Deeper KOL Collaborations Help Brands Stand out in a Sea of Noise

Brands naturally have a fear of taking risks, so when they collaborate with influencers, the majority of them tend to stick to the same tried and true formats like having them make sponsored posts or attend offline events.

While it’s the KOL’s responsibility to create interesting content on behalf of their brand, these repetitive campaign formats can get stale for both the influencer and their followers. Given this, brands are starting to realize that they need to come up with new ways to work with bloggers that will excite the KOL and capture their audience’s attention. Oftentimes, that means letting the KOL take a greater role in the creative direction of the campaign.

Recently, there have been several excellent examples of this approach from luxury brands Stuart Weitzman, Secoo, and Swisse. Let’s take a look at them:

Stuart Weitzman & Ximen Dasao

Late last month, the luxury shoe brand Stuart Weitzman invited the popular WeChat fashion influencer Ximen Dasao (@原来是西门大嫂) and her team to be the official stylists for the brand’s three Spring fashion shows in the Chinese cities of Shenyang, Wuhan, and Ningbo. There’s no denying Stuart Weitzman took a risk inviting her to take over the creative direction of the shows, but it appears Dasao was a wise choice. She is a big fan of Stuart Weitzman and has previously featured their products in her articles on numerous occasions.

The lengthy WeChat article she wrote recounting her experience reached over 100,000 views and gave readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it felt like to have this opportunity and what went into styling the looks for the three shows. Readers left dozens of positive comments and shared which outfits and shoes they liked the most. In China, many fans find KOLs to be aspirational and like to live vicariously through their favorite influencers. Seeing Dasao have this opportunity was also very exciting for her fans and something they would relish in following.

Secoo & Becky Li

From April 20th to May 4th, the Chinese luxury e-commerce platform Secoo collaborated with top fashion blogger Becky Li by holding an event called “寺库千万博主展.” For this event, Secoo created a pop-up mock home that was modeled after certain rooms (and closets!) in Li’s actual home. A curated selection of products from over 100 brands available on Secoo was integrated into the set, including luxury bags, clothes, and shoes.

Secoo customers and Li’s fans were invited to her “home” as if they were friends with Li. If they saw a product they were interested in while at the event, they could scan a QR code under the product and purchase it immediately. The event was quite successful, generating $2.9 million (20 million RMB) in sales within 15 days. By re-creating rooms from Li’s home, the atmosphere felt more intimate than a regular showroom or pop-up, and that allowed fans to feel closer to Li, as if they were actually sifting through their friend’s closet to find something to wear.

And according to an article by top fashion WeChat account LadyMax, Secoo became the first platform to create a custom Mini Program for a KOL event and promote it in WeChat Moments, which showed just how much Secoo trusted that Li would be able to produce results.

Swisse x Gogoboi

During his recent trip to China for the premiere of the wildly popular movie Avengers: Endgame, actor Chris Hemsworth did a live-streamed interview that was sponsored by the vitamin brand Swisse, for which he’s a brand ambassador. But instead of having a regular host conduct the interview, Swisse invited top fashion KOL Gogoboi to interview Hemsworth. The interview format was casual, with the two of them chatting about the entertainment industry, fashion, food, and health while they ate Chinese snacks and played games.

The interview was a welcome departure from the usual cold and distant brand ambassador campaign, and because the two of them are both quite successful and well-known figures in their own respective fields with some overlapping industry experiences, they had plenty to talk about and were able to have a real conversation. With this relaxed format, the audience was able to build an emotional connection with Hemsworth and Gogoboi — and in turn, with Swisse.

With a growing number of luxury brands appointing Chinese brand ambassadors, this KOL-turned-interviewer format is worth considering and could breathe some life into otherwise dull ambassador campaigns. Whether it’s having them style a show, design a product, or take over your social media accounts, involving KOLs in a campaign on a deeper level and giving them increased ownership of the creative process can benefit the outcome of the campaign as well as strengthen the KOL’s long-term relationship with the brand. And by giving creative control to the KOL, they will naturally be excited by the opportunity — an excitement that will organically be passed on to their followers.