Fan Management 101: How Wang Kai got his fans to listen

Conversation with a buddy who stans Z with me. Z is an artist with a lot of fan problems.
Me: Wang Kai did x, y, z as soon as he was famous to tell fans what he wants from them without having fans lose face.
Buddy: How can you even stand fanning Z after stanning someone as impressive as Wang Kai?

The more I fan other artists and hear about how fans can be setbacks to the artists, the more I’m impressed by everything that Wang Kai has done to guide his fans on the path he wants, so here’s a list of actions Wang Kai executed masterfully in his first year of fame to tell his fans exactly what he wants out of them. If you follow gossip sites, all this was done while Wang Kai was dealing with a huge smear campaign in November.

Obviously, because so many of these actions have become embedded in fan culture and the scalping business, it’s both difficult and costly for any artist to try and refuse them. I don’t really hold it against artists for not being able to do what Wang Kai has done (also I would have to unfan a bunch of people if did, and I need internal consistency), but I have mad respect for Wang Kai for sticking with his own rules and actually reinforcing them in the nicest way possible.

  • While filming Stay With Me in late 2015, Wang Kai fans were divided on whether to do fan support (where fans cater meals and bring gifts to the cast and crew to try to get goodwill for their idols) after both of his co-star’s fanclubs did them. Wang Kai let his fans come on set, but then footed the whole bill and gave everyone who came additional gifts to take back home. Fans immediately got the message and stopped doing fan support.
  • In late 2015, Wang Kai was asked about his newly-found fame in an interview, and he used it to discuss the issue of fans following him to airports. He said that just because everybody is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right. Buying travel information from scalpers is illegal, and crowing creates safety risks for both fans and regular travelers.
    To drive the point home, he would sometimes buy multiple flights, sometimes on different days and at airports, until scalpers stopped selling his data. He also wore the same overcoat at the airport for a whole winter so the airport-paparazzi-for-hire would stop photographing him. He also won’t chat or smile at any fan at airports, causing him to lose a number of “fans.”
    Now, fans joke that if they ever saw him on a plane, they need to jump out with a parachute ASAP to prove their innocence.
  • Because of his popularity as Prince Jing in Nirvana in Fire, fans began to call them Princess Jing (wife of Prince Jing). Wang Kai shut down that title the minute he was asked about it in an interview (but without offending anyone), and instead suggested that actors and the audience are equals, so he’ll address his audience as “my audience-friends” and his fans address him as “my actor-friend.” FYI the name doesn’t sound so awkward and made-up in Chinese.
  • Around the same time, a popular hashtag was #What’s the point of life if I can’t sleep with Wang Kai#. He also shut that down the first time he was asked about it and told fans “As long as you study well, work well, study hard, and work hard, one day, you’ll sleep with someone who you love.” I love that he refused to give false hopes to fans and is clear on what the relationship he wants from fans – that between an actor and his audience.

A month before When a Snail Falls in Love chose its female lead in spring 2016, Wang Kai liked the following Weibo by a fan:

“After When a Snail Falls in Love finds its female lead, no matter if she’s the female lead you had hoped for, don’t go around disparaging her. Before a TV series is finished filming, anything you think that might not fit could become a perfect fit! Don’t forget how much pressure Wang Kai faced when the cast for Nirvana in Fire was announced! Don’t do unto others what you don’t want to happen to you! Don’t let our past become the present of others. ❤️❤️ ​​​​

Weibo liked by Wang Kai
  • Back then it was still common to have forums for fan clubs. In early 2016, Wang Kai’s fanclub (at that time ran by fans) tried to require people to register with their official ID numbers. Wang Kai recorded a video for all fans, but the fanclub restricted viewership to people who had registered. After some raised concerns about data security and probably in addition to the problems mentioned previously, Wang Kai’s team announced they were taking over fanclub but in reality just disbanded it.
  • In Wang Kai’s first international appearance during Milan Fashion Week, a couple of fans interviewed by media such as the New York Times told them his name was Nick Wang. He then liked a Weibo by a fan (yours truly, thank you very much) noting that instead of the English name Nick listed on his Baidu, he seems to prefer the name Wang Kai when dealing with foreign companies and press, so fans stopped using Nick.
  • When asked what gifts he was going to give fans to celebrate him reaching a certain mark of followers on Weibo, he attended a charity event and said: “charity is the best gift.” Ever since then, his fans only spend money on charity, and usually not even in his name but in the name of his characters, such as a bridge to honor the bridge blown up by Fan Chuan of Railroad Tigers or pigs for a school cafeteria in the name of the pig farmer Song Yunhui of Like a Flowing River. His fans have built roads or bridges in rural China in honor of almost all his non-antagonist characters so far (no roads in the name of murderers). When Wang Kai was accused of exaggerating how he would move 15 tons of books a night into the warehouse where he once worked, fans got bookstores to come out and prove it can be done and then worked with those bookstores to donate 15 tons of books to school libraries.
A final Wang Kai and a corgi for your thoughts.

14 thoughts on “Fan Management 101: How Wang Kai got his fans to listen

  1. I just watched his most recent interview and he repeated the same message. It seems that his fans are really generally abiding by his advices, and respect the boundary between his private life and public life.

  2. I’d like to see these philosophies picked up by all actors/singers/celebrities so that situations with crowds in airports, poisonous anti fans, smear campaigns, and excessive spending to curry favor all goes away. It’s enough to admire the talent and heart of an individual if you’re a true fan.

  3. Not sure if the Z mentioned here is the same Z I’m a fan of, but if yes, then that situation is such an unfortunate extreme anomaly. I think it was a lose-lose situation for him regardless of what he did or didn’t do. Starting from a boy band/idol background does not allow for the same type of behaviour that Wang Kai was able to exhibit. Majority of these idols are cast for their looks and need to maintain relevance to have new projects. The demographics of the fan base is also a major deciding factor of how they will behave. I was so impressed with the Thai Z fans! The orderly way they assembled at the airport and how well behaved they were at all concerts and fan meetings. If only the Chinese (in China) fans could be so rational and supportive in a positive way.

    Wang Kai is signed to Daylight Entertainment (a power house production company as well) and his focus is on acting. He doesn’t have to worry about projects as most of his dramas are from Daylight and he’s established his reputation as an actor.

    • Not the same Z. Imo Xiao Zhan’s fans are not that different from many fan groups I’ve seen, they just hit an especially sore spot. My Z is at the point that many fans won’t even listen to things he explicitly says and one very vocal fraction (including his ex-fanclub manager whom his team ousted last year) is basically actively doing things to get him both legally and morally ban him from ever performing again. They’re literally pushing him to the point where all he has left are his fans.

      Fan culture isn’t inherently bad, and having fans is a good thing, but what type of fans dominate a fandom is somewhat controlled by the artist. Even Wang Kai couldn’t have gotten most of the leading roles he has without a fanbase. For most artists, although the further you rise the more you have to lose at cutting off toxic fans since they rise quickly in fandoms, it can be done if done with will and consistency. It’s ultimately a question of how much you’re willing to give up, and how tactfully can you do it to minimize the loss. What helped with Wang Kai was that he was able to quickly identify the potential risks of encouraging certain fan behavior and cut them off early and tactfully. Even if my Z’s team wanted to do the same, they would’ve managed to offend every fraction of fans and then some. But by not taking action and sending mixed messages, they also lose normal fans.

      Also, a minor note, but Daylight Entertainment actually dissolved their management company in 2016 or 2017 because they wanted to focus on drama production. Wang Kai is in an independent company with Zhang Jianing (the actress) as a partner and Guo Xiaoran as a signed actor. He clearly still has close ties with Daylight Entertainment, though.

      • That Z fandom is both interesting and scary. I don’t think those groups are fans at that point. The entertainment industry is so toxic in so many ways. From the crazy fans, greedy/shady managers, bully investors to the overall abuse of power. Sad that so much tragedy and toxicity comes from an industry that brings so much joy to us through music and visual arts.

        Wang Kai’s management company is partially owned by Daylight Entertainment (60% shares at the time of establishment). So there are still strong ties between the two. I think it was a smart decision for Daylight to focus on drama productions and set up a subsidiary company for Wang Kai to have more control over his career and yet still maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.

        • Unfortunately Z’s fan actions are just a more extreme extension of the usual fandom issue of fans thinking of what they want of their artist instead of respecting the artist’s actions and people around them. It could happen to any fandom if let grow wild.

          When Daylight got rid of its management department, they also dissolved the company with Wang Kai. The current one registered in 2017 is owned solely by Wang Kai.

          New one:

          Old one:

          • Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t realize Daylight had dissolved the company a year later and Wang Kai created his own company with the same name (with Tianjin changed to Shanghai). Odd that he kept the same company name, but he must of had his reasons.

            I looked up the Z saga and that was some crazy rabbit hole. I’ve only seen him in The Brightest Star and ended up liking him (and his character) even though the drama was only mediocre at best. His martial arts is very impressive. He should film more action/martial arts dramas and movie.

            The mistreatment from SM sounds like a regular occurrence with Korean management companies (especially for Chinese artists). And the situation (fallout?) with Kris seemed to be so heartbreaking for him. I’m still confused about the crazy fans (anti-fans?) though. So much craziness!

            • Haha, still not the same Z. The one I’m talking about isn’t very mainstream. I may not being doing enough research, but I thought Tao is in control of his own management team?

              As for Wang Kai, I think it was a part of Daylight’s overall move to not manage artists. They dropped both of their management companies (the one with Wang Kai, and the one for everyone else) around the same time.

  4. Yes, huge respect for this guy. From early on, he was clear about his principles and what he wants to be – a good actor, not an idol. Admire his ability to stay calm during difficult times and stay on his course. A humble and kind person too.

  5. He is of a different generation than the current idols/celebs. He obviously wants longevity as a real actor, and has been smart and/or lucky enough to surround himself with people who would work with him to achieve it.

    Current younger generation of idols/celebs, on the other hand, have people who want to profit as much as possible off these celebs’ youth and popularity before the “idol expiration date”. They overlook, or (subtly/actively) encourage, toxic South Korean idol fan tactics among fans. Obviously such fans can become a major liability.

  6. Well being a actor does not just involve acting with a script…They have to be smart about their journey. You are not afraid to loss some while winning more. The fans too learn where his boundaries lie…

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