When we talk about ‘key opinion leaders’ (KOL) marketing in China, many people will think of girls with pretty faces or with plastic surgery and botox, etc.. 2016 was called the Year of KOLs in China – it become extremely popular in China and lots of KOL stood out, creating the buzz throughout the social media.
No matter you recognize them or not, they have started the business very well in different industries with the advertisement, investor financing, brands collaboration and fans acquisition.
KOL is applying their strong influence onto their fans via the social media. ‘Appearance’, ‘special’, ‘interaction’ and ‘content’ are 4 major characteristics for a KOL to become popular. Many of them are already earning cash with their personal brand through advertisement, eCommerce, agency contract or start-up.
This year, we can observe the overall trend of KOL is becoming more specialized into a certain field and the public is becoming more and more accepting the existence and promotion of KOLs. Many luxury brands are also leaping their first step to cooperate with Chinese KOL in order to acquire more market which is not yet explored and developed. Will KOL marketing give out a satisfying campaign result to prove its value in China?
The collaboration of Weibo and Taobao is the matching of social media and eCommerce. KOL can publish their articles, photos, videos or even live streaming, and attach the purchase link to the Taobao store. This facilitates very much the KOL business and forms a closed cycle of KOL recommendation and product sale.
Weibo KOL Cherie
Cherie, an eCommerce KOL, is a successful example in the wearing fashion field. She keeps publishing her own idea about fashion and wearing. By developing the fashion content, she gradually accumulated 4.17M followers on Weibo and 8.63M followers on the Taobao Store. She is the Partner of “雪梨和钱夫人定制” Store as well as the model of the products. Alibaba announced the first 2017 ‘KOL influence index’ this month and Cherie ranked number 1 on it.
KOL Influence Index 2017
Before the sale of a fashion product, Cherie will post the product photos onto Weibo. Estimating 10,000 followers will buy this product, Cherrie will order 8,000 products first. If the stock has sold out, the flexibility in supply chain management will be very important to ensure the followers receive the products, says within 1 week. The factory can react fast on the demand and KOL can sell product quickly to their followers.
Cherie’s Weibo Content
Cherie finished a brilliant turnover over 1 billion RMB in 2016 and it was estimated to be doubled this year. The stock turnover rate was at around 15 days, similar to those fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M.
On the side of WeChat, KOL is also doing a great job! ‘黎贝卡’ is selling not only fashion wearings or lip sticks, she has sold out 100 MINI Coopers, which wrote the history in KOL campaign of the car industry.
黎贝卡 WeChat Account Poster X MINI
On 9 July 2017, 黎贝卡 published a poster at her WeChat Official Account, announcing the cooperation with MINI. On 13 July, pre-heat campaign opened to followers and fans to submit their personal information for a pre-sale opportunity. At 9 pm on 21 July, MINI official order page was launch and 100 limited edition MINI (price from 285 thousand RMB) was sold out within 4 minutes and payment was completed within 50 minutes.
Theoretically, WeChat Public Account is not a favorable channel for the car sale. On the one hand, information is limited to support consumer decision; on the other hand, fashion KOL is seemed not to be the best option to attract rational purchase and sales conversion. Unexpectedly, 黎贝卡 out performed the market and the result was satisfactory.
gogoboi：WeChat Mini Program＋app
Self-media gogoboi is a popular fashion review blogger. Straight-forward and unreserved comments acquire lots of followers in China. WIth more and more famous fashion KOLs in China, fashion brands are also reviewing their existing strategy to utilize the popularity of KOLs to maximize brand exposure and product sales.
gogoboi ‘不大精选’ WeChat Mini Program
After accumulating a lot of followers, gogoboi would like to ‘operate’ their fans community. Gogoboi decided to do a start-up with the team and acquired several bloggers under it. What’s more, in June, they launched an eCommerce platform at WeChat Mini Program and an App called ‘look’. The platform mainly sells and promotes foreign luxury and fashion products. Givenchy was the first brand to join the platform. In July, the gogoboi eCommerce platforms revealed the launch of Givenchy ‘Duetto‘ series which were sold out quickly within 72 hours.
So, what characteristic that a KOL should have?
First, like the other celebrities, they have the ability of endorsement. Digital consumers tend to know more lifestyle and entertaining information via the social platforms. KOLs recommend products and the insightful way of living and which help build up the recognition from consumers in a faster way. Yet, it is not yet enough for a successful KOL.
Second, they are more ‘close’ to their followers when compare to a normal celebrity. There is a relatively larger communication gap for a famous celebrity than a KOL. The expression from a KOL is more warm and free and they are able to share their daily lives easily while celebrities are having more limitation on the social media. The frequent interaction and response from the KOL to their followers build an intimate relationship and in a long run, the familiarity and stickiness.
Third and the most important, KOLs know how to manage expectation from the followers and select products which match with the fans preference and habit. After all, the ultimate aim of a KOL content is to acquire sales and do brand promotion.
Will KOL marketing become more and more popular?
‘Word-of-mouth’ is an eternal truth in marketing. In past years, brands relied on adverts on TV, magazine or outdoors. Recently, the Internet advancement assists the social media development. The people-centric social media provides a fast-moving and large community for the spreading of word-of-mouth. Unlike the hard-selling from a printed ads, a message from a KOL is relatively soft and reliable to people. Also, KOL will create engagement with the followers and thus multiply the brand and product message. Many sayings that people are lonely in the modern society – the existence and interaction from the KOL may cure this pain point.
The recent KOL development gradually outlines the industry potential. Traditional celebrities will still be the major force for brand promotion. KOLs will gradually take the role of product promotion, maintaining supporter relations or even sales conversion.