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Kate Kwan

Published on

July 28, 2023


advertising, digital marketing, influencer marketing

The recent phenomenon of the Hong Kong boyband Mirror has taken the local media by storm, and more recently, the social community. We share tips on how brands should safeguard their reputation in influencer marketing.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Mirror”, a boy band formed via a celebrity reality show, recently garnered significant attention in Hong Kong, with a dedicated Facebook group amassing over 20,000 members in just three days.
  • This phenomenon signals the rise of the fan economy in Hong Kong, where fans play a pivotal role in promoting and engaging with their idols.
  • The fan economy involves both the commercial implications of fans’ support for their idols and the evolving interactions between idols and their fan communities.
  • Brands must understand the dynamics of the fan economy, including the emotional attachment fans have with idols and the importance of social media engagement.
  • While traditional above-the-line (ATL) marketing tactics are making a comeback due to the fan economy, brands must ensure content creativity and engagement to mitigate risks associated with fan scrutiny and potential scandals.

“Mirror”, a 12-member boy band created around two years ago following a celebrity reality show by ViuTV, had their first concert last month. Then there came the creation of a Facebook group “My wife married Mirror and my marriage is ruined” which gained more than 20,000 members within the first three days.

Billboards at Hong Kong’s landmark, the Star Ferry Pier, are covered in birthday celebration messages for Anson Lo, one of the 12 members of “Mirror” all thanks to the band’s loyal fans.


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A post shared by Anson Lo • 盧瀚霆 (@ansonlht)

Billboard takeovers have been quite common for fans in Korea and Mainland China in recent years – just part of what marketers have dubbed as the “fan economy”.  The recent “Mirror Phenomenon” signifies a breakthrough of the fan economy in Hong Kong.

But was this the first sign of fan economy in the local Hong Kong scene? Not exactly. Brands have used advertisements featuring celebrities – singers and film stars alike –  since the 80s to engage to reach their targeted audience.

(Leon Lai for Hutchison Telecommunications 1993)

But the fan economy has since evolved and today, presents new opportunities for brands looking to jump onto the trend bandwagon.

There are two distinct factors of this new form of the “Fan Economy” – the commercial implication of the phenomenon and the new ways of interactions between idols and their fans.

#1 Commercial implication of the “Fan Economy”

One of the key characteristics of “Fans Economy” lies in the fact that fans are highly aware their idols’ commercial value depends on their financial investment by either generating publicity for their idols or buying the products or services endorsed by their idols.


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A post shared by Ian Chan 陳卓賢 (@iancychan)

As such, the emotional support or bond between fans and idols will manifest in the form of boosting the latter’s commercial value. Purchase is no longer just out of the belief that the products or services are good as it is endorsed by the celebrity, but rather the purchase as a means to further increase the commercial value of their idols.

#2 Fans & Their Social Community

With the proliferation of social media channels, celebrities today have more diverse and engaging channels to interact with their fans.  The engagement element is critical as it allows fans to feel that they are being brought closer to their idols. This is also seen by the overwhelming success of reality talent shows – fans feel like they’re part of the journey.


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A post shared by @viutv

Brands must realise that social community involvement will be part and parcel of working with these celebrities. Hence, it is crucial for brands to adopt a holistic social and digital strategy before engaging with these new generation of socially-native idols.

The Comeback of ATL

The rise of influencers or micro-influencers in recent years has led marketers to shift their above-the-line (ATL) budget to performance marketing, media storytelling, or events. The proliferation of online and social media has made it difficult for million-dollar campaign investments in advertisements in traditional mass channels such as TV or billboards.

However, the fan economy has once again prompted brands to invest in traditional ATL campaigns. Yet brands also have to understand that ROI is dependent on the resonance and relevance of the advertised content.

The fan economy is not just about the popularity of the celebrity and pairing a celebrity with a brand or a product. Even though ATL tactics are making a comeback, they are no longer the same because marketing channels are more diversified. That’s where the creativity of the content can set brands apart. One-way communication will render ineffective with this new generation. The more engagement there is, the more likely brands will face scrutiny by fans questioning its belief, philosophy, and brand ethos.

High Risks

The recent scandal of Chinese rapper Kris Wu is a good example of the dark side of the fan economy.  Authorities were alerted after conversations from social platforms began circulating, prompting possible criminal investigations.  Within days of the outbreak of the scandal, luxury brands including the likes of Louis Vuitton, Lancôme, Bulgari and Porsche terminated their cooperation with Wu.

This serves as good food for thought for marketers and brands. While the fan economy is indeed effective in tugging at emotional heartstring of fans to drive purchase, brands are still at risk because no human, let alone celebrity, is perfect. Even with the most careful of brands, crisis can still hit any time. Brands must be prepared to face backlash if they plan to venture into this space. Practice vigilance by investing in social listening tools to monitor news or mentions and be sure to guard and build up other reputational assets.

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