Key Opinion Consumer is the magic word for marketing in China today. This is the latest form of influencer, but also the most effective when you think about brand awareness and purchase. You probably heard about it under the term “KOC” or “micro-influencers” or “consumer influencers”. In any case, it’s probably the magic formula you were waiting for in China.
We collaborate with 100+ Key Opinion Consumers every year and decided to develop this full guide.
Let’s get right into the techniques.
What is a Key Opinion Consumer?
A Key Opinion Consumer (KOC) is an ordinary user, albeit having a certain amount of followers, who genuinely test and review a product. They fall into the case of influencers because their review can influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. But their content is much more organic, authentic, and genuine.
A Key Opinion Consumer can be found on any social media. Historically, they started on WeChat which makes it a good platform to handle a KOC campaign through WeChat Moments. For luxury, fashion, and lifestyle brands, the best Key Opinion Consumer can be found on Xiaohongshu (called Little Red Book). They often have between 2,000 and 20,000 followers and select the brands they want to review on their accounts.
You may be wondering: why not use a KOL instead to reach a higher audience?
KOL vs KOC, What is the Main Difference?
A Key Opinion Leader (KOL) is different from a Key Opinion Consumer (KOC) in regard to content creation and community interaction. Most articles talk about the size of followers being a major difference.
But it’s actually the control of the content and the users’ feedback that differ.
When you collaborate with a KOL, you have total control of the final post. It means, as a brand, you can decide the pictures, the videos, the text, the words, the hashtags, the positioning, and the influencer’s feedback. Almost everything. Even the posting day and time. Hard to talk about a genuine influencer’s endorsement right?
Users know it well. This is why even final consumers consider KOL as a type of “advertising” today. In the last 3 years, the level of interest in KOL content increased but the level of trust and purchase incentive decreased by almost 4 times. Chinese consumers consider KOL content as more “beautiful to look at” but KOC content as a more “trustworthy source of information”.
When you hesitate between Key Opinion Leader and Key Opinion Consumer in China, your strategic goal should be to know whether you want to create an exquisite design that you can use on your social media or to create meaningful reviews that could influence consumers’ purchases.
KOL has Become the “Soft Belly” of Influence Marketing
When you look at influence marketing in China today, you can clearly see a Gaussian curve.
On the left, you have Key Opinion Consumers who are the minority.
On the right, you have Celebrities who are the minority.
In the middle, you have Key Opinion Leaders who are the majority and the “go-to” solution for Western brands in China. But since they are the majority, they became the soft belly of influence marketing, in which your brand will struggle to stand out. Average exposure, average interaction, average sales – which means average success.
Western brands that succeed today in China are the ones focusing on the other sides: KOC to maximize trust and brand interest and Celebrities to maximize exposure and brand awareness.
What Works Best in KOC Marketing?
Now you know that KOC marketing is a game changer for brand marketing in China. And here are the 3 best strategies to make your Key Opinion Consumer campaign in China work quickly.
1. KOC and Little Red Book, The Winning Combination
Little Red Book (or Xiaohongshu) is often compared to Instagram and Pinterest. When Western brands activate on Xiaohongshu, they often focus on Official Accounts and KOL campaigns. Actually, a KOL will not make your content more viral on Xiaohongshu. Because the algorithm prioritizes high-quality content over the number of followers.
In other words, at a similar level of quality, a KOC post can be as viral as a KOL post. The RED algorithm will enable your KOC content to generate more views, more interactions, and more content on specific keywords. The best strategy is to multiply KOC content to diversify the source of content and the number of reviews. Since the price is also lower, your results-price ratio will be better with KOC.
2. Select Users in the Same City or Province
Another key strategy in a KOC campaign is to select a specific city or province. Why? Because Xiaohongshu is pushing the “nearby” option on the app. This strategy is particularly efficient when you have a store, a showroom, or an event. It will enable your brand to gain higher brand awareness and discovery rates among Chinese consumers.
If you don’t have a store or event in a city in China, no worries.
This strategy is still efficient to target a specific consumer group. For instance, we worked with a brand launching in China. They didn’t have any stores in China and wanted to drive sales on their website.
To make the most out of the campaign we decided to select 30 KOCs (instead of 1-2 KOLs) and focus on the city of Chengdu, known for more avant-garde fashion trends. The content went viral and the sales were mainly coming from Chengdu, with a return-on-investment of 1:10.
3. Pick a Specific Marketing Angle
Working with a Key Opinion Consumer in China without a specific angle in mind would be like throwing money out the window. You need to be specific in the marketing angle you want and the profile you select to cover this angle.
For instance, we worked with an accessories brand from Belgium. They wanted to target workers, and especially self-employed workers who can use their accessories while working from home or in cafes. With this specific angle in mind “targeting self-employed workers working in noisy environments“, we approached the right KOC profiles such as: freelance accountants, remote workers, company owners, and entrepreneurs.
This is why you need to approach the right agency with this kind of “niche” profile.
The more specific the profile, the more successful the campaign.
Key Advantages of Key Opinion Consumer in China
We talked about the “soft belly” of KOL in China. And the scarcity of Key Opinion Consumer in China is not the only advantage. Here are some insights on why Key Opinion Consumer in China can make your brand awareness work quickly:
Let’s dive in.
1. Initiative: The Freedom to Talk about Your Brand
The main advantage of a Key Opinion Consumer in China is its level of initiative. When you collaborate with a KOL, you have to control everything from the picture to the text. When you collaborate with a KOC, you can leave them free to talk about your brand in their own tone and words.
Disclaimer: this freedom will never harm your brand.
Except if your quality is disappointing.
Otherwise, a Key Opinion Consumer will offer exactly what Chinese consumers are looking for: an honest and genuine review of the product. No control over the wording, no control over “what to say” and “what not to say”, just pure let go to inform the final users on the pros and cons of your product. When Western brands get at peace with this let-go, the results of the campaign are often 2x times better.
2. Audience: A Smaller Size for a Higher Conversion Rate
The number of followers does not matter for KOC. It’s just a number to rank a KOL but not a KOC since all Key Opinion Consumers are micro-influencers. They have fewer followers but higher engagement rate and conversion rate on average.
How many followers have a Key Opinion Consumer in China?
A Key Opinion Consumer has between 5K to 65K followers. To compare, a Key Opinion Leader, which is the bigger size of influencer, has between 100K and 1M followers. Due to a smaller fan base, a KOC often has a higher engagement and connection with his/her community. They answer comments, answer private messages, and act as authentic guides to navigate the FMCG and luxury market.
3. Authenticity: The Strike Force of an Organic User
Since product reviewing and testing are the expertise of Key Opinion Consumers, their posts are more viral. With the algorithm of Little Red Book, a post that is genuinely helping users and provides high-quality information to the platform will last long in the people’s feeds.
It’s another particularity of Red: the push based on “interest” and not “time”.
No matter if a post mentioning your brand was posted yesterday or 5 years ago, the content can be still shown to users. The pertinence of content is given by the topic, tone, information, and quality. This is why the authenticity of KOCs are a real advantage. Because all their genuine reviews can benefit your brand in the long term for several years.
4. Price: A More Cost-Effective Influence Budget
This is a key advantage for your marketing budget. A Key Opinion Consumer is much cheaper than a Key Opinion Leader. Their expertise lies in product reviews, they will produce organic content and do not require external services such as photographers or decoration sets. This is often the case for KOL who produce more “professional” content with photographers, makeup artists, outdoor scenery, etc.
On average, a KOL is 10 times to 100 times more expensive than a KOC.
How to Pick the Right KOC Partner?
This is the final step and the most crucial one. Finding the right partner for working with a Key Opinion Consumer in China. We prefer to warn you a KOC campaign is supposed to be cost-effective. You can feel whether an agency is the right partner by asking these 3 questions:
- How many followers does the Key Opinion Consumer has? (if it’s above 100K, run)
- What is the individual budget per Key Opinion Consumer? (if it’s around 1,000€ per KOC, run)
- What is the specific angle provided by each Key Opinion Consumer? (if there’s a gap or long pause, run)
Or you can save time and directly work with us.
At Reverse Group, we work with 100+ KOCs in niche categories.