The Chinese beauty sphere was recently engulfed in a controversy that brought to light changing consumer sentiments and a newfound appreciation for traditional, homegrown brands. The storm began with a live stream incident involving popular makeup influencer, Li Jiaqi, colloquially known as the “King of Lipstick.”
On September 10, while promoting an eyebrow pencil from the Chinese beauty brand Huaxizi, priced at 79 yuan ($10.83), a viewer commented on the product being too costly. Li Jiaqi’s response was less than gracious. Instead of addressing the concern, he countered with a series of pointed questions, challenging the viewer’s financial acumen and work ethic. The backlash was immediate. Li saw a significant exodus of more than 630,000 followers from his social media accounts. Despite his multiple attempts at apologizing, the influencer’s follower count continued its downward trend.
China Central Television (CCTV) commented on the situation, pointing out that instead of choosing a constructive route to explain the product’s value, Li opted to mock an individual’s financial standing. The incident not only tainted Li’s image but also cast shadows on Huaxizi’s reputation.
Debate ensued regarding the authenticity of Huaxizi as a genuine domestic brand, considering its pricing strategy. Some netizens did a cost comparison, observing that per gram, some Huaxizi products were more expensive than renowned international brands like Chanel or Shu Uemura. This spurred questions about whether Huaxizi genuinely represented a struggling domestic brand or if it was merely capitalizing on that image for profit.
Huaxizi’s subsequent apology seemed to do more harm than good. While they confirmed their status as a Chinese domestic beauty brand, emphasizing their adherence to strict regulatory standards, the public perceived their statement as more promotional than remorseful. Rumors then emerged suggesting the apology wasn’t crafted by the brand’s PR team. Some members reportedly resigned, while others were contemplating the same, signifying internal disagreements on the brand’s response strategy.
Interestingly, while Huaxizi faced a PR nightmare, traditional Chinese brands found themselves in the spotlight, experiencing an unexpected boon. Brands like Yumeijing and Wanziqianhong, with significant histories, suddenly became the talk of the town. They leveraged modern platforms like Xiaohongshu and Douyin, achieving astounding results. Yumeijing, for instance, witnessed sales surpassing 1 million yuan ($137,000) during its inaugural live streaming event.
This shift to traditional brands wasn’t merely a knee-jerk reaction but represented a deeper trend. Chinese consumers are showcasing a renewed respect for homegrown entities that deliver quality without an exorbitant price tag.
Modern domestic brands and international names have their respective strengths, from innovative marketing strategies to rigorous research capabilities. As pointed out by Economic Daily, while there’s a growing sentimentality towards traditional domestic brands, it’s essential to approach market competition with a balanced perspective. This incident, with its multifaceted implications, underscores the dynamic and evolving nature of the Chinese consumer landscape. A landscape where quality, authenticity, and emotional resonance are paramount.