Has Hong Kong boy band Mirror sold out by endorsing so many brands?

PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Canto-pop boy band Mirror has captured the hearts of millions of Hongkongers, and brands have been flocking to them to use their fame and popularity in marketing campaigns.

To say the band seem to be endorsing anything and everything is not an understatement; unlike other Canto-pop and K-pop stars who have exclusive deals with brands, Mirror seem to be always open for business.

Since the 12-member ensemble rose to fame through ViuTV's reality talent show Good Night Show - King Maker three years ago, not only have they reinvigorated the Canto-pop scene and breathed new life into Hong Kong's entertainment and fashion world, but they have also emerged as Hong Kong's most in-demand brand ambassadors.

Both individually and as a group, Mirror has acquired numerous endorsement deals in various industries.

They have collaborated with luxury labels such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry and Giorgio Armani, and endorsed cosmetics brands including Shiseido, Nars Cosmetics, Charlotte Tilbury, Laura Mercier and Estee Lauder.

Keung To in a shoot for Burberry. The singer also headlines a McDonald’s meal.
Keung To in a shoot for Burberry. The singer also headlines a McDonald's meal. PHOTO: South China Morning Post 

They are popular figures in the food industry, endorsing brands such as Häagen-Dazs, Vita, Nestle, Deliveroo and Coca-Cola.

In 2021, three members of the boy band collaborated with McDonald's to release the Hong Kong exclusive "Keung B Meal", headlined by singer Keung To.

There's no doubt Mirror have become the endorsement darlings of Hong Kong.

That they and their management are quite content to endorse almost anything does not mean it is wrong - but happily endorsing any product can detract from its value and can make brands look desperate.

Only last week Mirror added to their lucrative list of partnerships by joining up with Korean electronics giant Samsung to become ambassadors for the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G smartphones - this despite the fact Keung To has also appeared in ads for LG, one of Samsung's biggest rivals.

It was a situation that Amrita Banta, managing director of luxury consulting company Agility Research & Strategy, agreed is not ideal.

Ian Chan in a shoot for Louis Vuitton.
Ian Chan in a shoot for Louis Vuitton. PHOTO: South China Morning Post 

"In general, celebrities and ambassadors can infuse a brand with positivity and are a good way to connect with consumers to reap the benefits of the following and fans they have," she explains.

"But it is true that the partnership and collaboration have to be done in an effective manner and should be a good match. A lot of our work is around choosing the right celebrities and KOLs [key opinion leaders] for brands to tie up with, and not just popular ones but also ones that fit the brand image.

"However, one has to be careful that the brand retains its core spirit and value and is not overly dependent on these KOLs and celebrities. We have seen in the past the major issues brands have had with Fan Bingbing, and more recently, Kris Wu in China."

Keung To and Ian Chan at a Fendi event.
Keung To and Ian Chan at a Fendi event. PHOTO: South China Morning Post 

Critics say it's also a tricky balancing act because the strategy leads to short-term sales for these brands but, long term, it is bad for their image.

It doesn't create brand awareness since the relationship is far from exclusive.

Herbert Yum, research manager in Hong Kong for Euromonitor International, believes that this is not a problem in the long run, however.

"Brands are happy not to have exclusive arrangements, as they can make the most of Mirror's large fan base now, which is made up of the younger generation and who are all prospective new customers," he says.

"If they turn out to be not as popular in 12 months' time, brands could easily switch to another celebrity or whoever is on-trend then."

Mirror in their role as ambassadors for the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G smartphones.
Mirror in their role as ambassadors for the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G smartphones. PHOTO: South China Morning Post 

Not that the Mirror marketing juggernaut is showing any signs of stopping.

The Hong Kong boy band are just too big for brands to ignore, and the numbers back this up.

"Research by Admango [a data tracking research firm] in June this year showed that Mirror had 2.87 million followers on social media - this was an aggregation of all its 12 members. Over half of these were millennials and Generation Z," Yum explains.

"They are always going to be brands' first choice, no matter what link they have to the products, but they can also be highly adaptable."

One example of their adaptability is the cosmetics market as, unsurprisingly, a significant portion of the local female population have fallen under the spell of the band.

"Beauty products aimed at females are being endorsed by Mirror.

Female fans adore them and will follow whatever they do," says Yum. "They represent so many people in Hong Kong today."

Keung To endorsing the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G smartphones.
Keung To endorsing the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Z Flip3 5G smartphones. PHOTO: South China Morning Post 

Banta does not believe that the way Mirror is being used to endorse a variety of products is being disingenuous to consumers or is a cynical approach to take.

"I think the Mirror case is quite unique, as there is a sense of Hong Kong pride concerning them and, after what has been a long time, they have signalled a revival and celebration of local Cantonese pop," she says.

Anson Kong in a shoot for Burberry.
Anson Kong in a shoot for Burberry. PHOTO: South China Morning Post 

"Hong Kong has had a lot of issues since 2019 and people have been going through very challenging times, not only due to Covid-19 but the political situation [here]. Art, music and luxury have all been a great distraction from the ordeals that people have been going through globally.

"This band is bringing a sense of joy and pride that Hong Kong finally has [its] own local celebrities, which [we] have been seeing much more of in places like China and Korea."

Mirror's representatives were contacted for comment but did not respond.

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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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