- Half-a-dozen fashion influencers were photographed prominently holding a Xiaomi power bank at Fashion Week 2018.
- This is either an alarming coincidence or paid influencer marketing initiated by Xiaomi.
- If these are ads, they were not disclosed as such, which could get the company in trouble. But it could be a sign that Xiaomi aims to push into America soon.
New York Fashion Week wrapped up on Friday, and all your favorite fashion icons were there. Paris Hilton was turning heads with her white designer shades, Bryan Boy was blogging about fashion in black vinyl pants, and supermodel Alla Kostromichova made a bold statement in her gold jumpsuit.
Oh, and all of them were coincidentally photographed with the Xiaomi Mi Power Bank Pro.
Influencer marketing is when a company pays celebrities to promote its products by simply being photographed using them. Kim Kardashian, arguably the queen influencer when it comes to social media, reportedly charges $250,000 for an Instagram post of her using a product.
There’s no proof that Paris Hilton, Bryan Boy, Alla Kostromichova, Krystal Bick, or Misshattan were paid to promote Xiaomi products via Instagram, but it does seem highly suspect that so many influencers were caught using a product from a Chinese company with a tiny footprint in America in one single week.
And Xiaomi doesn’t appear to be playing it cool, either. Its three-month old Instagram account starts with generic pictures of Xiaomi products, and then ends with about a dozen photos of fashion influencers “casually” using a Xiaomi Power Bank throughout NYC. The reblogs of the images all have Bit.ly links (i.e. trackable links) to the Amazon product page for the power bank. Real subtle, Xiaomi.
The most recent image is the one of Paris Hilton holding the power bank up in front of a picture of herself, as seen at the top of this article. The caption is this:
Such a life saver during #NYFW! ⚡📱⚡My phone was always 💯% charged & I never missed a #SelfieMoment🤩 Love my #MiPowerBank 💛 #PoweredByMi
Fashion blogger Bryan Boy even directly links to the Amazon listing of the Mi Power Bank Pro in his Instagram bio. He has over 669,000 followers.
If these celebrity endorsements are in fact ads, then Xiaomi may get into some trouble: the #ad hashtag is missing from all these posts, which should be present if money changed hands between the company and the influencer. While this isn’t a strict rule (yet), other companies have had to pay out for being caught exploiting the gray area between advertisement and endorsement.
In 2016, Warner Bros. settled with the FTC after paying video-game influencers to positively review and promote Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor without disclosing that’s what they were doing. And Lord & Taylor, the department store clothier, also dished out some bucks to the FTC after paying influencers to wear the same dress in Instagram posts, and not disclose that they were paid for the images.
Regardless of Xiaomi’s alleged unethical advertising practices, is this a sign that Xiaomi is going to make a bigger push to break America in 2018? While the Mi Power Bank Pro is certainly not one of its flagship smartphones, this is the first time Xiaomi has run a prominent ad campaign in America. If in fact, of course, this is an ad campaign (it is).