The penchant in China for KOLs continued unabated in 2020, and into 2021. Hardly a marketing meeting goes by when the acronym doesn’t pop up once or twice. Having ascended marketing geek buzzword-territory into a generally understood concept, the question on the lips of brands operating anywhere in China is no longer if KOL marketing is a good idea, but how best to do it.
The truth is that KOLs with millions of followers command eye-watering price tags. For most companies, it is simply not feasible to get in on the action with someone like Austin Li or Vija Huang. There are, however, a cadre of mid-tier KOLs that wield significant-enough influence to generate sales, or get a brand name out there. Below are a few of our favourites.
Food & Beverage MId-Tier KOLs
Miss Snail is a Shanghai-based photographer and stylist who has built a substantial around her photos of food, beverage and lifestyle. Her unique sense of aesthetic sees her create highly stylized snaps of food that is usually considered low-brow, such as KFC, Pizza Hut, and Heineken. She accompanies her shots with a whole ‘Snail’ brand, including the Snail Institute, where people may come and learn from her how to take better food pictures. To be associated with miss Snail is to be associated with the ideals she embodies – capturing beauty in everyday objects, and passing on lessons about how to do so to her 330,000 followers on Weibo and 150,000 followers on RED.
Yueshi is all about digging into the details. His stated aim is to rekindled the relationship between people and food, in an authentic way. Sharing facts about the history of food, documenting it in pictures, and showing the beauty of ingredients, Yueshi tells stories. It is his authentic and honest love for food that has gained him almost a million followers on Weibo.
Cosmetics Mid-Tier KOLs
Hangzhou-based Guanguanzi creates looks. Her looks are bold. In a country where wearing heavy makeup is only just beginning to become fashionable, Guanguanzi goes in. By pairing her makeup styling with bold fashion choices, and showing her audience exactly which products she’s used, her 350,000 Weibo followers get useful info, while brands benefit from the exposure.
Based in Sichuan, Ya Xianxian is a prolific model for fashion and cosmetics. She sports a new look a couple of times per week, and, like Guanguanzi, often gives details about what products she’s used and why. Her uniqueness comes from showing off transnational trends, blending styles from around the globe, united by their position in the aesthetic of Generation Z. Expect her 265,000 Weibo and 100,000 RED followers to be young and willing to be adventurous in the pursuit of style.
Jiwei takes a very personal approach to his social media accounts. He posts pictures of his projects – ranging from fashion shootings, to drawing, and even paper art – but he also posts frequent vlogs, documenting his life-long passion for fashion. Recently he was treated to some new threads, and special seats at Shanghai Fashion Week, by Burberry. In return, Burberry got some very favourable coverage directed towards his almost one-million Weibo fans. Collabs have also been made with Dior and Guerlain.
Elephant Kingdom, AKA XiangChong shares news and pictures about all the latest fashion goings-on in China. Xiang Chong is a favourite not only for meticulously compiling pictures from the very latest releases by big-name brands but also for informing the audience about the designers behind them. The sheer velocity and consistent quality of the posts have earned the account over six million followers.
Don’t know where to start your first KOL campaign? Check our KOL Marketing guide!
Cestmoii is famed for posting beautiful 9-picture collages of travel locations from around the world. They pay particular attention to colour and theme, making sure that each of the nine are aligned by a central concept, such as ‘love’, ‘sunset’, or ‘change’, for example, but that their colours are virtually identical. The effect is to evoke an almost nostalgic, sentimental feeling towards the destinations, whether or not the viewer, one of their 300,000 followers for instance, has ever been there.
Xilanghua is what you might call a multi-disciplinary KOL. She combines fashion, lifestyle, travel and design into one big personal brand. It is the life of Xilianghua that people are interested in, not any one particular theme. Like Cestmoii, she pays close attention to the colours of the photos she shares, making her pages immediately pleasing to look at. When her 100,000 Weibo followers, and 55,000 RED followers delve into the content, it is exactly the variety that keeps things interesting. One post might be a collab with Dior, the next a bar, and the next a bakery.
Let’s call Crazy Special Effects Artist CSEA for short. His account is exactly what you’d expect, as he is, indeed, a pretty crazy special effects artist. CSEA’s posts are usually of projects and props that he’s working on for different film projects, and show a lighter side of graphical production. His 250,000 fans love the fact that his videos always have unexpected twists, or huge film set-pieces, alongside the dynamic character that is CSEA in the first place.
Master Jiang posts daily motivation videos and images, alongside guides and meal plans for fitness fans. The account is well-balanced, with the drier, more detailed posts cushioned with humorous photos. Master Jiang is a big fan of cats, and, has gained traction recently for a recent foray into ballet. He is specially highlighted by Weibo as being a notable sports blogger, and has 1.5 million followers.
These examples are just a sample of what’s out there in terms of mid-tier KOLs. For more, or some that are more specific to a particular campaign, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Looking for top KOLs in China? Here is a list of 30 top KOLs in China
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