Celebrity Fans in China: Motives, Characteristics, and Marketing Impacts

Celebrity Fans in China: Motives, Characteristics, and Marketing Impacts

Xinming Jia (Zhejiang International Studies University, China), Kineta Hung (Hong Kong Baptist University, China) and Ke Zhang (Soochow University, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1048-3.ch006

Abstract

This chapter examines the motives, characteristics, and marketing impacts of celebrity fans in China, and illustrates these points using the fans of Wallace Chung. Based on a grounded theoretical approach, the analysis reveals five fan segments with different motives and marketing impacts: casual fans (playful, limited marketing impacts); fascinated fans (aspirational, fervent purchasers); devoted fans (sense of belonging, voluntary marketer-promoters and fervent purchasers); dysfunctional fans (identification with celebrity, rally pro); and reflective fans (solid self-identity, celebrity image-shapers). The analysis shows that in addition to buying celebrity-related products, fans undertake essential marketing activities (celebrity image-shapers, voluntary marketer-promoter) that in the past were the domains of agency management and marketers of endorsed products. These changes elevate fans to become marketing partners. Implications are discussed.
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The Rise Of Organized Fandom

Celebrities have always had fans; yet, prior to the social-media era, the fans were scattered. Fan communities were small and unconnected, situated in different cities, townships and universities. During this time, a fan’s knowledge about a celebrity was based by-and-large on the celebrity’s works (e.g. TV series, movies, interviews and variety shows) and reports on mass media (e.g. newspapers and periodicals). This one-way, controllable path allowed the management agency and the media industry to plan and create the image of each celebrity. The fans at the receiving end were generally passive in this regard.

This situation changed with the emergence of Weibo, the largest social-networking site in China. Weibo has 261 million active monthly users and 120 million active daily users. It allows fans not only to follow celebrity news but also to take an active role in engaging the celebrity. Further, it provides a platform for fans to connect with and follow one another. It is also a convenient platform for fans to retrieve, like, and share one another’s public statements about their idol.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Celebrity Engagement: The attention and behaviors that fans undertake and direct at a celebrity.

Celebrity Endorsement: A commercial activity whereby a celebrity becomes the spokesperson of a brand or the products of an enterprise.

Wallace Chung: A Chinese singer, actor, dancer, and director. He was born in Hong Kong on November 30, 1974 and has played the leading roles in many films and TV dramas. Well-known by audiences in China, he was ranked #45 on the 2015 Forbes China Celebrity List.

Star-Gazing: The activities fans undertake to show their love and idolatry toward the celebrity.

Roadshow: The publicity or touring performances the media or the celebrity’s management agency organizes.

Baidu: Baidu is a Chinese multinational technology company specializing in Internet-related products/services and artificial intelligence. It has the second largest search engine in the world.

Para-Social Relationship: A one-sided relationship whereby fans regard the celebrity as their acquaintance or friend, though the celebrity has no knowledge of the fans.

User-Generated Content: Content in forms of text, images, or/and videos on social media, created and shared spontaneously by fans to promote a celebrity or other focus of interest.

Weibo: A social networking website launched by Sina for users to post messages and upload pictures and videos; one of the most popular social media in China.

Idolization: The act of admiring strongly or worshiping blindly a celebrity.

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