Web China: "Modern-day Casanova" captures on-line cosmetics market
BEIJING, Apr 18, 2012 (Xinhua via COMTEX) --
By Xinhua writers Du Jie, Li Ang
A handsome 29-year-old man
selling women's cosmetics online has made a fortune through his
charismatic personal branding while portraying himself as a
Leo Chen, co-founder and CEO of Jumei.com, the first
China-based cosmetics group-buying site, clearly believes he has
an insight into women that matches his business acumen.
"Why do I sell cosmetics to women? Because I believe women doll
themselves up for those who appreciate them, so men's opinions are
important for women's choice of cosmetics," Chen said.
Chen's company achieved sales of nearly 1 billion yuan (158.5
million U.S. dollars) in 2011 alone, and in March the young
entrepreneur climbed onto Forbes China's list of the "Top 30
Chinese Entrepreneurs Under 30."
Chen has indeed made himself his company's public face,
starring in an online commercial, appearing on many billboards and
TV shows, and being very active in social media.
"I endorse my own brand because I think a company's reputation
and value is indelibly linked to that of its leader. The CEO
naturally becomes a company' s public face."
Last July, Chen released a video on weibo, a Twitter-like
service, and the post was forwarded over 5,000 times in one day
and received over 1,400 online comments. Internet users even
coined the term "Jumei style" to describe the commercial.
"Strive for our dreams, live a wonderful life and be
ourselves......I'm Leo Chen. I' d like to represent myself," Leo
Chen, also known as Chen Ou, said in the commercial.
The blanket promotional strategy has turned his site into
China' s top cosmetics e-tailer. Chen said his personal branding
has saved his company 100 million yuan in advertising expenses.
Steve Jobs, former Apple CEO, and Jack Welch, former CEO of
General Electric, have demonstrated the power of CEO branding. But
while the leader's reputation becomes an essential component of
the overall brand strategy of a company, Chen warned of its risks.
"In China, we have a saying about 'shooting the bird that takes
the lead.' Personal branding can promote a company as well as ruin
it. Nowadays my words, appearances and even my private life may
affect the reputation of my company," he said.
The pressure Chen feels is not without basis.
Earlier this year, controversy arose while he was a judge on a
reality TV show when Chen asked a female job hunter about her
Internet users criticized Chen for asking an irrelevant
question and being condescending to female contestants. The drama
ended after Chen apologized on his Weibo to the contestant, and
the incident appeared to give him an even higher profile rather
than hurt him.
Yang Yi, deputy director of the Advertiser Research Institute
of the Communication University of China, said the effects of
personal branding work best when a CEO's charisma and personality
stay in tandem with his company's key corporate values and images.
"But the strategy is risky, as any scandal involving the CEO
can jeopardize the company's image," he said.
Yang also admitted successful personal branding reduces budgets
and customers may feel the company is more accessible, as they
identify themselves with the CEOs.
The growing popularity of social networking sites enables the
quick dissemination of brand messages, thus making it possible to
run low-budget but effective commercials online.
"Good advertising spreads not only based on the size of the
budget but also on reputation. The message of representing myself
encourages my customers to take a proactive attitude in life. In
this way, the value of our ads exceeds that of an expensive but
superficial ad," Chen said.
Chen went to study in Singapore at the age of 16, before
becoming an entrepreneur in 2005 when he established Garena, now
one of the largest online game platforms in the world. Later he
got an MBA from Stanford, sold Garena, and started doing business
Before Chen established the site in 2010, he and two other
co-founders, both male, had no experience in e-commerce, or in the
selling women's cosmetics. But they found niche opportunities in
"The high market demand and the lack of a leading cosmetics
e-tailer prompted us to establish the site," Chen said.
Initially a cosmetics group-buying site, Jumei.com has grown
into a major B2C (business to customer) platform for cosmetics.
But unlike other similar sites, it mainly sells the world's
As for his next personal branding strategy, Chen said he will
continue appearing in the company's commercials and incorporating
himself further into his own brand.
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