KOL stands for Key Opinion Leader. A couple of examples of famous Key Opinion Leaders are Stephen King, Chiara Ferraggni, Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Yamashita, and Rosanna Pansino. They are individuals that have reached professional or expert status.
When they advocate a brand or product, the brand or product is elevated in the eye of the consumer because of their expert opinion. They exist because their opinion is trusted and because of their experience, not just because of their popularity. KOLs are a common marketing tactic in China but not so much outside the world of healthcare marketing in the United States.
KOL as Another Name for Influencer?
The definition for a Key Opinion Leader may sound like the definition for an Influencer. They both describe individuals who are trusted among their audiences and have the power to engage and impact people. An Influencer can be a Key Opinion Leader and a Key Opinion Leader can be an Influencer, but being one does not automatically make one the other.
An Influencer’s credibility comes from their online persona and content. Their audiences are connected by their attitude, personality, and/or lifestyle which are akin to the Influencer. Being relatable makes an influencer a perceived authority figure. Their opinions are trusted because they are liked.
The Key Opinion Leader
Key Opinion Leaders are knowledgeable because of their experience, professional qualifications, or time spent studying a particular subject. This knowledge makes them trusted and respected. An Influencer loves their subject, but a KOL lives it. A person can be a KOL in their field of study or industry whether they had a following or not.
Key Opinion Leaders influence Influencers. Think of a key opinion leader as the top of a pyramid of influence. They are the most prominent voices within their communities and their industries. Their credibility impacts purchasing decisions and sets trends. They engage with other Key Opinion Leaders in their industry while Influencers engage with average consumers.
Why Use KOL Marketing?
KOL marketing can be effective and more powerful than traditional marketing at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing methods. As long as it’s done right, they can strengthen a brand’s image. Yet, hiring a KOL to simply promote a brand without the person caring about the brand will have a reverse effect. Consumers can see through the ploy.
Key Opinion Leaders have the power to influence purchasing decisions like an Influencer. They can be Influencers, but not necessarily. KOLs are respected for their knowledge and experience which can be beneficial in the marketing world.