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NOVEMBER 17, 2017 //     

Which APAC KOLs are Key?

Photo: topchinatravel.com

By: Paul Mottram

Across Asia Pacific, social media has become mainstream. In China, for example, there almost one billion users of WeChat, Tencent’s messaging service that combines messaging with social sharing, ecommerce and payments. Marketing resources – whether paid, owned or earned – are highly allocated towards social platforms.

Amid this shift, marketers are increasingly turning to online influencers, often known simply as KOLs (key opinion leaders) as an alternative to interruptive, frequently intrusive, and often ineffective banner-based advertising. The logic is simple: social endorsement from online opinion leaders or celebrities will reach and appeal to consumers in a natural and compelling way as they scroll through their feeds.

At Allison+Partners, we wanted to look more closely at how influence really works. So, the latest installment of our Influence Impact Report, takes a deep dive into the dynamics of influence in Asia.

This October, we surveyed 3,065 consumers across the China, Japan and Singapore markets, looking in particular at the food & beverage, financial services, consumer electronics & mobile devices, and travel & leisure sectors. We wanted to understand what kinds of influencers have the greatest and deepest impact? How do consumers weigh the influence of KOLs against that of their friends, families and peers closer to home? And ultimately, how does influence translate into word-of-mouth buzz, shares, and recommendations for brands and products?

The research reveals some intriguing findings:

  • While Asian consumers in these markets are overwhelmingly online, often for at least 3-4 hours per day, direct word of mouth remains the single most powerful influence on them
  • Younger Asian consumers are frequently more conservative, skeptical of change and seeking validation for their product or service choices
  • The brand attributes most valued are social responsibility and visual presentation that matches the consumer’s preferences
  • Influence comes from a variety of sources, depending on the product category. Online influencers and KOLs play a role, but it’s often subsidiary to other sources, such as professional or expert reviews, feature articles, and consumer reviews—and always works in concert with them
  • KOLs are most followed in China, followed by Singapore and Japan
  • Consumers who follow KOLs are on average significantly more likely to recommend products and services to their friends, family and co-workers than those who don’t

The report reveals the complex nature of influence in the region, and suggests a framework for understanding and leveraging it. Influencing word-of-mouth is the name of the game, and getting it right involves not only selecting the right influencers, but also appealing to the subset of consumers – we call them Engaged Enthusiasts – that has a disproportionate influence on their peers.

Download the Influence Impact Report here, and contact us for more information on how we help brands get influence strategy right.

Paul Mottram is managing director of All Told, Asia Pacific.

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