In digital advertising terms, the value of a key opinion leader (KOL) being supportive of your product or brand in China cannot be overestimated. The online advertising techniques that are more familiar to ANZ based marketers don’t work nearly as well in China and as such a KOL with high levels of trust and reach, can make all the difference.
And never has this phenomena been seen more directly by a business domiciled in Australia than in the case of Bobbie the Bear.
Bobbie the Bear is a lavender filled heat pack sold by the Tasmanian business Bridestowe Lavender Estate. Bobbie was the idea of Robert Ravens who bought the century old farm in 2007 intending to revive its fortunes through tourism and sales to mainland China, but it was when Zhang Xinyu, a Chinese actress and model posted a photo of herself with a Bear that things really took off.
Zhang, who currently has 13,326,015 followers on Sina Weibo posted the following image of herself and the Bear to Weibo and QQ:
This one image, posted in 2013, started a demand for Bobbie the Bear in China which has continued unabated and sees 65,000 Chinese visitors each year descend up the farm in Tasmania, which is about an hour’s drive from Launceston.
Demand for the Bear has seen Bridestowe limit the number of sales per person, fight off imitations by adding a special authenticity tag to each Bear that can be checked online and hit production of 40,000 bears per annum. Bobbie is such a hot item that if all of the lavender grown in Australia was used to create more bears, it’s estimated that supply would still not satisfy demand.
The Bear is so popular in China that one was presented to the Chinese President Xi Jinping on his arrival to Tasmania on an official visit earlier this year.
And indeed Bobbie continues to go from strength to strength, with his own Facebook Page, YouTube channel and now ABC Commercial is making Bobbie a TV star with his own show targeting the Chinese market. The show features a real life animated Bobbie and his friends, Digby the Tasmanian devil, Olga the owl and Tyler the Tasmanian tiger all names, like Bobbie, which were very carefully chosen to be easily pronounced phonetically by both Cantonese and Mandarin speakers.
Title Image by Bridestowe Lavender Facebook