The KOC are the main consumers of opinion and could soon oust the KOLs, or the influencers of the entertainment world
The leading opinion leaders, better known as KOL, have long been used by luxury brands in China to promote products and influence sales. However, in a constantly evolving consumer climate, experts argue that a new form of influencer could be even more advantageous for building a brand image. These are the KOCs, the main consumers of opinion in China.
Until recently, the title of “influencer” in China was attributed only to celebrities such as singers, actors and industry professionals who advertise products in collaboration with some of the best known luxury brands. There is for example Jackson Wang for Fendi, Lu Han for Louis Vuitton and Angelababy for Dior. However, entertainment-related influencers seem to be losing appeal to many Chinese netizens, who are now over-aware of the lucrative star brand offerings.
From the commercial point of view, for brands wishing to enter the Chinese market, the high costs of popular KOLs are often unattainable. It has also been discovered that the agencies working on behalf of KOL buy false views for promoted posts in order to charge higher fees and ensure compliance with key performance indicators.
To add insult to injury, recent celebrity scandals have led Chinese consumers to boycott luxury brands promoted by some influencers. Adam Knight, co-founder of digital marketing agency Tong Digital, told Jing Daily in this regard: “Consumer confidence in their favorite KOLs has been undermined by a series of scandals and a decline in the market in terms of quality and reliability. The platforms have been slow to handle this, except for Xiaohongshu. ”
The new figure seems to have appeal especially among millenial consumers
KOCs, unlike stars, are everyday consumers, whose value is based on their relativity and reliable nature. The entire focus of KOC is on product reviews, but they often only have a few hundred followers on their accounts. For Chinese millennial consumers, this agreeable and friend-like appeal can have a strong impact on purchasing decisions.
“Many brands, particularly Chinese domestic brands, have been using KOC marketing for some time,” according to Lauren Hallanan, marketing manager of China’s Chatly marketing consultancy. Due to the considerable lack of followers of the KOCs, the luxury retail and lifestyle platform Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) is proving to be the ideal place for KOC marketing.
While KOC marketing can be done on any social media platform, the Xiaohongshu model seems to work best in promoting less-known accounts, “The Xiaohongshu algorithm actually seems to favor smaller accounts and often makes their posts appear in the main feed.” says Hallanan.
Tong Digital presented a five-step process of “product seeding” to attract KOCs
But how can brands take advantage of the marketing power of KOC influencers? First of all it is important to note that KOCs cannot completely replace KOLs. However, KOC influencers seem to be, especially for many smaller brands, the ideal first step in the Chinese market.
In a recent event, Tong Digital presented a five-step process of “seeding the product” to attract KOCs. The process begins with identifying potential KOCs and sending talented products. Subsequently, the brand hopes to collect free exposure from KOC reviews and organize future KOC pay campaigns with those that have worked well. Finally, brands should try to formalize KOC partnerships with broader post-campaign marketing. With this technique the brands are only paying for the product and the shipping costs, while they test the waters for what could be a profitable marketing strategy on a larger scale.
The KOCs, therefore, could be the last interesting guys in the social influencer block and one that marketers should seriously consider. However, brands should be cautious about putting all the eggs in one basket, but it would be advisable to diversify between KOC and KOL.
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