What’s Up Homie, It’s Tony! Viral Success with LC Signs Tony
Asia/ Vibe/ Pop Culture

What’s Up Homie, It’s Tony!: LC Signs’ Tony on Talking Global to Go Viral

LC Sign Tony interview Big Hitter header Photo by Tony Zhu

Tony is a man of international mystery. While sleuths from all corners of the Internet have been scratching their heads at his ever-growing collection of accents that he easily switches between, reel-by-reel, the light box and neon sign salesman simply keeps rolling out new impersonations by the day.

Affectionately greeting fans and new potential followers as his ‘homies’ - no matter the accent assumed – Tony has amassed quite a following. Such a following that the legitimacy of the China-based Instagram star’s speech came under strong a LED-spotlight of scrutiny, to which, Tony simply replied with an explosive stage performance of the hit Brit-Rap song “Loading” by Central Cee.

Drawing customers as far away as across the globe in Europe and Africa, his product demo skits and earnest, function-over-fluff scripts have proved to be a success. Keen to unpack the secrets of this multicultural chameleon, The Beat Asia rung up the social media presenter for a chat on Tony’s viral moves.

While he emanates an easy-going boyishness, ending our chat by sending a flourish of virtual balloons onto my screen as a lavish goodbye, it’s no use denying the subtle smarts of his highly effective yet simple marketing trick. Read on for the first exclusive interview with Tony, LC Sign anchor and the Internet’s homie.

Hello Tony! Congratulations on the virality, I’m super excited to chat with you.

Thank you! I’m also very excited.

Could you let us in on your background? How long have you been in the online marketing space?

I graduated majoring in Business English in Mainland China. I started [with LC Signs] in March 2022, and first joined the company as a salesperson, actually.

When our company was running a promotion on the Alibaba platform, I was chosen to be on our company's live show, and then there was a strong demand from audiences. Since TikTok had [began to go] viral back then, our boss had chosen me to be responsible for the brand-new department in the company – the social media department. And that’s how we started!

How do you feel about viral marketing? Do you see a lot of trends? I believe you also might have created a new trend as well.

When I started in internet marketing, I was getting inspired by a lot of people. Many viral topics are started from UGC (user generated content), so internet marketing needs to be based on most users’ experiences.

One [viral moment] that touched me is of a lady who posted a video on TikTok showing that her car accidentally burned down, but that her Stanley Cup was still intact. You can hear the ice in it – it was awesome. I felt very touched by how the product shows its function. And the CEO of the company did something even more amazing. They responded to the video, saying that they want to offer the lady a car instead of a Stanley Cup. Of course, they also offered the cups.

For us, LC Signs, to stand out in internet marketing, it's to keep what we're doing and make it better. Working on better accents and working on more interesting, more attractive videos to provide our customers with emotional value. We want to find more effective ways to interact with our audiences and create more user-based content, for example, sharing customer’s experiences on our products showcase. And developing better products as a manufacturer, of course.

It’s interesting you mentioned that interaction aspect because you’ve become a bit of an internet celebrity yourself! How do you feel personally, about the comments and responses from fans?

Thank you for mentioning that! I watch and read the comments basically every day, and some of them are very hilarious.

For example, when I have a Texas accent, [commenters would] be like “This guy is straight out from Texas, China”. Me and my partners in the office all enjoy the comments a lot. Our digital marketers, who are also responsible for operations of the [social media] accounts, pick the funniest comments and share them to a work group chat, and we always find them very entertaining.

I also discovered that the fan base, or let’s say the followers of the account, are not too much about me or our content, but more focused on the community. I think a lot of people watch the videos or leave comments or leave likes because of the other users’ funny comments. I think that's a great part of our creations, we're very happy that we started this community.

I’m sure the fans are keen to keep watching and see the next impersonations and accents you have up your sleeves. Tapping into how you’ve mastered this technique of switching accents, how did you begin studying English, and what languages do you speak?

I speak Mandarin as my mother language, and I’ve been learning English since primary school. I also speak a little bit of Cantonese as I grew up in the Canton province.

As someone based in Hong Kong, it was exciting for me to hear your Cantonese accent and see that representation online. Have you travelled to any of the other places your accents belonged to?

I’ve only visited Hong Kong and the United States, to California and Las Vegas for our company exhibitions last year. I don’t think there’s a ranked list of places, but I want to go to Europe, to Singapore, and maybe visit Australia someday.

If not for travel, how do you begin to learn a new accent? What’s your process?

Mainly, I learn from watching a lot of movies, talk shows, or TV episodes based on the certain accent. I enjoy the talk show by Jim Jefferies, he’s always doing the Australian accent. Another favourite is Russell Peters, all the actions he would mimic are so funny, he’d do a lot of the Cantonese and Mandarin accent and it inspired me when we’re creating content. I’m like, if he can do it and make me laugh, then maybe I can do it and make my audiences laugh!

When I learn an accent, I would look for the details. Last night, I watched a movie filmed in Jamaica about the first bobsled team to go to the Olympics. That’s basically how I learn, I watch the movie, I try to feel the way they talk, how they communicate, and how they think. That’s my way [of learning] currently. Music is a part of it, I listen to a lot of hip hop and rap music. I love it very much.

what's up homie it's tony tiktok chinese signs
Tony Zhu

Speaking of hip hop, I was wondering, who’s your favourite rapper?

Kanye West’s music is one of my favourites. Maybe also Central Cee.

What about your favourite custom product request that LC Signs has received?

We’re working on three types of products: the neon signs, LED neon signs, and the LED letters, which are mainly made of acrylic and stainless steel. We have the light box series, the ultra-thin light box, a tabletop light box.

There's a lot of designs customers request every day, but one I remember the most [came] after I watched the movie ‘Barbie’. Someone posted in our company’s work group chat with a sign request that says, “Welcome to my Mojo Dojo Casa house”. When I saw this, I thought it was an awesome idea.

It’s great to see how your content has resonated with audiences no matter how far away. I had also noticed that a fan went all the way to visit you at your factory and hosted their own demonstration video. Did LC Signs organize that trip and what was that experience like?

It was with one of our audience who is now our customer, named OT. I remember it very deeply, that when the first time he met me, and he was very excited. He says “I've got my own brand, I've got my own brand, you see!” and he started to take off his shoes to show me the bottom of the shoe – and it was his brand on the shoe! That was very memorable.

The second time he came to the factory, I was recording the video with our photographer. After we finished one video, he was standing there watching, then he was like, can I take one? And I showed him how to do the video. Told him “Look right here, we actually got a script,” and he can just look at the screen and just read all the lines we previously wrote. He did it once and succeeded! The thing is, the script is just translated by Google Translate from the original Chinese [text] and then comes out in a very direct and weird, funny way.

I found it very entertaining, because this is the first time I saw someone else doing our script, so I felt how my audiences are feeling [when they watch me].

You definitely look proud in the video! Is there anything you would like to say back to the rest of your homies?

Yeah, I do! Thank you – to my followers, my audiences for watching and following. We're definitely creating more and better products and content in the future. Thank you, thank you.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Keep up with Tony and his many accents on Instagram at @lclightbox

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