What is KOC Marketing: How it Helps you Increase Sales in China

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If you’ve been keeping up with the latest social media trends in China, you may have noticed a new type of Chinese influencer cropping up on Weibo and WeChat – KOC, or Key Opinion Consumers. But what is a KOC, exactly? And why are they becoming so popular? 

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the KOC phenomenon in China: explore some reasons behind its growing popularity and how to run successful KOC Marketing campaigns ;

What do KOC and KOL mean?

KOC stands for “Key Opinion Customer,” and in China, it’s a term used to describe someone who is considered to be influential among their peers. In other words, a KOC is somebody whose opinion carries a lot of weight within their social circle. It’s a person that uses products or services and publicizes them on social media, to recommend and promote those items to friends and followers. 

What is a KOC?

In simple words, KOCs 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 to the target market. Brands are starting to target KOCs in their marketing efforts because every brand hopes that these individuals have the power to shape public opinion and drive trends, especially among Generation Z.

What is a KOL?

KOL, a Key Opinion Leader, on the other hand, is an individual in China who has a large following on social media with a huge fan base and who is respected by their followers for their knowledge or expertise in a particular area. A KOL is a person that can greatly influence other people’s purchasing decisions due to their expertise or authority in a given field. 

Because of this influence, brands pay KOLs to promote their products and services. For example, a KOL in the travel industry might be someone who has a large social media following and who regularly posts about their travel experiences on the main feed.

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Types of Key Opinion Consumers

There are several divisions of KOCS, but we will focus on the division that is most helpful in terms of KOC marketing in China. In this approach, we can differentiate two types of KOC / Key Opinion Customers:


This type of KOCs typically helps brands by using UGC, which is short for user-generated content. These users have a strong online presence and can be seen as everyday people with an audience of followers on forums or creative social media who follow their honest reviews about products they’ve tried and can honestly recommend. 

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Key Opinion Consumer IP 

The ‘person’ in this case is a virtual marketing representative who interacts with potential customers and fellow consumers and guides them through the different stages of their decision-making process, they help with product seeding, selection, providing product and shipping costs and so on. 

KOL marketing vs KOC marketing: Choose the best option for your marketing strategy

In China, the title “influencer” is used to describe uniquely superstars in their own right. Their objective was still to publicize items in association with the most popular fashion and luxury brands. 

For instance, you could find Jackson Wang for Fendi, Lu Han for Louis Vuitton, and Angelababy for Dior. Stars and celebrities are the acmes of influence in China to reach tons of people. But what happens when you want to target only a precise user’s category and obtain a better ROI? Then, you have to select a KOC, the latest influencer trend in China.

The biggest differences between Key Opinion Leaders and Key Opinion Consumers

Although Key Opinion Leaders and Key Opinion Customers may seem like the same thing, they differ in several ways. It is important to tackle these differences in order to prepare the best marketing strategy for your brand. Here are some of the ways KOC marketing differs from KOL marketing in China: 

Authenticity: KOC are part of the brand’s user community

KOL have lost their appeal as a genuine source of information

A few years back, KOL marketing was the main driving force, but nowadays, Chinese consumers are growing in their awareness of authenticity. They know how KOLs make money and understand, that their reviews and recommendations are commercially influenced. KOL marketing in China is not as profitable as it used to be a few years ago, so brands are switching to KOC marketing strategy instead. 

Some Chinese KOL are now so big that they have a celebrity status – they do not have time to engage with their followers and endorse many brands.
KOC Reviews = Peer-to-Peer Reviews

On the contrary, Key Opinion Customers, despite their relatively smaller reach, are everyday users of promoted products with small user communities, hence they seem more authentic to their target audience. 

The old saying “you get what you pay for” could not be more true when it comes to customer experience. Chinese consumers are now aware that KOCs are not commissioned by any brand, so KOC reviews have greater value. Really often having multiple KOCs with not that huge fan bases is fairly better than putting the entire focus and investment on one big KOL.

KOL vs KOC’s Reach

The most obvious difference between Key Opinion Leaders and Key Opinion Customers is their number of followers. KOLs are usually celebrities on with mega accounts of thousands of followers. Those are the ones that brands seek the most, but their reach costs a lot, so only big brands usually can afford them. 

Key Opinion Customers, on the other hand, are micro-influencers with hundreds to a few thousand followers but can get you enough reviews, even mid-level KOCs, that can even convert passive followers into active consumers because of the high engagement ratios they generate on their e-commerce sites. 

Initiative: Brand collabs with KOL & KOC are different

KOLs are usually the ones being contacted by companies due to their huge audience size. They start marketing campaigns because of offered contracts. Key Opinion Customers are often the ones contacting the companies themselves, as they are happy with some products and want to promote them or offer product giveaways to their target audiences. Although they have far fewer followers than KOLs, KOC marketing campaigns really often have greater results.

Brand Affiliation and Loyalty

KOLs, due to their massive following, are usually under contract and receive commissions and other forms of remuneration from brands. They don’t necessarily need to be users of products they promote, they just need to be seen with it, working more like advertisers. 

In comparison, Key Opinion Customers are usually everyday consumers that use products and promote products to potential consumers in social media posts, online reviews and focus groups. Sometimes they are not paid and don’t have a contract, but they receive free products from most brands.


In China, the influence market is a pyramid. On top, you have stars and celebrities with a wide audience. On the bottom, you have KOCs or common users with a small audience. From a business perspective, many brands looking for opportunities to perform in China cannot afford KOLs or celebrities.

For instance, a top KOL we have worked with charged a cosmetics brand 4 million RMB for only a day of work. In a word, top KOLs are ready to charge for limited-time remarks on different records. For a smaller budget and a greater return on investment (ROI), you can work with a KOC, that can get you more reviews that will match your company’s values. 

Build your brand in China with KOC Marketing

The Chinese market is evolving fast. A new form of influencer is frequently used to build your brand awareness and increase your e-reputation: a KOC.

koc marketing exemple on xiaohongshu

The Chinese netizens are looking more into common users that could still share their transparent opinion on a product and share creative content about new international brands. “Shoppers’ trust in their most loved KOLs has been undermined by a progression of outrages and a bottoming out of the market as far as quality and unwavering quality”, said Adam Knight from Tong Digital. That’s why KOC marketing in China is becoming a new trend!

Increase your sales in China with KOC Marketing

The KOCs are ordinary buyers. Indeed, they will propose item surveys and recommendations to orient the Chinese through their next purchase. What are the benefits of this product? And the smell? What is my honest opinion on it? In a word, several people follow ordinary users who love to share personal views on products. For millennial Chinese buyers, this amicable, companion-like intrigue can powerfully affect obtaining choices. 

KOC Marketing Case Study: Perfect Diary

For instance, the beauty brand Perfect Diary favored this strategy to increase its brand awareness and create a social buzz. Thanks to KOC marketing strategy, Perfect Diary got quickly one of the top beautifier marks in China.

Their strategy was to implement the KOC campaign on a mass scale. For the average Chinese shopper browsing website on the phone, Perfect Diary appeared to be very well-known.

Everyone was talking about it on social media, and the products were mentioned in every post. So, Chinese netizens decided to catch up on the trend and buy Perfect Diary products too. It’s the perfect example of the proper use of KOC marketing in China.

Discover more about Perfect Diary’s success in China

The Key Chinese Social Media for KOC Influencers in China: Xiaohongshu

Xiaohongshu literally means “Little Red Book”. This social media platform is like the Chinese Instagram, where influencers and common users share pictures and ideas. Because of KOCs notable absence of devotees, the extravagance of retail and way of life stage Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) is demonstrating itself to be the perfect spot for KOC marketing in China. Why? Because the algorithm of Xiaohongshu easily promotes content from Key Opinion Leaders and Key Opinion Customers. The more Chinese people are discussing a specific brand or item, the more certain it will show up in the indexed lists for that item class. In a word, you can benefit from original content and great visibility easily thanks to Key Opinion Customers on Xiaohongshu.

For the beauty and cosmetics sector, Little Red Book is one of the greatest social media platforms. 80% of the users are women, and they favor content about skincare and beauty. In contrast to other social stages, Little Red Book not just shows content from accounts that they follow. But subjects and hashtags are identified with the substance they view and search. Some posts from clients with just a few hundred followers can become famous online and get seen by thousands — or even millions — of potential shoppers. This is how KOC marketing is born in China! 

So in what capacity can the brand tackle the intensity of KOC influencer advertising? For one, it is critical to note that KOCs cannot supplant KOLs. The estimation of KOL marketing depends on KOLs sifting content for the benefit of supporters and just transferring important data. They separate in the interest of crowds, and they are trusted for this, not for the way that they give free suggestions. If you are a small to medium brand entering China, you need to work with top-level and mid-level influencers. With a small budget and a small amount of time, you can reach a more qualified audience to turn viewers into buyers.

Read our Xiaohongshu Marketing Guide

How do you run successful KOC marketing campaigns in China?

As a marketer, you always want to be at the forefront of the latest and greatest marketing techniques – and KOC marketing is certainly one of the most buzz-worthy methods right now. But how to do successful KOC marketing for your brand? 

Chose the most suitable KOC for your brand

Choosing the right Key Opinion Customer for your business is the most important step in your KOC marketing strategy. After all, they are the ones who will be spreading the word about your products and brand image to the target market – so you want to make sure they’re someone who meshes well with your brand.

There are a few different factors you’ll want to consider when choosing a potential KOC / Key Opinion Leader. First, take a look at their audience size. How many followers do they have? Do their followers engage with their content? Are their comment sections booming?

Secondly, you’ll want to make sure that their values align with your own. What kind of things do they typically talk about? Do their promotional comments resonate with your values? Do they have consumer trust? 

Make room for review submission from Chinese consumers

If you want to rely on Key Opinion Customers that really like your product and would be glad to promote it on China market themselves, have areas on your business site for people to submit reviews of your products. If people take the time to visit the website and review products that they like, you can be sure that they are perfect candidates for Key Opinion Customers of your brand. A review page is one of the best ways to identifying potential KOCs. 

Encourage your KOC with personally selected gifts 

When a brand relies on KOC marketing for visibility, they have ways of thanking and rewarding their favorite influencers. You can take things one step further by personally giving product incentives for product testing or simply as gifted products for a better personal experience. You can add vouchers or other free products as a thank-you gift. This way you can reassure yourself that your influencer will be satisfied with your brand and will bring traffic to your website. 

chinese cosmetic koc

Is KOC marketing expensive?

In simple words: no, KOC marketing in some parts can remain free of expenses. KOC marketing relies on product incentives for product testing and you don’t need to sign any contract to formalize KOC partnerships. You can decide how will you pay your KOC for promotion it will be through money or gifts for gather free exposure on e-commerce platforms. 

KOL and KOC are different in this sense, as KOL marketing requires bigger investments, especially when it comes to KOLs with millions of followers, that have higher fees. Large companies usually chose KOL influencer marketing for their China marketing strategy, but they can easily afford this. If you want to do successful marketing in China, chose the right KOC with the audience suitable for your brand and follow our advice for the best marketing strategy

A quick summary of the influencer trend of KOC in China

KOC influencers appear to be digging in for the long haul, and for small brands, they are the perfect initial step into the Chinese market. On an ongoing occasion, Tong Digital exhibited a five-advance procedure of “item seeding” to draw in KOCs:

  1. Distinguish potential KOCs and convey skilled items
  2. Accumulate free introduction from KOC surveys and orchestrate future KOC paid battles with those that functioned admirably
  3. Formalize KOC associations with greater post-crusade showcasing
  4. Pay for the item and delivery costs
  5. Try things out for what could be a useful showcasing technique in the future

In this way, KOCs may be the most recent cool children on the social influencer square, and one for advertisers to genuinely consider. Brands ought to be careful about tying up their assets in one place.

“The key point about KOLs, KOCs, miniaturized scale influencers, or anybody of some other degree of following is the pertinence of the individual, crowd, message, and channel if various envoys have been investigated adequately and furnished with the proper recommendations to confer, at that point everyday shoppers will get tied up with messages both allegorically and truly. It does not make a difference what name gets placed on it.”


Find a local agency to approach KOCs in China

Based in Shanghai, the Gentlemen Marketing Agency (GMA) helps international brands to perform in China. We have worked on 1,000+ projects from branding to popular social media, and e-commerce in China. So, you can contact us if you want to find a KOL or a KOC for your next bigger post campaign marketing in China. We will provide you with the best marketing strategy and solutions to reach and partner with local influencers.

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  • KOC is a tool that many brands would not get interested in. And that’s a pity knowing their huge potential. More and more brands understand how KOCs can lead to better results than KOLs and this depends on the brand’s marketing strategy. If it matches with the company’s budget and intentions, then using several KOCs can be the best way to promote a product and convert more users to buy than it would with a single KOL.

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