Wowo product distribution saga (2018)

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In 2018, beauty products under the brand Wowo went viral in Singapore. Brought in to Singapore in 2017, the products from Guangzhou, China had an estimated 1,700 distributors in Singapore by July 2018 the majority of whom were homemakers.[1] The “WoWo Pure Ginger Shampoo” and their “WoWo Moshu Cubilose Collagen Jelly” gained much attention online as users claimed that these products had solved their postpartum hair loss and enhanced their bust.[2] Local social media influencers such as Bong Qiu Qiu, Tammy Tay and Donna Goh were heavily involved in the marketing and the sales of Wowo products. While some questioned the ethics of Wowo’s marketing scheme, Wowo was also embroiled in a plagiarism scandal in July 2018.

Influencer dispute[edit | edit source]

Bong Qiu Qiu (right) pictured with the WoWo Moshu Cubilose Collagen Jelly. Photo from MustShareNews.

A number of social media influencers were involved in a dispute surrounding Wowo's brand of beauty products and the ethics of Wowo's business model. The main influencers involved were those who sold or marketed Wowo products namely Bong Qiu Qiu (ig: @bongqiuqiu), Tammy Tay (ig: @ohsofickle) and Donna Goh (ig: @ponyyzz).[3] Drama ensued when they were called out by other social media influencers such as Wendy Cheng (ig: @xiaxue) and Sophie Willocq (ig: @sophiewillocq) for supporting the Wowo business model.[4] Opponents of Wowo claimed that they operated like a Multi-level Marketing (MLM) company, which is banned in Singapore.[5]


On 10 April 2018, Bong Qiu Qiu started an account on Instagram dedicated to selling Wowo products (ig: @qiubue).[6] The account has 8,345 followers as of 21 March 2019. Other influencers such as Tammy Tay and Donna Goh were also marketing Wowo products on their personal Instagram accounts, praising the products and accepting orders from followers to purchase the products.


This caught the attention of influencer Sophie Willocq, who posted an Instagram story summarising her view on the issue.[7] Her main argument was that consumers should have “the right to know when they are being advertised to” by influencers, so as to not mistakenly view these advertisements as “personal recommendations”.[8]


Xiaxue also took to her Instagram stories to express her dissatisfaction with regards to the lack of transparency when influencers advertise Wowo products. She referenced page 20 of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice from the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) which states that advertisements which appear with other subject matter and have the potential of being wrongly perceived have to be identified by the following guidelines:[9]

  • The word “ADVERTISEMENT” should stand alone and appear on top of every page in such size and weight of type as to be easily seen
  • If the advertisement occupies part of a page, it should be separated from any adjacent matter by a distinct border
  • By-lines naming employees of the medium’s owners should not be used. It is, however, permissible to publish by-lines naming experts or well-known public figures
  • Particular care should be taken wherever the size and font in the advertisement are the same as or closely resembles that of the editorial matter.
Wowo Singapore's Founder Evelynne Li. Photo from Women's Weekly Singapore.
Screen grab from a video (YouTube video) by MustShareNews comparing the two advertisements in question.


In her Instagram stories, Xiaxue produced a chart from an unknown source allegedly explaining Wowo's tiered distribution model.[10] According to the chart, distributors who belong to Tier 1 pay less to purchase the products from China, as compared to distributors in Tier 2. Since all products are sold to the public at fixed prices, this means that the Tier 1 distributor earns more profit.


According to Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry, MLM is defined as “a scheme which typically requires participants to pay an upfront charge".[11] With the upfront charge "participants are promised financial rewards for each additional participant recruited, as well as all new participants who are in turn brought in by their recruits".[12] In Singapore, MLM and pyramid schemes are illegal under the Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Selling (Prohibition) Act.[13] Should businesses be found to have breached the Act, they will be convicted and charged. Guilty persons can be fined up to S$200,000 or imprisoned for 5 years, or both.[14]


Following the comments by Xiaxue and Sophie Willocq, Bong Qiu Qiu defended Wowo’s business model in Singapore against accusations that they were operating on an MLM scheme. Another Singaporean influencer, Yan Qihua (ig: @yankaykay), also agreed that the Wowo business model was not an MLM scheme.[15]

[edit | edit source]

On 4 July 2018, WOWOSG which distributes Wowo products in Singapore became a hot topic of discussion when its founder Evelynne Li posted a video on her personal Instagram marketing Wowo’s “Wowo Make Up Remover Cleansing Water”.[16] According to local alternative news site MustShareNews, the video bore much resemblance to an advertisement by Biore Thailand to market their “Biore Cleansing Water”.[17]


On 6 June 2018, Evelynne Li reached out to MustShareNews to clarify and apologise for the incident. She explained that the head company, Wowo Daipu (Shanghai) had carried out a thorough investigation, and found out that the video “was an individual act by a distributor from the mainland”.[18] The video had been taken down and the said distributor had his license to distribute Wowo products revoked.

Citations / References[edit | edit source]

  1. "GIVE YOUR HAIR THE BEST PAMPERING CARE WITH THESE HAIR PRODUCTS AND SERVICES". Women's Weekly Singapore. July 3, 2018. Accessed on 14 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.womensweekly.com.sg/beauty-style/best-pampering-hair-care-products-services-kei-beauty-wowo-signature-salon/?agallery=120628&aslide=0
  2. Wong, Mandy. “WoWo Shampoo has been going viral on social media but how legit is it? We investigate.”. Daily Vanity. April 19, 2018. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://dailyvanity.sg/news/wowo-pure-ginger-shampoo-legit-or-not
  3. Tay, Vivienne. "Influencer turned beauty product distributor: Yay or Nay?". Marketing Interactive. April 24, 2018. Accessed on 14 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.marketing-interactive.com/influencer-turned-beauty-product-distributor-yay-or-nay/
  4. Tay, Vivienne. "Influencer turned beauty product distributor: Yay or Nay?". Marketing Interactive. April 24, 2018. Accessed on 14 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.marketing-interactive.com/influencer-turned-beauty-product-distributor-yay-or-nay/
  5. “FAQs on Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Selling”. Ministry of Trade and Industry. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mti.gov.sg/Legislation/Legislation/Multi-level-Marketing-and-Pyramid-Selling
  6. Goh, Ashley. “We Investigate If WoWo Collagen Jelly Sellers Are Part Of An Alleged MLM As Claimed”. MustShareNews. April 23, 2018. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://mustsharenews.com/wowo-collagen-jelly/
  7. How, Mandy. “Influencers in S’pore fighting after some accused of selling MLM products”. Mothership. April 19, 2018. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Screengrab of Instagram story retrieved from: https://mothership.sg/2018/04/influencers-wowo-mlm-singapore/
  8. How, Mandy. “Influencers in S’pore fighting after some accused of selling MLM products”. Mothership. April 19, 2018. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Screengrab of Instagram story retrieved from: https://mothership.sg/2018/04/influencers-wowo-mlm-singapore/
  9. “Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (3rd Edition)”. Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore. February, 2008. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://asas.org.sg/Portals/0/Images/ASAS/docs/SCAP%202008.pdf?ver=2014-05-16-093651-153
  10. How, Mandy. “Influencers in S’pore fighting after some accused of selling MLM products”. Mothership. April 19, 2018. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Screengrab of Instagram story retrieved from: https://mothership.sg/2018/04/influencers-wowo-mlm-singapore/
  11. “FAQs on Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Selling”. Ministry of Trade and Industry. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mti.gov.sg/Legislation/Legislation/Multi-level-Marketing-and-Pyramid-Selling
  12. “FAQs on Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Selling”. Ministry of Trade and Industry. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mti.gov.sg/Legislation/Legislation/Multi-level-Marketing-and-Pyramid-Selling
  13. “FAQs on Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Selling”. Ministry of Trade and Industry. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mti.gov.sg/Legislation/Legislation/Multi-level-Marketing-and-Pyramid-Selling
  14. “FAQs on Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Selling”. Ministry of Trade and Industry. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mti.gov.sg/Legislation/Legislation/Multi-level-Marketing-and-Pyramid-Selling
  15. How, Mandy. “Influencers in S’pore fighting after some accused of selling MLM products”. Mothership. April 19, 2018. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://mothership.sg/2018/04/influencers-wowo-mlm-singapore/
  16. Joelynn. “WOWO SG Founder Issues Apology For Posting Biore Thailand’s Old Ad Footage”. MustShareNews. July 5, 2018. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://mustsharenews.com/wowo-sg-biore-thailand/
  17. Joelynn. “WOWO SG Founder Issues Apology For Posting Biore Thailand’s Old Ad Footage”. MustShareNews. July 5, 2018. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://mustsharenews.com/wowo-sg-biore-thailand/
  18. Joelynn. “WOWO SG Founder Issues Apology For Posting Biore Thailand’s Old Ad Footage”. MustShareNews. July 5, 2018. Accessed on 21 March 2019. Retrieved from: https://mustsharenews.com/wowo-sg-biore-thailand/