The 3 Ks of Marketing Influence🚀

Mike Berland
3 min readNov 19, 2021

First came TikTok, now comes KOCs, KOLs, and KMEs. The future of marketing influence is happening in China.

Led by consumer behavior in China, savvy marketers are realizing that it’s not enough to hire a couple of celeb key opinion leaders (KOLs) to build momentum on social. You get more bang for your marketing buck from less famous key opinion consumers (KOCs) and Genuinfluencers (KMEs) — microinfluencers garner engagement rates on average 60% higher than mega / celeb influencers.


Valuing engagement more than reach. Momentum-seeking brands are evolving their influencer strategies to learn from China and benefit from a combination of KOLs, KOCs, and KMEs across markets.

Take Spotify, who partners with KOCs using its “Discover Weekly” tool, letting users get playlist suggestions from folks just like them. Google worked with DIY influencers @TheSorryGirls to get unprecedented engagement from their small but loyal following.

To maximize influencer performance & balance exclusivity and relatability like momentum masters: use KOLs to build brand image and awareness, KOCs for brand engagement and trust, and Genuinfluencers for purpose & social impact work.


Relying solely on celebs. Brands need to shift their influencer strategies to include a mix of a few KOLs, a couple genuinfluencers and many KOCs.


To create influencer marketing that maximizes momentum, brands should leverage the 5 drivers:

  1. Disruption: It used to be all about how many followers an influencer has. Now brands are choosing partners based on the new holy grail: relevance and authenticity.
  2. Innovation: The definition of influencers is evolving in part because Gen Z has lost trust in celeb endorsements. They’re instead turning to KOCs for more authentic content from peers within their online communities.
  3. Polarization: Different breeds of influencers are motivated differently. KOLs mainly want to make money, KOCs promote products they’re passionate about, and genuinfluencers want to spread the word about causes they care about.
  4. Stickiness: KOCs and genuinfluencers have tight knit audiences — though small, they are often more engaged, making brand marketing more impactful and long-lasting.
  5. Social Impact: Brands that want to address complex issues and promote social causes should partner with genuinfluencers to talk about these topics — without any mention of product.

WATCHOUT: The downside of working with KOCs is that their audience is smaller. Brands may have to work with a variety of KOCs to get the same reach a KOL can garner with a single post.

Learn from Olay China: To shake the perception of being a “brand for mothers” and appeal to a younger generation, Olay ran an expert campaign using KOCs in China on Little Red Book (China’s largest fashion / luxury shopping platform). The campaign encouraged young student KOCs to speak from their perspective about Olay’s anti-aging products. Many KOCs created posts on skincare routines for fellow students, reviewing Olay products on their anti-aging benefits, focusing on retaining youthful skin. This campaign successfully helped Olay establish a younger brand image & sparked increased engagement with a younger subset of consumers.

Best Days Ahead,



Mike Berland

Momentum Maker, Author of Maximum Momentum, Founder & CEO of Decode_M