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What are the differences between a KOC, a KOL and a brand ambassador?

When it comes to influencer marketing in China, the most common keywords are KOL, KOC and brand ambassador. But what is a KOL, KOC or brand ambassador? How do we define them precisely?

Digitalization in China

When it comes to influencer marketing in China, the most common keywords are KOL, KOC, and brand ambassador. But what is a KOL, KOC or brand ambassador? How do we define them precisely?

As some of us may have heard before, a KOL, or key opinion leader, is in fact known in the western hemisphere as a social media influencer. To be specific, this is a person or organization who has expert product knowledge and influence in a specific field. They are trusted by relevant interest groups and have significant effects on consumer behavior.

A KOC, on the other hand, is a key opinion customer, or so-called content creator, and is not defined by their number of followers. It could be anyone with an active social media account. This is the latest form of an influencer in China, with expertise in testing and reviewing products. Given that their content is highly reliable, they play an important role in the decision-making process of their viewers, regardless of the relatively small audience size.

Lastly, a brand ambassador is the most common term that everyone has heard of before. This is a person who is hired by an organization or company to represent a brand in a positive light, and by doing so, helps to increase brand awareness and sales. Brand ambassadors are popular and followed by many people, so it makes sense that marketers benefit from using them in order to get their message across. They can easily capture consumers' attention, link the brand with their own personal image, and associate their positive attributes with those of the product concerned. The brand ambassador is to embrace and represent the corporate identity in image, values, and ethics. The key element of brand ambassadors is their ability to use promotional strategies that will strengthen the relationship between customer, product, and service.

When to use and what could be the costs?

There are indeed some obvious differences between KOCs and KOLs. Firstly, it is the level of initiative. A KOL is mainly approached by brands to endorse their products, and in return, he or she will receive incentives such as cash compensation or product barter, whilst a KOC, as a regular content creator without a personal monetary motive, is normally doing the product reviewing purely as a hobby or out of personal interest. In short, a KOC’s product review and recommendation results will come across often as authentic.

Secondly, there are significant differences between the three types of influencers’ number of followers. Brand ambassadors normally already have millions of followers, whereas KOLs, in the second position, usually have a smaller range. 
Last but not least is the KOC. In their case, the total number of followers is not a crucial criterion, but authenticity is more the key.

In conclusion, a 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 and the influencers, hence the authenticity might not be as strong as a KOC. Moreover, a KOC is often just starting out as a content creator hobbyist. From a brand perspective, the decision to use KOLs, KOCs or brand ambassadors relies completely on the brand’s long-term vision and strategy. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to influencer marketing.

When talking about costs, there is no standard pricing for brand ambassadors and the quotation is always on a case-by-case basis, with a floating rate.

The costs vary between the most popular platforms in China, as here:

GALLERY