Marketing to Chinese – KOL Marketing

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1. What’s Happened to China?

With e-commerce booming in China and the growing buying power of Chinese consumers, it seems everyone wants to get a slice of the market. For most companies who want to capitalise on the trend, one marketing channel you just can’t ignore is KOL (Key Opinion Leader) Marketing, AKA influencer marketing. More and more companies are leveraging KOLs to reach Chinese customers.


(Mr. Bags has over 3 million followers. Source

The picture above shows a fashion blogger called Mr. Bags who has over 3 million followers on Weibo (a leading Chinese micro-blogging platform). For Valentine’s Day 2017, Givenchy collaborated with Mr. Bags to promote limited edition Horizon bags via a WeChat QR code (shown below). It is announcing that 80 bags, worth 1.2 million CNY ($251,686 NZD), were sold out in 12 minutes.


(Mr. Bags’ WeChat QR code. Source

Tourism New Zealand has also tapped into KOL’s power. Yao Chen, a famous actress in China, became the brand ambassador of Tourism New Zealand in 2011. She has 81 million followers on Weibo, known as the microblogging queen. In 2012, she got married in Queenstown and posted activities on Weibo, which stimulated increased interest in New Zealand as a holiday destination. (Source Tourism New Zealand)


Like word of mouth, KOLs’ recommendations are extremely important to decision making in Chinese customers due to the level of credibility they have. For New Zealand companies, whether they are targeting Chinese consumers in China, the increasing inbound Chinese tourists or Chinese living in New Zealand, KOL marketing needs to be included in their marketing plans.


2. What can you do to take advantage of KOL?

First, you need to know which type of KOLs are the best fit for your business and where to find them.


There are three different types of KOLs:

-Celebrities. Their posts can be costly.

-Internet Celebrities and popular bloggers. Usually they live-stream activities/post photos or write articles/witty comments online. They generally charge less than famous celebrities

-Media companies which usually have massive audiences on WeChat and/or Weibo


How can you discover and reach out to KOLs:

-Usually you can find contact information on their WeChat/Weibo accounts

-Via KOL database companies, such as PARKLU


How have New Zealand businesses leveraged the KOL channel?

Recently many businesses have worked with KOLs to market to Chinese New Zealanders. One of the most popular ways is showing display banners on WeChat platforms of local Chinese media companies. Often, a QR code is embedded in the banner so that WeChat users who view the banner can click on the QR code to visit the company’s WeChat page or contact page, from here users can engage with the company and find information about their products and services.


Another way to work with these local media companies is asking them to post a customised article about your products on WeChat. Generally, they have an editorial team and charge an additional fee for the writing work.


3. What do you need to focus on?

-Are you working with the right KOL?

You need to ensure a KOL’s followers or audiences match the market segment you want to target. If a New Zealand based KOL or KOL agency tells you “we’ve got the most followers or audiences and will achieve massive impressions”, but you only want to market to Chinese living in Wellington, then you need to rethink and ensure it is the best fit for you. Wellington does not have as many Chinese as Auckland has. To crack a niche market, sometimes all you need is a KOL with fewer followers and less power but highly targeted and these are usually more cost effective.


-Type of service and content provided by the KOL

Does your KOL’s posts look like an ad? Do readers leave annoyed comments saying they realise the post is an ad? If your answer is “Yes”, then your post may not be very attractive to read.  Try focusing more on the content and how the reader/audience can potentially benefit from it.  At the end of the day, people follow KOLs because of KOL’s content (information, personality, appearance) not ads. Advertising is OK, but the core is content.


-Be aware of fake followers

If a KOL has a massive following, but only several likes or comments, it is very likely their followers are fake or paid for.



Everyone wants to get a slice of the Chinese market. It is hard, but KOL marketing can be a fast and effective way to drive Chinese traffic to your business. Find your KOL and Kaishi ba (crack on)!


Mark is an expert in China digital marketing strategy development and online marketing channels (WeChat, Weibo, Baidu PPC, Baidu SEO, etc.) with master degrees in both marketing and science. Mark currently heads up our China team and manages AdWords and Google Analytics activities for clients across industries.

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