KOL marketing has been gaining a lot of traction lately with brands doing business in China. But what is it, why is it so popular and how can you make the most out of it? In this post, we’ll take a look at what KOL marketing is, the benefits it offers, and some tips on how to make the most out of working with KOLs. Let’s get started!
What Is KOL Marketing?
KOL stands for Key Opinion Leaders. They are known to be experts in their field, making them a preferable source of information for most consumers. Because of their perceived expertise and authority in a subject matter, KOLs have amassed a sizable following. This following makes them a viable tool to promote your brands and products.
KOL marketing, therefore, is a type of digital marketing that utilizes these people to gain exposure and a good rep among Chinese consumers. KOLs will endorse your brand and stake their expert advice to convince consumers to try you out.
KOL vs. Influencer
You may be thinking that “since KOLs collaborate with brands, then that should make them an influencer, right?”
They are basically the same, just a different name for a different market. They can be divided into subcategories: start, Kol, micro Kol, koc
Furthermore, the Chinese social media landscape is significantly different from Western social media. You won’t see Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram since they are banned in Chinese territory. What you will see, though, are the different homegrown social media platforms of China, such as WeChat, Weibo, and Zhihu.
What does this mean, then?
KOLs are the thought leaders in their niche, many influencers lean towards their content to make their own content. KOLs will tipycally only partner with brands aligned with their niche. They also tend to be picky as to what brands they endorsed.
A KOL’s credibility does not stem from their ability to amass a massive following for themselves but through backing up their opinion with expert knowledge and evidence.
So, How Does KOL Marketing Work in China?
KOLs are a big deal in China. There are many apprehensions about influencers getting paid with unreliable advice for ordinary consumers. The same reason applies to celebrity marketing. Many Chinese consumers think that celebrities and influencers don’t have enough authority on specific topics. This is the reason why Chinese consumers lean heavily towards KOLs.
Not only do they know particular niches and industries, but they also cultivate intimate relationships with their community. This connection allows them to resonate more clearly with their audience. This level of authenticity also demands more consistent content creation aligned with their profession.
How KOLs Can Help Your Brand in China
KOL marketing plays a crucial role in brand growth in China. Since they command respect and authority in their niches, KOLs provide your brand with many boosts:
KOLs have access to millions of followers in the Chinese space. That’s why even if your brand is just used for a while by a KOL, many people will view it as a positive endorsement. Or better yet, they will see it as a green light to purchase your products. Some of their followers can even become your loyal customers in the long run.
Like we said before, traditional advertising through celebrities and influencers does not work. What works powerfully in the Chinese market is partnerships with KOLs. Since they established themselves as subject experts, an endorsement from a KOL can supercharge your brand reputation. An endorsement from an expert certainly places an additional layer of trust for your brand since you build a credible brand reputation with KOL marketing.
Unlike ordinary influencers and celebrities, KOLs thrive in specific niches. This means that you will no longer spend time trying to search for an appropriate demographic. You also don’t have to worry about audience mismatch. All you have to do is search for the right KOL in your industry and pitch a partnership with them.
Of course, while brand awareness is a priority for you in China, your brand must come across consumers who will most likely buy your products.
Lastly, a partnership with a KOL will lay the foundations of your brand in China. Associating with credible individuals in your specific niche will help visualize your brand’s competence, confidence, and trust. Your future marketing endeavors will significantly benefit from KOL marketing.
Successful KOL Campaigns in China
But how successful are KOL campaigns in China, though?
The short answer to that is: very. Since KOLs are huge in China, many brands leverage them to reach their target audience and grow. Here are some examples of hugely successful brand campaigns that used KOL marketing:
McDonald’s used the hugely popular live streaming platform Bilibili to debut their McCrispy Chicken product in China.
They used Bilibili for KOL Marketing with the appearance of their very own company CEO. He ate the chicken in a live stream in front of millions of viewers.
This KOL marketing strategy targeted an array of demographics, including students, anime characters, and other KOLs as hosts in the said live stream. During this event, McDonald’s issued 100,000 coupons to its viewers.
Livestreaming is, of course, one of the most popular ways of promoting your brand. McDonald’s aptly knew this and used it to their advantage. By using KOLs as one of their hosts, they established trust with sets of demographics in China.
Lvke is a travel company that sought growth in the Chinese market. By using live streaming and KOLs, they grew their brand reach in just one day.
While it’s true that many KOLs rely on their expertise, there is still a growing trend to make exciting content. Lvke saw this as an opportunity and partnered with Shanghai Hengshan Group for KOL marketing. They invited KOLs all over China to check in five and six-star hotels for one night.
Live stream viewers then enjoyed the views inside the hotel. Their content was reposted all over Chinese social media platforms, which helped them stamp a deep impression.
Calzedonia is a high-end fashion brand that recently entered the Chinese market.
Their KOL marketing strategy was paired with offline events, which were part of their grand scheme for a product launch. With the hashtags #Leg’sShine, Calzedonia quickly became one of the hottest topics at the time.
In fact, their offline events even attracted some of the big names in the fashion industry, aka KOLs, which helped boost their position in the Chinese fashion market.
This KOL marketing helped them impact numerous live streaming and social media platforms such as WeChat.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Geoskincare achieved steady threefold growth in China by using KOL marketing.
This, along with numerous expansion strategies in Chinese eCommerce platforms such as TMall, JD.com, and VIP shop, effectively helped them enhance their offline sales despite the restrictions placed by the pandemic.
Geoskincare also aggressively partnered with KOLs of different levels through live streams and promotional campaigns on social media. The strategy is so good that their brand awareness greatly improved, which was beneficial for their company’s growth.
There are, of course, many other brands out there that leveraged KOL marketing in China. And there’s a good reason for that. Brand awareness in the Chinese market is no longer driven by traditional marketing. Your brand should be backed by expert opinions to ensure that consumers buy your products. KOL marketing, therefore, is vital for your success in China.
Finding the Right KOL for Your Brand
Now that you’ve seen how good KOL marketing is for your brand, how exactly can you strive for a partnership with them? And, more importantly, how will you ensure that your KOL campaigns succeed at elevating your brand? Here are the steps that you can take for a successful KOL campaign:
1. Determine Your Campaign Objective
Growing your brand is an abstract idea. It would help if you defined precisely what your brand needs growth. Do you need to boost your brand image? Do you want to increase your sales figures instead? Or perhaps you want to let other people know about your brand? Clarity of the goal is vital if you wish for your KOL campaigns to make sense.
2. Use the Right Platforms
China has an array of social media platforms that serve a specific demographic. Knowing what platform to use for your campaigns will maximize the reach of your KOL marketing strategy.
3. Choose the Right KOL for Your Brand
KOLs come in different types and sizes. Some cater to a mega-amount audience, while others don’t have a sizable following. Don’t be fooled, in any case. Community size shouldn’t be the only criteria to choose your perfect KOL. They should also embody your company values. This is essential if you are looking for a long-term relationship with your target audience.
In fact, you can employ a smaller version of KOLs, called KOCs. Known as Key Opinion Consumers, they have a smaller following and are just ordinary consumers. This contrasts with KOLs, who are professionals and experts in their own fields.
After doing these steps, you need to evaluate your campaign performance and decide if the partnership is worth investing in in the long run.
Risks with KOL Marketing in China
While KOL marketing is a huge deal, committing mistakes in this strategy can be costly, there are pros and cons. For instance, if you partnered with the wrong KOL, you may never reach your target audience. Furthermore, you have to evaluate if the KOL you’re working with will consistently endorse your brand. A change of opinion will severely impact your brand’s reputation.
Final Thoughts on China KOL marketing
Influencer marketing in China works differently. KOLs play a considerable role in shaping the mindset of the Chinese market. With appropriate direction and wise partnerships with KOLs, you will be guaranteed to see growth for your brand in China.
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