Wednesday, November 30, 2005

China 'net stars not just for geeks

My partner Patrick today suggested that one of the cool things about net culture in China is that it closely maps mainstream consumer/pop culture. I think he is dead on.

Let's take recent Chinese net stars The Back Dorm Boys. Check out one of their first videos here if you are in China and here if you are outside China (b/c download speed may vary outside the Great Fire Wall).

The video hit a massive Word of Mouth trajectory via mail forwards and BBS discussion, and was followed by other videos. The incredible WOM was fuelled by a Sina page dedicated to them. Eventually, Motorola picked them up as hosts for their online lip-sync contest. Now, these guys are even getting mentioned on the Today show in the US by Boing Boing.

The "Back Dorm Boys" phenomenon shows a few things worth noting. First, contrary to some people's conventional wisdom, irreverent humor has a place in China among the younger generation. Second, it shows that net stars in China actually can become mainstream stars. Ask how many people in the US have heard of the Star Wars Kid (need a proxy if inside China). Sure he had his 15 seconds of fame among those who pay attention to this type of stuff, but how many actually pay attention to this type of stuff? Not too many. Now ask how many people in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in China know about Back Dorm Boys. We think a lot. No official figures, but whenever we show this video to clients, the Chinese white collar professionals in the room all laugh as they explain who these kids are to their older bosses.

The computer is the central entertainment and information appliance for the new generation in China and the Internet, through the power of Word of Mouth, is making stars. And some smart companies like Motorola are listening, watching and learning.


At 11:30 AM , Anonymous Ben said...

I agree that the internet reflects the mainstream culture (paticularly those that are a part of the market) reasonably well, and it is no surprise the fame driver is accessible and desirable online as it is off.

With back dorm boys, what was the defining characterisitic that made their offering sticky? Internationally sites like are full of content that never goes anywhere, as are sites in China. Which mattered more, the content or the fist few buzz generators?


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