Chinese KOLs vs Western Influencers

Chinese KOLs vs. Western Influencers: How does an instagram post compare to a minute of livestreaming?

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KOL marketing spans across PR (public relations), social media and content marketing. Both KOLs in China and influencers of western countries are playing a very crucial role in public relations and marketing. The differences between Chinese KOLs and western influencers reflects the different perspectives of aesthetics, entertainment, and social media preferences of two cultures. So how do these two groups of influencers differ from each other?

Chinese KOLs and Western influencers earning potential

Top 5 highest paid influencers in the west

Influencers typically advertise products on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms. Businesses pay a large amount of money to them with a lot of followers to promote their products. If the  followers appear to match the company’s target customers, it will pay more.

Here are the five highest paid Western influencers

  1. Kylie Jenner: $1 million per sponsored Instagram post.
  2. Ariana Grande: a little less than $1 million per sponsored Instagram post.
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo: $ 975,000 per sponsored Instagram post.
  4. Kim Kardashian-West: $ 910,000 per sponsored Instagram post.
  5. Selena Gomez: $ 900,000 per sponsored Instagram post.

Influencer is becoming the fastest growing channel for brand marketing. Based on a Tomson study, western businesses earn $6.50 for each dollar spent on influencer with the top 13% earning more than $20, which is a significant return.

The two Chinese KOLs with the strongest sales power

Compared to the hundreds of thousand dollar instagram posts of western influencers, Chinese KOLs can make over a million RMB in sales revenue a minute during live-streams. On October 21st 2018, Li Jiaqi averaged around 1.77 milllion RMB (around 250 thousand USD) sales revenue a minute during a six hour twelve minute live-stream. Coming in second, Weiya averaged 1.64 million RMB (around 234 thousand USD) revenue a minute on the same day.

Chinese KOLs are relatively more active on live broadcasts platforms, like Tiktok and Taobao live broadcast. Li Jiaqi(李佳琦) and Weiya(薇娅) are the most representative KOLs in China with strong sales power. Li Jiaqi is the “No.1 Lipstick sales ” who sold 15,000 lipsticks in 5 minutes; Weiya is the “the most powerful promoter” that made a record of over 267 million products in a single (2 hours) live broadcast.

On October 20th, on the eve of the Double 11 pre-sale, Li Jiaqi once surpassed Weiya on the hottest Chinese KOLs ranking list(巅峰榜). In the end, Weiya ranked the top of the hottest ranking list with 550 million live broadcasts traffic.

the hottest Chinese KOL ranking list

Source: Baijiahao, the hottest Chinese KOL ranking list

Li Jiaqi Live Data on 21st October 2018

Li Jiaqi started the live broadcast at 20:14 on October 20th and finished at 01:36 on the 21st. The name of the live broadcast room was “miss the start of 21st, you will regret the whole year”. From start to finish, the cumulative number of viewers reached 31.78 million. Among them, Li Jiaqi sold a total of 39 types of products, sales volume of 1.527 million, sales revenue reached 660.7 million RMB.

Li Jiaqi live data

Source: Zhigua Data, Li Jiaqi live data

Weiya Live Data on 21st October 2018

Wei Ya started the live broadcast at 20:00 on 20th, 14 minutes earlier than Li Jiaqi, and finished at 02:43 on the 21st. During this period, the cumulative number of viewers reached 38.11 million, a total of 242,000 new fans, a total of 57 types of products were sold, sales volume was 976,000, and sales revenue was 661.2 million RMB.

Weiya live-stream data

Source: Zhigua Data, Weiya live data

Their live broadcasts on the day of Double 11 in 2018 proved their incredible sales power. Wei Ya achieved more than 267 million volume sales a day. Li Jiaqi sold 15,000 orders in 5 minutes, which defeated the record created by Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.

Chinese KOLs like Li Jiaqi and Weiya can feed dozens of factories in China. As Wei Ya said, no matter how much money she made, she would never stop working. If she stopped her live broadcasts, many factories might be closed. Other than advertising income, they also have commission. Weiya can make 2,370,000 RMB income for one live broadcast, and Li Jiaqi can make 3,150,000 RMB for one live broadcast.

Comparison between top western influencers and Chinese KOLs

In contrast to Chinese KOLs livestreaming, western influencers them promote products by well-produced and creative videos posted on Youtube, Instagram and other social media platforms. The quality of those videos can compare with MTV in Hollywood and even comparable to the quality of film production.

Jeffree Star vs. Li Jiaqi

Jeffree Star is a male, born in 1986. His father died when he was 6 years old. His mother is a professional model and has a profound influence on his aesthetic and preferences in a subtle way. He started to wear makeup when he was 12 years old, tried women’s clothing after attending high school, and finally showed himself as a “female image”. Initially, Jeffree Star was active as a model and singer, and was favored by Lady Gaga’s mentor, Akon. Akon boasted that he would become Gaga No.2. However, it did not come true. Later, Jeffree Star was famous for his creative makeup display on YouTube.

Jeffree Star cremation palette

Source: WWD, Jeffree Star cremation palette

Four of the five highest paid western influencers are celebrities. Jeffree Star can make a good comparison with the Chinese KOL, Li Jiaqi, as they both are just influencers not celebrities.

Both Chinese KOL, Li Jiaqi and Western KOL, Jeffree Star focus on makeup. KOLs in China have more restrictions than in western countries. Before Li Jiaqi, most of makeup promotors were female KOLs in China. Li Jiaqi always tries lipsticks directly on his lips to better show the real colors, which was very bold for a male KOL in China. However, this is nothing compared to what Jeffree Star has going on.

Annual Income: Li Jiaqi (140 million US ) vs. Jeffree Star (100 million US dollars)

The profit model between these two make-up enthusiasts is quite different. Li Jiaqi’s team earns 1 billion RMB advertising revenue per year. Jeffree owns his personal brand “Jeffree Star Cosmetics” and make 100 million US dollars per year. He is no longer just a KOL but also a famous brand entrepreneur. Based on the data, Li Jiaqi’s team create more revenue than Jeffree Star’s cosmetics company.

Source: Shangyexinzhi, Jeffree Star Cosmetics

Business Model: Li Jiaqi (marketing team) vs. Jeffree Star (vertical business line)

Vertical business line, vertical e-commerce brand is a profit model that many western KOLs are adopting. They start from becoming influencers, then accumulating fans, doing a lot of traffic, and finally forming an independent vertical brand. This is a very different business environment between the KOLs in United States and KOLs in China. Some Chinese KOLs are trying to adopt the same business model. However, many of them were facing quality problems and failed. Vertical business line can also make profits for KOLs in China but following the example of Li Jiaqi might be more suitable in the Chinese market. Li Jiaqi’s team plays a role of a marketer but not involved into production.


Learn more about KOL marketing in China

China Paradigms podcast on how to leverage Chinese KOLs in marketing

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