Are granfluencers the new answer to luxury brands’ celebrity endorsement in China?

Collab between Miu Miu and an 85-year-old actress

When the 85-year-old Chinese actress Wu Yanshu appeared amongst a group of Gen Z and millennial celebrities that were featured by the young-looking luxury brand Miu Miu, the collaboration was a scroll-stopper. The engagement was part of the brand’s initiative of Women’s Tales, an ongoing short film series that invited some of China’s influential female directors and personalities to explore the nature of women in the 21st century.

Wu’s presence in this campaign is viewed to have demonstrated the maturity and wisdom of women.

This year saw the 25th release entitled EYE TWO TIMES MOUTH with an offline screening event on 26 April at the historic scenic town of Wuzhen in Zhejiang province. As Miu Miu’s brand ambassador, Wu, who was awarded the best lead actress at the 12th Beijing International Film Festival in 2022, was in attendance at the event alongside her younger peers including 23-year-olds Ren Min and Li Landi, 24-year-old actress Qiu Tian, 30-year-old Zhu Yanmanzi and 35-year-old Ma Sichun.

Following the event, Wu was seen in a photo collection, presenting one of Miu Miu’s signature Matelassé bags. The series’ efforts have resulted in the campaign hashtag Miu Miu Women’s Tales attracting an accumulated 170 million views on China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo as of 10 May.

The seemingly sharp contrast between the appearance of the senior influencer and the youthful brand has drawn in great public interest with many commenting that Wu’s presence demonstrates the maturity and wisdom of women while others view the collaboration as Miu Miu’s endeavour of pushing the boundaries defining “young women”, and the joining of Wu “enriches the inner beauty of the brand”.

Other luxury labels eyeing senior influencers

Prior to Miu Miu, the award-winning grandmother also shook hands with Songmont, a Chinese high-end bag maker, where Wu was presenting the brand’s basket handbag as a brand friend, which was similarly well received by Chinese consumers. In fact, more luxury labels have set their sights on China’s senior influencers.

This engagement received praise from Chinese netizens with some viewing the aesthetics of BV’s luxurious offerings as well presented by Xi.

These include Bottega Veneta (BV), who invited Xi Meijuan, a 68-year-old TV and stage actress who is a Shanghai native, to the brand’s store opening event in Shanghai in February. This engagement received praise from Chinese netizens with some viewing the aesthetics of BV’s luxurious offerings as well presented by Xi and her elegance put a positive spin on the brand’s overall image.

Also tapping into “grandfluencers” (or senior influencers) is the Italian high-end fashion brand – Max Mara who featured Hong Nanli, an 84-year-old sports photographer, for the brand’s Women’s Day campaign in 2022. Together with several female footballers of the post-80s, post-90s and post-00s generations, the collaboration skilfully leveraged China’s ongoing football sensation and highlighted the spirit of football through the lens of the senior photographer.

More examples saw Ma Jie (or Sister Ma), a 62-year-old fashion blogger who is followed by over 150,000 on China’s lifestyle sharing platform Xiaohongshu drew in interest from brands including Nei Wai, a Chinese lingerie brand, and Canadian yoga wear label Lululemon. While having a strong niche in fashion, the Shanghai-born influencer also shows a young, energetic and sometimes, even slightly rebellious attitude towards life, which is highly compatible with Lululemon’s values and the pursuit of individuality amongst the brand’s target consumers too.

The increasing brand engagement with these senior KOLs shows the greater influence on not just consumers of their own age groups but also on the younger demographics. Their personalities and personal traits have become a valuable asset that can brighten up a brand’s overall image, especially that of luxury labels, meanwhile, their active digital presence, serves as proof of their youthful mindsets, which is what makes them resonate with young people.

By engaging with these grandfluencers, brands are able to leverage the contrast in age to pique consumer curiosity while also making their voices more memorable. This allows them to demonstrate their stance on inclusion by redefining “youth” and breaking the stereotyped generational gap between the elder generation and the young, ultimately strengthening consumers’ psychological connection to brands.