top of page
  • Writer's picturehellobrandsoul

How To Make Your Brand Go Viral Without Burning A Hole In Your Pocket

Can key opinion leaders generate more revenue to your business or are key opinion consumers the way of the future?

How integral are key opinion leaders (KOLs) to your marketing arsenal? Are they a must have or are key opinion consumers (KOCs) the better bet?

When it comes to marketing, word of mouth is the most powerful tool. According to a Nielsen summary, 92% of consumers say that they are more likely to trust personal recommendations over ads.

Some 74% of consumers identify with word of mouth recommendations when it comes to purchasing decisions and 115% of millennials are more influenced by word of mouth than traditional advertising.

This means if your most loyal customers tell their near and dear about you, your business is almost sure to skyrocket. While it is true that working with KOLs gives you access to a targeted audience, is it the absolute best thing? In this article, Brand Soul makes a comparison between KOLs and key opinion consumers (KOCs).

A KOL is an authority on a specific topic and usually has a targeted niche audience. Brands generally collaborate with KOLs to tap their expertise and unlike influencers it’s not their full time job, they are instead trustworthy experts in their arena.

A common example of a KOL in action would be a dentist recommending a particular brand of toothpaste for instance. KOLs are commonly used in healthcare, the pharmaceutical industry, life sciences, medical devices and clinical trials.

KOLs influence the influencers. Influencers look to key opinion leaders too as subject matter experts.

KOL marketing allows you to reach a targeted audience in your industry, increasing credibility through word of mouth. High-impact recommendations from people we trust like close friends or established experts are 50 times more like to trigger a purchase than a low impact recommendation which would come from someone with less credibility like a review or a stranger on the street.

Key Opinion Consumers, a Better Move?

In China, key opinion consumers are going through the roof in terms of popularity. Given that their content is highly reliable these experts are popularly utilised to test and review products and they play a big role in the decision making process of their readers, regardless of audience size.

In China, the predominating practice is to centralise all daily needs into one app. WeChat is a well-known all in one app with functions that go beyond daily communication. Users can purchase goods, order a taxi and even attend an online class.

There are also more and more apps that combine social media with e-commerce, and encourages users to review goods and share their opinions with others. A good example will be Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book) (LRB). If netizens in China want to learn more about a certain product or explore new ones, LRB is their go-to-app.

KOCs from LRB are viewed as credible since these are ordinary people who, albeit having a limited amount of followers, genuinely want to try and test a product. LRB’s algorithm helps as well since it ranks posts according to the quality, and displays them first in the main feed. Hence, further motivating LRB users to share their reviews.

3 Main differences between KOC and KOL

Level of initiative

Brands proactively approach a KOL and provide them cash or product incentives for promoting their products and services.

While KOC is first of all a consumer, hence they initiate the process of trying and reviewing products that interest them.

Audience size

KOLs are categorized by the number of followers, such as Micro-influencers (5,000 – 1K) and Celebrities (millions).

On the contrary, audience size is not a critical criterion for KOCs, in fact, they most likely have fewer followers than KOLs.


KOC has more credibility among readers as product testing and reviewing is their expertise. In comparison, followers of KOLs are aware of the paid collaborations between brands the influencers, hence the authenticity is not as strong as KOC.

Examples outside of China that are similar to the KOC model

Amazon has a system where reviewers get to share opinions about new products so potential customers can makes an informed decision.

For each review, Amazon customers rate the quality and helpfulness of this which in turn contributes to the ranking of the reviewer. Amazon then invites the higher ranked reviews to become Vine Voices and voila you have effective KOCs. The programme started in 2007 though in China KOCs is still a relatively new concept.

This is another example of a large review platform in Japan. Users can increase their reviewer levels based on the quality and frequency of their reviews. The platforms will display the best-ranked products per category. The reviews from @cosme have such high credibility that other brands also use the ranking from @cosme to promote their products, e.g. attaching a “No.1 Face Wash from @cosme” sticker on the products.

OnePlus—a mobile device brand—aims to build a community of people, rather than just producing high-quality phones. The company explicitly made this goal known to the public and later launched their new app OncePlus Community. On this app, global fans of the brand can exchange opinions and reviews about the phones, software, or any concerns about their device.

2 Big Reasons for adopting KOC marketing

· KOC is the perfect mix of KOL marketing and customer relationship management (CRM)

· Consumer reviews have a strong impact on potential customers

More than 70% of consumers agree that online reviews play a decisive role in their decision-making process. Considering this, including KOCs in your marketing strategy will be beneficial to the business as their voices have a strong influence on customers, and also boost your credibility.



bottom of page