KOL Marketing in 2021 and Why It Is Effective
5 Apr , 2021

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KOL marketing is still one of the success-defining strategies in 2021. Unsurprisingly, people scroll through their social media feeds for an average of 143 minutes every day, providing brands with the seedbed of KOL marketing campaigns. But is it as simple as merely partnering with popular influencers to endorse your products? More importantly, how should your brand leverage this strategy? This article is going to shed light on your doubts about 2021 KOL marketing: 

  1. What is KOL Marketing? 

  2. Who are Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)? 

  3. Benefits of KOL Marketing 

  4. How to leverage KOL Marketing in 2021?

What is KOL Marketing?

Typically, the strategy of KOL marketing involves the partnership between the brand and one or more KOLs to distribute content featuring its products on international social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, or China’s WeChat, Xiaohongshu and Weibo. At this point, you may already have certain profiles in mind that are eye-catching and popular in the market but wait! Just because the KOL has millions of followers, it does not imply guaranteed level of effectiveness of the KOL marketing campaign. One of the keys is using the right KOL to get the right audience for the optimal viral impact. In many cases, micro-KOLs are even proved to be more successful in driving conversions with 60% higher engagement.

Who are Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs)?

There is always the debate about the definition of KOLs and influencers. In spite of the fact that many people treat them the same due to their similar word-of-mouth effect, the answer is NO!

Key opinion leaders (KOLs) refer to leading experts on a specific topic. From the traditional point of view, they are like the top scientists who have already established their reputation in the niche and only make an appearance in prime scientific occasions; yet influencers begin with sharing their personal ideas without a source of fame and mostly aim to make a living out of being influencers.

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Along with the dominance of social media, many KOLs have much more media presence and business collaborations to offer their professional opinion online. They become the mega or macro-influencers among the five tiers of influencers. In other words, KOLs these days often are influencers as well but influencers are not necessarily KOLs. By nature, KOLs can be categorized into mainly celebrities, bloggers and web-celebrities (Wanghong) who are different in fan base, content and target audience. Generally speaking, people are looking towards all these “leaders” to be the source of truth and make decisions based on their words.

What are the benefits of KOL marketing?

1. Directly reach a pool of your target audience

The core of an effective KOL marketing campaign is, foremost, having KOLs with enormous respect from their followers. It is the passageway connecting your brand directly to the potential target audience, and sometimes reaching new demographics that you may not expect from otherwise! The relevant campaign content will also spark active discussion in the community and encourage viewers to become a customer, raising your campaign ROI.

2. KOLs’ innovative contributions

For sure, a KOL marketing campaign comprises customized content ideas for your brand. Yet with the high expectation from audience, the idea is often for setting the scene only. You would want to embrace creativity from the KOLs too as they are usually tipped as the “relatable people” by their followers. Don’t forget that they know their audience well and thus the most engaging content for them. Notable buzz effect can be generated with KOLs’ input.

3. Boost your brand awareness by KOL marketing

The brand-building effect from KOL marketing is immediate which other digital advertising strategies may not result in. There is no secret behind but simply the followers’ trust along with their collective interest. It is particularly practical when your brand is facing strong competition. A KOL marketing campaign creates the comparative effect by KOLs’ well-grounded evaluation of the product, conveying a trustworthy impression of your brand to the audience. It catalyses the increase in brand awareness right away and help you gradually beat the competitors. Click here to learn more about our strategic KOL marketing service.

How to leverage KOL marketing in 2021?

Fast forward to 2021, the KOL marketing market size is hitting 14 billion U.S. dollars worldwide, which has grown 712% since 2016 and still on the rise. 4.1 billion increase is even found in this pandemic year alone. It is no longer the abundance of brands causing shopping hesitation, but the abundance of KOLs creating tremendous user-generated content in the market every single day. So how could you effectively employ KOLs marketing strategies for your brand and win big in the market?

1. Dig into live streaming with KOLs

Live stream has been out in the market for some times but not yet the most leading trend worldwide until the lockdown. Many internet users have developed and retained the habit of live viewing. The arriving 5G deployment has further forged the path for brands to boost this channel with higher speed and quality. Fashion and event industry start to incorporate VR and AR technology in their real-time videos offering a spectacular guest experience online.

KOL Marketing_ Douyin live stream.jpgSmartisan founder and speaker, Luo Yonghao, held an e-commerce live stream on Douyin and sold US$15.5 million worth of products in the session.
Source: https://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/news-trends/article/3079251/who-luo-yonghao-chinas-once-broke-entrepreneur-who-sold

In order to compete in this continuously evolving market, you definitely need to team up with a popular, reliable but also relevant KOL as your live streamer. An iconic example appeared last year when several brands and Douyin collaborated with Luo Yonghao, the Chinese founder of smartphone maker Smartisan who hold 7.8 million + followers on Douyin, to sell a variety of products on the platform. He eventually earned more than 110 million RMB in the three-hour live stream. The potential of ‘live commerce” is not only from the genuine showcase of products, but also the actual engagement between fans and the approachable KOL.

2. KOLs’ authenticity matters in marketing

Bigger is better? For KOL marketing, we believe it is not always the case. Content has become more commercially driven now and sometimes lost its originality. Meanwhile, netizens are much smarter that they do plenty research on KOLs and scramble amidst profiles to find the most authentic one and depend on his/her opinion. They refuse to let advertising content thrust upon them.

Therefore, instead of putting all your eggs in the basket of famous KOLs, you are advised to tap into micro or even nano-KOLs who often know their followers personally and have significant impact in their small community. In fact, data shows that 77% of these “real life” people create original content everyday which is way more active than the high-level KOLs. The approachable character also makes them generate way more genuine engagement on social media platforms. Working with authentic KOLs implies your brand’s authenticity, hence effectiveness in KOL marketing.

3. Brand story building with KOL marketing

When given the options of iPhone and Samsung, which one will you pick? And why would you choose one over the other? You may not notice the logic behind, but it is indeed because of their brand equity. You perceive your choice to be more advantageous from your knowledge. On the other hand, for a brand, you’ve been nurturing the entire business. No one knows its value better than you. Yet, how could you root all those beneficial ideas in the consumers’ mind?

Bingo! KOL marketing is one of the best ways to enhance your brand equity. The new generation has an emerging awareness of brand purpose for purchase decision. 75% of Gen Z claimed to keep track of whether the brand’s actions synchronise with their commitment. To convert more of these careful consumers, collaborating with KOLs of similar values has to be a far-seeing tactic. Do not aim for a one-off campaign, but to evolve with the effective KOL in a long-term relationship. For example, an eco-conscious brand can invite a vegan KOL for years-long collaboration in the hope of taking a stand on the issue and showcasing the connection in between, not to mention their hand-in-hand growth. A compelling and rigid brand story is built in time.


With the on-going pandemic, we expect KOL marketing to remain as the leading trend in 2021 reaching the huge social media users. You’ve just caught a glimpse of all the important tactics. Are you still worrying about creating an effective KOL campaign? In AsiaPac, we have a fully strategic KOL marketing solution and our self-developed KOOLER AI, which utilizes AI technology and big data to offer you the most suitable KOL suggestions and campaign generation all in one single platform. To know more about our customized service, click here to get a free proposal now!

About AsiaPac Net Media

With an extensive digital marketing experience of serving more than 2,500 clients across Asia in sectors such as education, travel and hospitality, finance, Government and others, AsiaPac’s expert team is highly recognized for the excellence in providing performance-driven services to businesses across Asia, and global corporates targeting Asia markets. If you’d like to learn more about AsiaPac and the work we’ve done, visit our Case page. For more information on AsiaPac/ AdTech and our services, please contact us at info@asiapac.com.hk / info@adtechinno.com.