Chinese wijnconsumenten laten zich niets gelegen liggen aan de massa-media. Ze volgen ‘influencers’ in wie ze vertrouwen hebben. Dat kunnen befaamde sterren zijn, maar eerder bekende bloggers en popsterren. Debra Meiburg, master of wine, presenteert voor Meininger een aantal van deze ‘voorgangers’.
‘In China’s populous cities, small voices are making a big impact. Where in many established wine countries the mass media has the power to move the market, China is a different story. Wine enthusiasts rely on their peers and social media influencers for wine information and recommendations, accessed by smartphone on popular social media platforms.
The dominance of social media has coincided with another phenomenon: the rise of China’s real consumer – where those who buy the wine are the ones who drink it, as opposed to gifting.
China has the world’s highest number of smartphones and mobile internet users, who spend in excess of three hours on their devices every day. Social media platforms such as WeChat, Sina Weibo, livestream video site Douyin, and Zhihu, a question and answer forum, are powerful communication tools on which to share wine wisdom and opinion without the usual constraints (or thoughtful curation) of traditional media.
China’s social media influencers reside in two camps. Key opinion leaders, or KOLs, comprise the country’s famous actors, singers and TV personalities, as well as web celebrities and bloggers. This group wields incredible power in China’s massive online retail market, especially in fashion, cosmetics and luxury goods. They command commissions as payment for their endorsements: the higher the number of clicks per post, the more they get paid.
The term KOL has even become a job title in its own right and spawned an industry of agents who train and groom influencers in exchange for a share of their endorsement proceeds. While still strong, the influence of KOLs is waning as savvy consumers realise their heroes are paid to endorse products.
Hong Kong-based consultant Sarah Heller MW says China’s online wine community is one segment where consumers are clued-up on KOLs. The gap in-between is where micro influencers are on the rise. Micro influencers are also bloggers and livestream video stars, but their voices carry more weight because they offer genuine opinions from trusted personalities. “There is something to be said for micro influencers,” Heller told an audience at Vinexpo Hong Kong 2018, noting that Millennial consumers are more reliant on their peers’ experiences than blindly following a KOL.
Where traditional media has historically been hampered by censorship, China’s social media stars are opening dialogue about wine. Their often candid, entertaining, bite-sized wine opinions are breaking down barriers and creating communities of wine lovers.