How I overcame Severe Tire Damage to become the oldest influencer in town

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes – Andy Warhol

So that’s my post-Moodie Davitt Report career sorted then…

The term livestreaming gets 276 mentions on our website, all but four of them since 2019 and the vast majority since 2020. The concept has taken off with startling speed in travel retail over recent years, accelerated by the COVID-era travel limitations – between April 2019 and April 2020, the livestreaming market experienced a +99% growth in hours watched* – and mounting retailer & brand awareness of the extraordinary reach a successful livestream can have.

Incomparable reach: In February DFS launched its second collaborative beauty product livestream event with Douyin Life Service

Livestreaming has added an amazing new dimension to travel retail’s traditional ‘shop window’ or showcasing role. In days gone by, brands would like the channel not just for the direct sales it generated but for the halo impact it had on local market sales through exposure in prime travel locations.

Now it’s not just about passing passenger traffic. A good livestream can reach millions. Just ask any of the brands that regularly livestream out of the magnificent China Duty Free Group shopping emporiums in Sanya or Haikou.

But in fact, travel retail was late to the party. As I discovered while reading a fabulously informative and entertaining piece titled ‘The history of livestreaming’ on a website called restream, the first such programme took place in 1993 when a band called Severe Tire Damage – perhaps fed up with all those deflating reviews – had a gig broadcast by a techie crew at Xerox PARC in California. This meant a show, for the first tme, could be heard and watched in audio and video.

Now, given their best-known tune was called Banana Slug Song and its lyrics incude the marginally sub-Shakespearean gems that follow, I suspect the band’s progress in the charts was worse than… well, sluggish.

Boil them, bake them, shake-and-bake themNibble on their heads and make themOooey, gooey, rich and chewyPut them in a wok: chop suey

All the vitamins you’re gettingWhen you steam them, seem like drivelOnce you see how much they shrivel

But you know what? Severe Tire Damage inspired none other than the Rolling Stones to follow suit. On Friday, 18 November 1994, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman decided to broadcast one of their concert tours on the internet. And guess who was the opening act? You got it. Severe Tire Damage.

If travel retail was much later than Mick and the boys to the party, then I didn’t arrive till the early hours of the next day. But that all changed this week when Cellcosmet China General Manager Julia Sun asked me to join her for a livestream on Douyin at the Hainan Expo.

Cellcosmet is a respected luxury Swiss skincare, beauty and wellness brand. In 1982, its founder Roland Pfister created the Cellap Laboratoire, dedicated to the research and development of cell skincare products.

Cellcosmet opened 107 points-of-sale in China last year, including this one at GDF Plaza in Haikou, Hainan province

Pfister’s clinical pursuits at the forefront of cellular science led to him discovering cellular therapy (based on the premise that an old, tired or stressed cell becomes revitalised when in contact with a young cell).

He adapted the concept to the world of skincare by creating the CellControl method, which preserves the powers of stabilised cellular extracts. As a result, in 1987 the Cellcosmet and Cellmen brands for women and men, respectively, were born.

I know all that because I like to do my research before any live appearance, whether it be on stage at, say, The Trinity Forum or FAB, or for any interview. And for my livestream debut let’s just say there was no chance of me going in unprepared.

I am pictured with The Moodie Davitt Report Chief China Representative Zhang Yimei (left) and Cellcosmet China General Manager Julia Sun

What I like about the brand’s back story is its authenticity. At heart I am a storyteller, one who likes to distil what I learn and then relate it in my own way.

And so it came to pass. I told viewers I was the human equivalent of that old, tired and stressed cell, revitalised by meeting Julia.

This seemed to go down well with what was, to my surprise, a fast-growing audience and before you knew it I was receiving LIVE gifts  in appreciation of my efforts. Perhaps it was audience sympathy – they may have thought I was past my cell by date – but whatever the reasons the livestream ranked number three in Hainan that day and set a new high for Cellcosmet in terms of live viewers.

Livestreaming at the Hainan Expo with Julia Sun

I am not there to plug a brand (no hard cell from me) but I was happy to talk about its story. And ours. I told the audience all about The Moodie Davitt Report – hopefully as authentic a narrative as you can get – and what’s so special about Hainan and its offshore duty-free sector.

Julia’s a fantastically engaging professional (and Douyin host) and the time passed by in what seemed the blink of an eye. For an Andy Warhol-like 15 minutes, I was, if not world-famous, then at least the Hainan equivalent. Move over Severe Tire Damage, not only do I justify the same description but upstream, downstream or livestream, I’m now the oldest influencer in town. ✈