Are KOL Collaborations Still Important For Luxury Brands In China?

Chinese brands like Perfect Diary are riding the wave of nationalism and fostering relationships with KOLs to stand out in a cut-throat retail market.

Collaborating with celebrities and key opinion leaders (KOLs) is a popular way for Chinese and global brands to leverage vast fan bases, reach new audiences, and ultimately spur revenue. This is particularly true when a brand taps a celebrity or KOL who is associated with a specific niche — be it sports, wellness, cosmetics, or fragrances. “Fan-focused” collaborations are a tried-and-tested approach in China. While brands have signed Chinese brand ambassadors and spokespeople for decades, collaborations in which the celebrity takes a more active role akin to a co-creative director and essentially “co-brands” a product or collection have only gained ground over the past several years.

Typically, in this type of collaboration, the brand produces a run of one or more items employing a tweaked design or colorway chosen by the KOL or a customized range of products created with his or her input, released in limited quantities to fuel urgency and demand among fan bases.

One example of this approach is Givenchy’s 2019 collaboration with the popular Chinese handbag blogger Mr. Bags (Tao Liang) on a limited-edition pink Mini Horizon purse. Priced at 15,000 yuan ($2,243), the collection sold out in just 12 minutes. Another international brand that took this KOL-led approach is Milan-based Palm Angels, which launched a collaboration in July 2021 with Team Wang, the aforementioned streetwear brand founded in 2020 by Hong Kong designer and performer Jackson Wang 王 嘉爾. The eight-piece, unisex capsule collection included a track jacket and pants, souvenir jacket, sweatshirt, bowling shirt, long sleeve tee, short sleeve tee, and cropped women’s T-shirt.

Domestic Chinese brands are arguably using this strategy to the greatest effect, riding the wave of brand nationalism that has swept the country in recent years and leveraging big-name collaborations to stand out in a cut-throat retail market.

One domestic brand that has made KOL collaborations a cornerstone of its marketing efforts is Perfect Diary. Founded in 2016, the Yatsen Holding-owned Chinese beauty brand rapidly conquered China’s local cosmetics market through affordable pricing, slick marketing tactics and product design, and a deep understanding of what makes young consumers, quite literally, click. Continue to read the full article here