China’s latest social media trend, loser subculture? 

Among myriad ways of gaining fame, vlogging is no stranger. From fashion, lifestyle to beauty vlogger, we have seen a lot of YouTube and Vine celebrities come and go. The genres have also expanded rapidly from simple tutorial videos to quirky ones like those who live-stream themselves binge eating. In China, WeChat and YouKu have become a new way of self-expression. While some have followers whose size could stack up against those of K-pop stars, others proved that they’re capable of making a decent living out of vblogging.   

But recently, one particular name is gaining a lot of traction. While her popularity mostly comes from domestic Chinese audience, her name has also been featured in a handful western news as a result of $1.85m funding she managed to secure (via Quartz).    

Who’s she and how is she different from others?

‘Nicknamed “Papi Jiang,” the graduate student from Beijing’s Central Academy of Drama has become one of China’s most popular social media stars in recent months’.

But how did this 29-year-old Shanghainese get so much popularity? Unlike most internet stars in China, she doesn’t brag about her beauty, she doesn’t seem to have a charismatic sense of fashion, and she certainly doesn’t have an ‘aspirational lifestyle’. In one word, she is very… mediocre. Well, that’s exactly what made her videos distinctive from the rest.

Papi Jiang doesn’t flaunt her Ferrari car nor her Hermès Birkin bag. While showing off one’s possession and beauty remains a dominant way of gaining more views in China. Instead, she offers viewers something that those narcissistic, selfie-obsessed and self-absorbed internet stars don’t have: humour (ouch).   

From relationships, work, gender stereotypes to rich Chinese oligarchs, she takes a very satirical and humorous stance in issues that most Chinese citizens are familiar with in his and her everyday life. Her ‘irreverent observation’ and punchy comments with impeccable timing have made her ‘an unprecedented internet sensation’. In one video, she impersonates a former Chinese politician while in another she is mimicking a gossipy Shanghai woman in a mix of Shanghai dialect, English and Japanese. (In fact, most of her videos mimick annoying couples, relatives and so on.)   


The emergence of ‘’diaosi’’ / loser subculture?


Can someone like Papi Jiang who is skeptical of everything offer enviable marketing opportunities for marketers? The Business of Fashion thinks the answer is yes. By describing her struggles and experiences that resonate with millions of Chinese millennials, they find so much sympathy for what she is ranting about. As a mediocre female, her vblog is naturally more relatable to average Chinese women. As a 29- year-old female in the mainland China, Papi Jiang is very familiar with what other single women in their late twenties have to go through in everyday life. Particularly when it comes to marriage, things get quite sensitive. As the recent viral campaign by SK-II has proven, the stigmatisation surrounding the so-called ‘leftover’ women is rife. Not to mention that it received countless positive comments by young women, the video has hit over 1.2m views in in the first day it was released on Youku.


As ‘leftover’ status becomes more common among well-educated women, Papi Jiang’s incremental followers mean a potentially untapped market. In other words, ‘strong and growing spending power’. From BoF, ‘perhaps more than anything else, the secret of Jian’s success is her championing of ‘’diaosi’’ culture – a youth subculture that sarcastically translates to ‘’loser’’, but more accurately means ‘’ordinary’’ or ‘’normal’’. The current queen of satirical subculture has already secured four venture capitalists and their nearly $2million worth of investment, BoF brands can’t just let this frenzy pass by.


But perhaps all are happening too fast

But it is hard to say whether such satirical approach on social media will stick around. As whimsical and unpredictable as it may seem, China’s great firewall (i.e., censorship) is already setting its eyes on popular internet stars like Papa Jiang. Its commitment to squelch any content that’s considered unpalatable and troublemaking will not stand a chance. Even it’s just a popular internet personality. That won’t necessarily mean that Papa Jiang is banned or anything. However, toning down her nuance will plausibly stave off many of her 11 million Weibo fans, assuming her irreverent observations were exactly the reason why they followed her in the first place. Having said that, what’s better source of irony than having to stick to socialist core values while having $2 million ready to be injected into your personality brand?  

What do you think?

Appnova is a digital agency specializing in web design, UX, e-commerce, branding, digital marketing and social media.

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Cover image via Quartz.





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