Chinese KOL custom

KOL: The Cornerstone of Chinese Marketing will be an article going in-depth about everything you need to know about KOLs. This comprehensive cornerstone article will be separated into two sections: part one will provide a general introduction/refresher course into KOLs, while part two will look at successful KOLs, implementing KOLs for your business and what platforms are best.

KOL: The Cornerstone of Chinese Marketing

KOL marketing is a very important strategy for brands looking to reach a targeted audience on Chinese social media. Working with KOLs is by far one of the best methods to promote a new product or service. The relevance of KOL marketing continues to grow as Chinese shoppers gravitate towards social media to consume news, updates, reviews and more.

Join us as we dive into how KOL marketing can take your business to the next level in China!

What and Who are KOLs?

KOLs (or Key Opinion Leaders) are individuals who exert influence through their large followings. Chinese KOLs are typically celebrities, or popular social media users who have created viral content.

They are often experts their respective field, be it fashion, food, travel, beauty etc. and will constantly be engaging with their followers through daily content, guides, reviews, and more.

Example of KOL creating video
Image Credit: Shutterstock

These individuals possess the influence to vastly bolster brand image and visibility through word of mouth alone — as social media standing in China essentially equates to credibility.

Working together with KOLs can create significant buzz for companies and their products. It leverages word of mouth to achieve promotional impact. This makes KOLs immensely valuable in achieving KPIs, all the while being a lot more affordable than traditional celebrity endorsements in the West.

What makes KOL Marketing so effective?

1. Chinese Shoppers are Wary of Brands

Brands in China have a history of scams and selling fake or unsafe products. This has caused a degree of distrust when it comes to information distributed through traditional marketing channels.

If your brand is new in mainland China, many consumers will likely be wary of you and your brand. That’s where KOLs come in.

Consumers turn to social media to view recommendations and reviews. Third party reviews and mentions are incredibly important to get Chinese consumers trusting a brand. When this comes from a KOL that your target audience knows and trusts, they provide a form of advertising that can be seen as genuine and trustworthy — moreso than any other form of advertising. This is because KOLs have established themselves as credible, likable and trustworthy with their audience.

  • A mediakix survey at the end of 2018 found that 49% of consumers depend on KOLs’ recommendations for their purchase decisions. The numbers are even higher for Millennials and those in Gen-Z.
  • In 2017 Chinese app users spent around 225 billion hours in apps, which is 4.5 times longer than the second highest market — India.
Chinese KOLs gallery
Image Credit: CNAD

2. Social-Oriented Customer Journey

The Chinese customer journey is rooted heavily in social media and peer-to-peer reviews. The typical customer journey in China can include seeking additional social proof from family and friend, search on e-commerce platforms—if the brand is wellknown—or Baidu, if they’ve never heard of the brand before. KOLs are important in this regard, as they are regarded as the top of the social chain in terms of purchasing impact.

chinese customer journey
Image Credit: Parklu

If your brand is new in China, you can bet that customers will be viewing over half a dozen sources of information across platforms like WeChat, Weibo, Little Red Book etc. before deciding to make the purchase. Having a KOL can make that decision significantly easier.

It’s also important to note that not all products lend themselves to immediate sales generation. For example, it’s not likely that a consumer would immediately purchase a bottle of Coke just because they saw a KOL post about it on Weibo. But they may remember that Weibo post when they head to the grocery store later that week and they see the bottle of Coke on the shelf.

Finally, KOLs themselves have a good guage on the likes and dislikes of their audience, so speaking to them can provide valuable insights for launching a successful campaign that excels within all points of the customer journey.

  • The average Chinese consumer requires 8 brand touch-points before making a purchase decision, 4 more than Western consumers.
  • According to Accenture, 70% if Chinese born after 1995 will turn to social media to directly purchase products, compared to the global average of 44%.
Image Credit: Boston Consulting Group

3. Focused and Cost-Effective

KOL marketing is far more focused on the audience, compared to mass media. It is easier to reach a more targeted audience with KOL marketing as compared to other channels. Let’s say your brand is in the beauty industry and you align yourselves with a beauty KOL. Their followers are clearly interested in beauty, and will likely take a look at your brand.

Compare this to celebrity endorsements in the West, where campaigns typically bank on the popularity and name of the celebrity to drive clicks.

pepsi endorsement
Image Credit: Pop Sugar

Working with celebrities is also very expensive, and is usually only available to large brands. While there is no set pricing system for KOL marketing, it can be significantly cheaper than working with celebrities. While some larger KOLs might charge prices similar to those of celebrities, working with smaller KOLs is something even small businesses can afford to do — and may just be equally effective.

  • 71% of marketers say the quality of customers and traffic from KOL marketing is better than other sources.
  • 89% of businesses say their ROI from KOL marketing is comparable to or even better than other marketing channels.
Coach KOL Marketing
Image Credit: TMO Group

KOL Marketing Content Overview

Types of Content

So you’re interested in hiring a KOL, but how will their content work? Content provided through KOL marketing can be categorised into two forms: user-generated content (UGC) and promotional material.

User-generated content involves a KOL creating content with a theme, key message or product provided by the brand. UGC is typically more KOL-centric, as the KOL themselves are given control of what they post, and how they say it.

Promotional materials encompasses content created by the brand, and reposted by the KOL. This can include campaign posters, event outlines, videos etc. In this case, if the brand chooses to work with multiple KOLs, each KOL will have the same content in the same format.

Content Formats

The content formats used in KOL marketing can be split into three major categories.: Blogging, short videos, and live-streaming.

Blogging platforms refer to those with mainly textual and graphical content, namely Weibo and WeChat. Content on these platforms are mostly UGC, like testimonials and product reviews. The popularity and usage of these blogging platforms like WeChat is immense.

  • In 2018, 85% of the Chinese population engaged with some form of social media content.

Short videos platforms can include tutorials, promo-videos, or in-depth reviews. Short videos are all the rage and have become an important tool to capture user attention in our increasingly fragmented lives. Posting short videos on Xiaohongshu is a popular promotion method for Chinese fashion KOLs.

  • 58% of smartphone users watch short videos every day.
  • China’s short video market is even more robust with 78% of all internet users watching short videos in 2019.

Live-streaming platforms are the closest possible alternative to in-store shopping for users online. KOLs can have a real-time demonstration of the functionalities and specifications of a product in greater detail. At the same time, the audience can raise questions to the KOLs to eliminate any doubts they have before making a purchase.

  • 94% of Chinese shoppers have visited an online store in 2018.
  • 82% have purchased a product online. 74% of this figure have done so through a mobile device.

Get Started Now

Whether you’re a start-up looking to kickstart your Chinese social media, a mid-sized company looking for KOL partnerships, or a multinational looking for cultural insights and an extensive Chinese marketing campaign, Vantage Digital can help. We deliver value and measurable results through quality marketing strategies and strategic thinking.

What’s more, we’re so easy to partner with. In fact, collaboration is something we truly pride ourselves on. We can help any brand get started on their journey, and be with them every step of the way. So the question is, are you ready to take your Chinese marketing to the next level?