The last word from the east: China's key opinion leaders

Barney Loehnis
Ogilvy & Mather

A chief marketing officer of a large global brand in China told me last week how important mass opinion was in China as a driver to sales. In a country of such superlative proportions, brands must demonstrate superlative support for their product. The challenge is how to influence mass opinion, without huge media budgets, in a country bigger than every market in Europe combined.

The solution may not be one you expect. One of the core features of Chinese marketing is that some of the largest media properties happen to be bloggers, or 'key opinion leaders'.

KOLs, as they are known, can have millions of followers – 20 million-plus, a size of audience that any station would relish. It's commonly accepted that you have to pay to have these bloggers get behind your brand, so it turns out that most earned media is, in fact, paid media in China.