The Rise of Global Asian Ambassadors


Marketing Strategies:
The Rise of Global Asian Ambassadors

Over the years, marketing has evolved – from advertisements on television, radio, and newspapers to banners, posters, and billboards. However, advancements in the digital landscape have brought about a shift in the way marketing is carried out, especially as marketers try to reach and connect with digital natives – Gen Z and millennials.

These are known to be the most lucrative target audiences, and marketers have had to up their game to connect with these demographic groups, who by 2025 will make up almost half of the APAC region’s consumers. Understanding the distinctive ways in which they research, consider, purchase, and use products is paramount for marketers to steer their activities in the right direction. Of late, many businesses in Asia, including large corporations, have been adapting their marketing strategy to collaborate with the latest iconic names in the entertainment industry – otherwise known as influencer marketing – to reach out to Gen Z and millennials.

For example, in May this year, McDonald’s, a corporation that celebrities have endorsed in the past, went all out by collaborating with BTS, the South Korean boy band that has achieved international fame. While the typical marketing modus operandi of this fast-food giant is to feature celebrities that would appeal to specific regions, McDonald’s capitalised on the global popularity of BTS. They launched a special BTS Meal across 50 different countries, including many Asian countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, and more.

This unique collaboration between the American fast-food chain and the South Korean boy band – which has a massive following called the BTS Army, mainly made up of Gen Z and millennials – was so successful that it boosted McDonald’s international sales by almost 41% in the second quarter of 2021. According to McDonald’s, the BTS Meal played a significant role in this growth for the business, as outlets worldwide saw a rise in restaurant visits and a surge in demand for Chicken McNuggets – the core component of the BTS Meal.

McDonald’s Korea reported a 250% increase in its Chicken McNuggets sales in the first four weeks of the meal’s launch. In the Philippines, the BTS Meal broke all records as McDonald’s Philippines reported a sale of almost 3.5 million Chicken McNuggets on launch day, a 1,000% surge compared to its average daily sales. On social media, fans were in a frenzy as the hashtag #btsmeal went viral. Thousands of videos emerged, indicating the success of McDonald’s collaboration with BTS, not only in Asia but also across the world.

Luxury brands are also jumping on the bandwagon by collaborating with K-pop stars and bands, such as girl groups Itzy and Blackpink. The digital presence that these Asian celebrities have on social media, compared to prominent Hollywood celebrities, can be argued to be a motivating factor for brands such as Burberry, Celine, and Louis Vuitton to collaborate with them. Many of the chosen Korean stars have a prominent online presence, with some often going live on social media platforms to interact directly with their followers or promote products. This allows for a unique digital connection to the Gen Z and millennial demographic that businesses cannot bridge through traditional advertising methods.

For example, Gucci, a brand that has never collaborated with a Korean celebrity before, chose to collaborate with Kai, a member of EXO, a South Korean-Chinese boy band, to launch a line this year. The collaboration proved to be a major success as the Italian brand saw its products selling out within hours of its launches in Asia. Similar to the BTS Meal marketing strategy, Gucci’s collaboration with Kai was much talked about on social media, asserting its brand positioning among Gen Z and millennials.

While using influencers to market products may not be a new trend, it is worth acknowledging that using global Asian ambassadors to market international brands is on the rise. These iconic Asian celebrities make a more appealing collaboration deal for businesses as they offer a fresh and exciting marketing strategy to appeal to Gen Z and millennials, globally. However, it is to be noted that brands have to be proactive in implementing their marketing strategies and finding the proper collaboration and endorsement deals that will allow them to relate to this target demographic, as trends within this group can quickly change.

*Photo in article by Shingi Rice on Unsplash

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