Have you ever watched a commercial, doubting the veracity of the endorser’s remarks about a certain product? If you have, then there is one country where an entire consumer demographic shares your skepticism — China. 

Chinese market abounds with businesses and companies fighting tooth and nail to establish a brand image. These companies are also hard-pressed to turn the heads of consumers and ease them down their sales funnels. 

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The trust of Chinese consumers has grown into a commodity for marketers. Consumer trust has been a key mechanism for popularizing products. Given the importance Chinese culture places on community, word-of-mouth marketing methods deserve a place in any China marketing strategy.  KOL and KOC marketing allows businesses to connect with real consumers willing to act as brand ambassadors on social media platforms. If you want to make a profit and capture the trust and following of Chinese customers, it is a strategy you need to have. 

Read on to learn more about KOC marketing and what it can do for your business in China. 

What Is a KOC in China? 

KOC stands for Key Opinion Consumer. A KOC is a consumer who uses products and publicizes them in some way in various formats and different platforms, often in online reviews matter. 

Key Opinion Consumers in China are the equivalent of social media influencers in the West. What distinguishes a KOC from a social media influencer is the specificity of content towards the KOC’s experience with a brand’s product. 

In China, the opinions and reviews of KOCs are valuable to other consumers. Other consumers use KOC product reviews to guide their purchasing decisions. This is why getting KOCs for your brand is key to successful marketing campaigns in China

KOC Marketing

KOL vs. KOC Marketing

Given the above description, you might consider a KOL (Key Opinion Leader) similar to a KOC. In China, both are key to any brand’s marketing strategy — more so if you are a company from overseas trying to break into the market. 

Despite the function of both (i.e., to sing praises of your brand to consumers), Key Opinion Leaders and Key Opinion Consumers are diametrically different in several ways. For this reason, the strategy for KOC marketing will also differ from a strategy involving KOLs. 

Here are some of the ways KOC marketing differs from KOL marketing in China: 

Reach Potential

The biggest difference between a KOL and a KOC is the number of followers each has. KOLs enjoy a celebrity status of sorts, being prominent personalities enlisted to endorse a brand’s products. Think of them as product endorsers

KOLs, due to their celebrity status in China, will have thousands of followers. A select few might even have millions. These are the ones most brands seek for their target market.

KOCs, on the other hand, have fewer followers. Most Key Opinion Customers will have anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand followers. 

Hence, when comparing the reach of KOLs and KOCs, it is clear that KOL marketing leads to wider product exposure. But, it also might work in your favor to hire a few smaller influencers for KOC marketing campaigns as opposed to hiring one big KOL, and you might find even better results and reach this way.

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Brand Affiliation and Loyalty

Key Opinion Leaders, due to their massive following, are enlisted by brands to endorse and promote products. On the contrary, KOCs receive commissions and other forms of remuneration from the companies they endorse. 

KOLs do not necessarily need to be users of a product. They just need to be seen with it. Due to the remunerations, they receive from brands, KOLs will likely remain under contract. It is unusual for a KOL to endorse the product of one brand and endorse the same type of product from a competitor, especially when we’re talking about luxury brands. 

In comparison, Key Opinion Consumers and micro-influencers are not under contract. They are consumers who use products and tell their focus groups and potential consumers their experience with the product. The product can be from any company or brand, and they can submit reviews of two similar products from different companies in social media posts so that their target audiences and potential customers of products can compare and select the most suitable for them. This is closer to influencer marketing (especially on Instagram) as we know it in the West.

KOLs on wechat service accounts


As mentioned earlier, brands pay KOLs to endorse their products. The selling proposition of a KOL lies in the number of followers the KOL has. The higher the number of followers, the more negotiating power a KOL has. 

The same cannot be said of KOCs. KOCs use and review products for reasons often unrelated to money. In fact, unlike KOLs who get contacted by brands, KOCs reach out to brands to use their products and give customer reviews. 

Perceived Authenticity: the Reason Consumers are Responding Better to KOC Marketing

Key Opinion Customers, despite their relatively smaller reach, tend to greatly influence the purchasing decisions of everyday consumers in China market. Part of the reason for this is that KOCs are also consumers. 

Nowadays, Chinese consumers are growing in their awareness of authentic endorsements. In other words, the public is familiar with the concept of KOLs and how they make money endorsing brands. The consumerist dynamic underlying the brand-KOL relationship calls into question any authentic motives KOLs have. 

Many consumers today tend to assign more veracity to the evaluations of KOCs in the decision-making process. Chinese consumers are now aware that KOCs are not commissioned by any brand. As a result, consumers recognize that real usage is the basis for a KOC’s review. 

Hence, KOC marketing is superior to KOL marketing if you wish to position your brand as one devoted to customer experience. 

Why You Need a KOC Marketing Strategy to Grow Your Business

To most large companies, KOL marketing remains to be the dominant form of marketing. However, as Chinese consumers grow more conscious about the trends underlying brands and influencers, there is a clamor for more reviews that are honest. 

KOL marketing has its place. Of course, not every company will have the financial resources available to pay KOLs. Companies that have yet to consolidate their presence in China can turn to KOCs for evaluations and product testing of their products. 

KOC marketing can help you establish a brand image that appeals to the average Chinese consumer. It can help your brand appear like a company that cares genuinely about customer experience. 

Is KOC Marketing Expensive? 

The short answer to this question is no. Although KOC incentivization costs can pile up, let us go over why it is undoubtedly cheaper than KOL marketing. 

For the most part, KOC marketing can remain free of expenses. Unlike KOL marketing, you will incur no upfront costs from getting a KOC. 

Initially, getting a KOC to review your product might not cost you much money. In fact, you might not need to pay your KOC. However, you will have to incentivize their opinions in some way for the visibility they can give your product. This is where you may have to allocate certain resources that are not necessarily monetary.  

Nonetheless, keep in mind that compared to KOLs, KOCs have far fewer followers. As a result, one KOC can make your product visible to a limited number of followers. To offset the limitations in the audience, you will have two options.

The first go-to action would be to select a KOC that has a large number of followers. The second is to incentivize and reach out to multiple KOCs

Either way, you would need to leverage your non-financial resources. These may be in the form of product samples (including shipping costs) or any non-monetary token of appreciation from your brand. 

KOC Marketing Best Practices

Effective KOC marketing can organically boost your brand image. In addition, with regular engagement with your KOCs, KOCs can grow to similar statuses as KOLs — without the expensive upfront costs for their reviews. 

Here are some ways to maximize the visibility KOCs: 

Identify Potential KOCs 

It goes without saying that to embark upon a KOC marketing strategy, you would need to seek KOCs. There are two ways you can go about this. 

The first is to seek the assistance and services of big data firms in China. Some of the biggest big data platforms in China are: 

  • Kuaishou
  • Xiaohongshu
  • DouYu
koc marketing kuaishou

These platforms have already tailored some of their operations and data offerings for companies seeking KOCs. The data provided by these platforms can help you screen your potential KOCs. 

The second way is to monitor your site’s review section. If you find a regular reviewer who has a fair number of followers, you can count this person as a potential KOC. 

The second KOC identification method conveniently brings us to the next tip. 

There are two types of KOC

  1. Superusers: They help brands through UGC. They are high-activity users on digital platforms. They have built a strong online profile but are still considered everyday users who have had a following on forums and social media through their honest reviews.
  2. KOC IP: these profiles are built by the brand themselves. It’s a profile built from scratch that interacts with users to provide an experience. This “person” job is to guide the target audience through the different marketing funnel of its brands.
XiaoWangzi from the brand the Perfect Diary is typically a KOC IP. Read more about it here.

Have Areas on Your Business Site for Reviews

The reviews section is where you will be able to identify potential KOC candidates for promotional comments and content. Because you will not rely on big data platforms, your KOC marketing expenses can drop even further. 

More importantly, you will be improving customer engagement. Regardless of your marketing strategy, this is always a must in China. 

Incentivize Your KOCs Personally

Brands that rely on KOC marketing for visibility already have ways of thanking KOCs for their services and endorsements. You can take things a step further by personally giving your incentives to KOCs

Now, this does not mean that you need to hand in the incentives in person. You can, however, give these incentives in such a way that the gesture comes off as appreciative instead of transactional. 

For example, if you are giving some of your products as gifts to a KOC, you can add special vouchers for discounts or product claims. While you’re at it, feel free to throw in a note that addresses your KOC by name. 

These simple gestures can go a long way in creating a tangible human connection with your KOCs. Do this enough times, and KOCs will be reaching out to you.  

KOC Marketing: Marketing with Veracity and Relatability

KOC and KOL marketing can exist within your China marketing strategy. However, KOC outshines KOL marketing in one way — gaining the trust of consumers

KOC marketing can help grow your business by positioning your brand as one that is concerned about the everyday consumer. With KOCs vouching for you, consumers will see your brand differently. Consumers will deem your brand one that has real value and one worthy of their patronage. 

At Gentlemen Marketing Agency, we specialize in crafting bespoke KOC marketing strategies that align with your brand ethos and objectives. Our extensive expertise and in-depth understanding of the Chinese market dynamics position us as your go-to partner in navigating the intricate landscape of KOC marketing.

  • Customized Campaigns: Our strategies spotlight your brand’s unique value, ensuring it stands out in the competitive market.
  • Extensive KOC Network: Benefit from collaborations with influential KOCs who authentically endorse your brand, enhancing awareness and trust.
  • Cultural Nuance: Our local experts ensure your campaigns are culturally relevant and resonate with the diverse consumer base in China.
  • Data-Driven Optimization: Harness the power of real-time analytics to monitor and optimize campaign performance, ensuring maximum ROI.
  • Local Market Insights: Gain access to our invaluable insights into consumer behavior and market trends in China, informing strategic decisions.
  • Integrated Digital Solutions: Utilize our comprehensive digital solutions, including social media, SEO, and e-commerce, to maximize your online presence in China.
  • Brand Positioning & Messaging: We help articulate and communicate your brand story effectively, building a strong brand identity in the market.
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Are you about to break into the Chinese consumer market? Get in touch with us now and experience product visibility that leads to profits.

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