Influencer Campaigns China Marketing Chinese Digital Marketing

Must-have influencer marketing in 2021: Key Opinion Leaders

Emerging Communications


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August 12, 2021 | 5 min read

To achieve success in China, influencer marketing should be at the top of any Western brand to-do list in 2021

China has the largest social media market in the world and influencer marketing is one of the fastest-growing aspects. Brands are propelled from mediocre to stratospheric heights with the right authority backing their product.

Key Opinion Leaders

An influencer, or Key Opinion Leader (KOL) as they’re known in China, is a curator, communicator, and amplifier of marketing content.

In short: they’re people who influence others’ opinions and trigger sales.

Studies show around 68% of Chinese consumer choices are based on social media influences. Now’s the time to start using KOLs for advertising or risk missing out on marketing opportunities.

As Chinese social media authority figures, they blog, vlog and live stream in their specialized area. From luxury goods and overseas education to B2B and investment, no topic is off-limits.

The key to their success? Dominating their marketplaces, creating viral content that builds emotional connections and trust with their massive digital following.

Reaching global audiences and with fees of $10,000 for publishing a single line (not bad for a day's work) they can make or break brands with one post. That's a huge amount of power to wield; power that can help create significant buzz for companies and boost their credibility.

The Key - inspiration and aspiration

Chinese consumers and fans don’t want the hard sell anymore. Before taking the leap to purchase, they like to be educated, following influencers for trends in their preferred area. They want to take charge of their buying experience and want content that entertains as well as informs.

KOL marketing is a more subtle, low-pressure and persuasive selling approach. KOLs provide engaging storytelling and are the go-to information source and lifestyle guides for millennial and Chinese Gen Z consumers.

48% of Chinese Gen Zs follow KOLs to guide purchasing decisions. If they trust an influencer and their recommendations, they’re more likely to buy, with some spending up to a quarter of their salary.

Top KOL Becky Li sold 100 Minis online in just 4 mins, giving an insight into the power of influencers’ reach.

Showcasing brands like Chanel and Dior with 20 million followers on social media, she owns two clothing lines, an e-commerce site and a self-improvement platform. Becky uses her immense digital presence to advise on the purchases of aspiring young women and men, which has a huge effect on the Chinese marketplace.

‘’I know my fans, I know what they like, what they need, and I am going to help them find their desired products’’ she says.

Partnering with KOLs is a great strategy for brands to seize upon, with the outcomes mutually beneficial for both parties. There is a wide diversity of content that can be used that’s often far-reaching and sometimes viral.

Benefits galore

Reports show Chinese social media and revenue is expected to reach 139 billion yuan ($9 billion) by 2022. Using KOLs’ wide reach and targeting capabilities means a quick ROI compared to other marketing methods.

As of May 2020, the average conversion rate of Chinese influencers reached 11.1%, growing by 3% compared to earlier in January

KOL strategy is essential to brand growth for 3 key reasons - faster awareness, strengthening brand image and better results for lower costs. Overall, 89% of businesses say their ROI from KOL marketing is comparable to, or even better than, other marketing channels.

One size doesn't fit all when it comes to influencer strategy though. A UK approach in China simply wouldn't work as well. Chinese and Western influencers have different approaches, and Chinese audience expectations vary significantly from Western consumers. Planning and clear deliverables are key, with flexibility in brand guidelines and campaign briefs.


China is a challenging market to break into. Its sheer size and scale present unique challenges - different from any other market. But the rewards are potentially huge.

For Western brands wishing to succeed in China, having KOLs on their payroll is a no-brainer. This type of marketing is a MUST for brands to connect, engage and sell to Chinese audiences.

To elevate brand presence in China, the influencer market is unique and one of the most profitable ways to advertise and the power of its reach is undeniable.

Key Opinion Leader guide

If you plan on entering the Chinese marketing arena, be sure to download our KOL marketing guide. Developed to help understand the choppy waters of influencer marketing in China, it’s packed full of crucial concepts, tips, insights and strategies for maximising marketing impact in campaigns across every sector.

Influencer Campaigns China Marketing Chinese Digital Marketing


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