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Lucienne Shen

Influencer marketing in China today

It is no secret that brands nowadays are allocating ever-increasing marketing budgets to social influencers around the world. In this article, we will be sharing how Influencer Marketing (IM) works in China, and the great business opportunities it potentially holds for all brands and agencies.


Who are the influencers?

First, we need to understand three important terms that are widely used in today’s Influencer Marketing in China. These are:

  • Key Opinion Leader, content-driven (KOL)
  • Key Opinion Leader, livestream-driven (KOL-Streamer)
  • Key Opinion Consumer (KOC)

We are quite familiar with the term “KOL,” which refers to a person with expert product knowledge and influence in a particular field. They are trusted by relevant interest groups and have a significant effect on consumer behavior.

A more recent evolution of the KOL is the KOL-Streamer. As e-commerce has grown so rapidly in the last decade, giant e-commerce platforms have learned an effective way to promote products in a comparable way to TV infomercials in the old days. The idea of combining the KOL with the infomercial is so effective in moving sales number that many professional KOL-Streamers have emerged in the last couple of years.

Meanwhile, KOC is a relatively new term. Their fan base is usually not as large as the KOL, but they have a closer relationship with their followers. They often have ‘friend’ status which, when combined with their expertise in a specific area/topic, can have significant effects on purchasing decisions.

preloader image Influencer Marketing in China

KOL livestreaming for Tmall International in a BBC warehouse.

preloader image Influencer Marketing in China

Li JiaQi live-streaming his sale of 15,000 lipsticks in 5 minutes.
Live-stream cooperation with brands like Cadillac and other FMCG brands.

How do they work?

In general, the brand cooperates with an agency that understands their tonality and business needs. With the defined target audience, the agency delivers the marketing strategy with an informed choice of KOL/KOC that can deliver the proper communication touchpoint. The KOL/KOC then produce suitable content and yields precise exposure on their own social media channels. Hence, the agency working together with the KOL/KOC accounts for the quality of content creation and the effectiveness of the advertising messages.


How is success measured?

The normal way of measuring the success of a campaign is by exposure, traffic, and conversion rate. For instance, the “Lip Stick King,” also known as Li JiaQi, is a TikTok star with 40 million followers. He sold a record-breaking 145 million RMB worth of cosmetic products in a single day.

That being said, not all products are purchased as impulsively as lipstick. Consumer purchasing decisions are determined by a variety of factors. Awareness generated by multiple KOL posts will likely help to gain a good impression from the consumer, thereby increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

So how can we measure the combined contribution of all content towards the final purchase? The answer is that we can’t yet. But just because we can’t measure it doesn’t mean we can’t credit it for the final consumer purchase. The important things are that we see KOL/KOC is not only a channel, but their content creation is the hidden key to bridge the consumer’s ever-increasing purchase standard.


Future opportunity for brands

  • The market is seeing a trend to combine creative content and live stream shows produced by KOLs.
  • The brand starts to establish its own internal KOL pool – ie. CEO as KOL-Streamer and direct marketing communication, as we have already seen some CEOs doing live stream themselves to promote the brands; the results can be just as good as external KOLs if they are properly delivered.
  • To optimize the KOC promotion outcome, it is best to get deeper interactions with KOLs through ongoing events and activities rather than simply repost the brand’s marketing message.
  • The transparency on KOL pricing is more visible nowadays than it ever was. That said, to identify the right combination of KOLs/KOCs with the proper creative content for the marketing campaign can be complicated and challenging. This is usually where the creative agencies come in to figure out the matrix with their expertise and local market understanding.


About the Author
Lucienne has been in the Avantgarde team for a little less than a year now. Her major is in Marketing Communication and she specializes in integrated digital and KOL marketing campaigns. Born and raised in China, she loves fitness, yoga, and getting to meet exciting people.

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