3 x Ways luxury brands are leveraging KOLs in China

If there were any doubts about the continued clout and relevance of influencers in today’s saturated social media marketplace, Kylie Jenner erased them with her casual tweet back in February about no longer using Snapchat. Her seemingly innocuous comment saw the App’s stock price plummet by 6%, shaving about $1.3billion off the company’s market value.

Today, endorsements by a big name can make or break a product launch, causing brands to be increasingly selective with the influencers they collaborate with. This is no different in China and understandably so, with it being the largest market for luxury goods in the world.

Influencers in China may go by a different name – KOLs, or key opinion leaders – but the similar challenge of ensuring that high levels of exposure later translate into sales, remains.

1. Restricting Supply

A tried and tested method is restricting the quantity of products available for sale. In creating limited editions, consumers feel a stronger sense of urgency to put their money down on the product right away (we often refer to this as ‘drop culture’ or ‘hype culture’).

This also taps into the millennial psyche (and millennials are now the fastest growing base of luxury customers in the world) of desiring exclusivity. Pairing this with the involvement of a KOL appears to be sure-fire way to sell out in China.

Chinese KOL Becky Li, nicknamed the ‘buying goddess’, has over 1.6 million followers on WeChat and regularly collaborates with brands on her platform.

Image Source: Jing Daily
Image Source: Jing Daily

Li collaborated with Mini Cooper to promote its limited edition Caribbean aqua-coloured Countryman last year with massive results. All 100 cars sold out on WeChat in less than four minutes of the launch.

2. Special Design Collaborations

Another approach brands have taken is that of introducing special edition items designed in collaboration with the KOLs themselves – giving limited editions the additional seal of approval from the get-go.

Longchamp tapped into influential Chinese blogger Tao Liang - better known by his online moniker, Mr. Bags - to collaborate on a special capsule collection for the new year. Mr Bags was actively involved in the entire process, from material selection, through to design and activation.

Image Source: Weibo
Image Source: Weibo
Longchamp x Mr Bags
Longchamp x Mr Bags

Combining the might of Mr Bags with the scarcity factor mentioned previously (no more than 400 units per style were made globally, with a maximum of 250 units per style allocated to China) his ‘bagfans’ as his base is known, jumped on the collaboration - selling out in a matter of minutes.

3. Leveraging Alternative E-commerce Channels

Given the advanced social media landscape in China, KOLs are running their own e-commerce platforms within WeChat in the form of WeChat Stores.

Chinese KOL, Gogoboi, launched his own WeChat boutique ‘Bu Da Jing Xuan’ last year: a platform on which he curated selections of goods from luxury retailers such as Net-A-Porter and Farfetch to sell to his fans.

Image Source: Luxuo
Image Source: Luxuo

Givenchy launched its new Duetto handbag collection on his platform and became the first luxury brand to test out an influencer’s own e-commerce channel.

Seven styles of the bag were made available – the classic black and white version sold out within half an hour of the launch. Within 72 hours, all other remaining styles of the bag were sold out.

SEEN is compiled by LOVE’s Head of Culture, Kat Towers. Want to say hello, ask questions or challenge her cultural knowledge then get in touch kattowers@lovecreative.com