that varies for each different group of people. Culture is a result of a social phenomenon or long-term period of creation, but it is also an accumulation of social history. In other words, culture is an inherited ideology between the interior and exterior of any given subject matter, including history, geography, customs, literature, art, logic, values, and so on. Each culture represents a value, and fans gather because of the values that they all share in common.

The generations of the 1990s and 2000s have become the main consumer groups in the current market. Because there is a higher percentage of only children in these generations, the phenomenon of having strong, individualistic personalities is obvious. These types are more likely to be mavericks, bravely pursuing whatever they want, and they often create things that benefit not only them, but the supporters who elevate them. Coco Chanel expressed people’s pursuit of fashion; Mercedes-Benz developed people’s yearning of high-end enjoyment; Apple built upon people’s desire of technology; and idols in celebrity economies give fans a way to share a similar lifestyle.

For instance, the popularity of smartphones by Xiaomi, a leading Chinese manufacturer, has lead to a higher adoption of the company’s other products, Xiaomi Box and Xiaomi Power. After building a successful psychological awareness around a product, the value of the product will be greatly magnified, and promoting it to fans will become more and more cost-effective.

What are the challenges of “fan economies?”

Fan economies revolve around fan management. A well crafted user experience is the only way to build fan loyalty to the brand because the most important piece for a brand is, of course, its product. Therefore, an entrepreneur can’t expect to create a healthy fan economy around their product if the product itself is poorly designed. Markets have shown that products themselves win over customers well before the brand does. The Hammer mobile phone is a bitter example that celebrities and Internet icons can help companies to convert fans into customers but that products must be good enough to retain them. On the contrary, the popular Huawei phone, which features great design, shows that well designed products do successfully retain fans. The basis of any fan marketing strategy should always allow the product itself to be in the spotlight.

Will your economy grow after having fans? Not automatically. Knowing how to activate your fans is what leads to a successful economy. This requires companies to integrate mobile, web, and other new modes of business to continually build upon their customer ecosystem and create new value across the board.

As we move into the future, nearly every business will have a web presence. The performance of fan economies will be determined by the consensus of the people. However, a mutually shared sense of identity within a fanbase will only go so far. It can’t provide constant motivation to convert fans into consumers. If a business wants to extend the effects of its fan economy, it must continue to increase the quality of its products. To put it another way, fan economies are like tickets that get people in the door. However, it’s persistent product development that keeps them with you.

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