KOL | Why Key Opinion Leaders are the Future of Marketing

Kimberly Surico |
 04/26/21 |
5 min read

KOL | Why Key Opinion Leaders are the Future of Marketing

Consumers are turning to Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) for opinions on where they should spend their hard-earned money. As a result, savvy brands are taking advantage of the high returns, high level of trust, and wide reach of KOLs to benefit their businesses by way of brand awareness and perception. If brands want to attract more consumer attention to themselves, leveraging key opinion leader intel is a smart path to follow.

We’ll break this down into digestible bits detailing all things KOL and how they can help your brand. We will discuss:

  • KOLs capturing the marketing limelight
  • Benefits brands see when utilizing KOL intel
  • Key opinion leaders guiding us into the future

And these stats speak directly to the impacts KOLs have on influencer marketing:

  • 74% of consumers cited word-of-mouth as affecting their purchasing decisions, and KOLs lead the ‘word-of-mouth’ pack.
  • This year, over 67% of U.S. marketers in companies with more than 100 employees expect to use influencer marketing to elevate their brand.
  • Working with KOLs creates conversation around you and your products and can lead to higher revenues.

KOLs and Consumer Interest

As brands work to boost their visibility as the Olympics draw near, having a key opinion leader on their side is certainly be beneficial.

What is a KOL though?

A key opinion leader is an authority in their field; someone whose opinion can be relied on for niche expertise. Maybe they may helped create a new patent that boosts their visibility, or they’ve written many books in a genre (Stephen King in Horror, for instance). Regardless of why – their opinions are sought out. But – and this is how they differentiate from influencers – they are not paid sponsorship moneys. Really, ever. This is because it could damage their credibility and be seen as a conflict of interest.

They’re impartial, objective experts – and because of this, their insight is brand gold. There are some grey spaces as well though – and we’ll explore them in a moment.

People listen to KOLs and this is huge, as 74% of consumers cite word of mouth as affecting their purchasing decisions. So aligning with a KOL is a no brainer regardless of industry, including the Olympics.

KOL Athletes

As the Olympic games draw near, Olympians are in training. And consumers are hanging on their every word, excited to cheer for their favorite athlete. And consumer insights analytics shows a corresponding increase in conversation around it, with mentions and posts steadily climbing upwards.


And brands will want to be a part of this conversation. No doubt KOLs in the Olympian space such as vets Simone Biles or Sue Bird will be talking about the games, especially as they train to compete in Tokyo this summer. And brands would be wise to listen to what these athletes are saying, as they can directly benefit. CarMax is certainly cashing in:

Let’s explore how this can look for other brands below.

Brands Benefiting from KOLs

A key opinion leader cannot be swayed, but a company can align themselves with one. And this may result in the KOL giving a nod your way! One great example of this is Elon Musk. He needs only to mention Bitcoin or Dogecoin, and stocks go soaring. For instance, on February 7th there’s a large spike due to Elon Musk’s Tesla investing in Bitcoin, which then sent Bitcoin stock surging by 20%. Social listening reveals this KOL’s ability to greatly influence the crowd, as the conversation continues to climb long after that date:


And sometimes, as hinted to earlier, a key opinion leader can be an influencer as well. Though influencers are less effective than KOLs, they are still extremely influential – more so, depending on the person and category.

Influencers are paid for their opinions, but everyone knows this, so they still have more credibility than the companies paying them. And their strong social media presence allows them to connect meaningfully and authentically with their followers. This is a powerful marketing tool, 86% percent of consumers say authenticity is critical when deciding on the companies they’ll support. Utilizing KOL influencers can be a lucrative avenue to get your message across in a genuine way, gaining brand love.

Connecting with KOL Influencers

Who are these KOL influencers exactly? Athletes offer ready examples actually! They’re super skilled and respected in their categories, but they’re also known to accept sponsorships. It’s an expected part of their compensation, so it doesn’t reflect poorly on them, nor take away from their massive skill.

For example, our veteran Olympian, KOL and influencer, Megan Rapinoe, comes right out and says she has partnered with Schmidt’s natural deodorant. Yet, she’s able to display it in a funny, genuine and engaging way that her audience has come to expect from her.

And then we see Jacarra Winchester in this Instagram post – training for Tokyo. She doesn’t mention Under Armour, but it’s clear she wears their clothing during her Olympic workouts. This is a subtle nod to the brand – and to her 13.3K fans.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Jacarra Winchester (@jacarra016)

With influencer marketing growing, we see 67% of U.S. marketers in companies boasting more than 100 employees expected to use it this year. Every brand should be. Having the right influencer can lead to more conversation around your company, and certainly increase revenue. But you have to know where to look and have the right social analytics tool to strategize around connecting with – or attracting the attention of – relevant KOLs.

The Key Opinion Leaders of Tomorrow

The key opinion leaders of tomorrow are TBD, but potential candidates can be teased out from trending conversations. And brands that find these folks early can create meaningful interactions with them – become a part of that realm of expertise, or at least a place this KOL likes.

A brand doing this needs to have their own developed brand voice, maintain consistent messaging, and demonstrate fully formalized values and goals. Partnering with KOL influencers who align is impossible otherwise. And this internal messaging is critical for any brand to have at the ready regardless, on this increasingly visible global stage. Additionally, this can turn a brand into a key opinion leader themselves. Just ask Ralph Lauren – they accomplished this in the sustainability space.

Market research reveals KOLs in the fashion category, specifically from the sustainability sector, and Ralph Lauren is present as number 9. Other notable brands can be seen as well.


How did they get there?

Ralph Lauren has a distinct voice and has found ways to amplify it over the years, including an influencer marketing strategy. One such example is Olympian, Sakura Kokumai. This photo of her sporting Ralph Lauren as the official outfitter for Team USA can be seen on her Instagram.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sakura Kokumai (@sakurakokumaikarate)

Sakura’s influence as part of Team USA offers a powerful assist to Ralph Lauren in both visibility and sustainability. With sustainability as one of the hot button issues for the forseeable future, this is a smart move by the savvy fashion guru.

And your brand can be just as savvy, and entice some KOL influencers to tell your tale – or at least help amplify it thought targeted interactions, but you need to understand them first. Aligning your brand with industry experts is lots easier when you can analyze their conversations in real-time! Reach out for a demo and we’ll put the tools to do precisely that in your hands.

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