Key opinion leader
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Key Opinion Leader (KOL), also known as an "influencer", is a person or organization who has expert product knowledge and influence in a respective field. They are trusted by relevant interest groups and have significant effects on consumer behavior. In comparison to celebrity brand ambassadors, KOLs often have a more direct relationship with their audiences to share new product recommendations. Business collaborations with KOLs have become an effective marketing tool due to the rise of social media.
KOL in Chinese digital marketing
China has 700 million netizens, making it the largest social media market in the world. In turn, KOLs in China are essentially social media influencers. They are active on digital platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Weibo， Bilibili and WeChat, providing new content for their large fan bases. By posting professional videos or articles regularly, they can earn the trust of their followers who often purchase products shared and recommended. KOLs are widely distributed in a variety of different fields including sports, video games, electronic products, fashion, food, travel, luxury goods and cars.
China's online KOL market valuation was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2016. Partnerships with KOLs have increasingly become an effective method to promote a product or brand. Compared to celebrity branding, working with KOLs reduces costs and is often more accessible to consumers.
Liang Tao, known as Mr. Bags, is a fashion KOL in China who has 2.89 million fans on Weibo and 1.09 million active followers on WeChat. In 2016, Givenchy partnered with Mr. Bags to promote their handbag line "Horizon". This handbag line included 80 limited edition styles which each retailed for $2146.00. Mr. Bags' promotion contributed to the handbags selling out in 12 minutes. In May 2017, Mr. Bags worked with Burberry to promote the brand's limited color handbag DK88 on WeChat and these handbags also sold out. Another KOL, Papi Jiang is an internet celebrity who is well known for her funny videos in China. She has 44 million followers on multiple social media sites. Her video ad auction was won by Lili's Beauty for $3.4 million in 2016. The following year, New Balance chose Papi as their new marketing campaign spokesperson in China. She addressed this topic in "A Letter To My Future", a video about her growth story with the aim of resonating with China's younger generation. Fashion KOL, Zhang Dayi has 4 million followers on Weibo and earned $48 million in a year. In 2016, Meitu partnered with Dayi to launch their MeiPai M6 limited edition mobile phone. 2000 units sold out in one second. In 2017, KOL Single's Day drove sales of T-Mall merchandise totaling more than 100 million yuan. In the year 2018 a Chinese Travel KOL Layla participated in a #visitspain commercial campaign arranged by Spain Tourism Bureau, reaching more than 4 million people and engaging with more than 1.1 million in 5 day period.
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