How Opinion Leaders Make a Dramatic Entrance in Every Industry

Michael Seymour |
 05/08/23 |
10 min read

How Opinion Leaders Make a Dramatic Entrance in Every Industry

For a long time, opinion leaders have held significant sway over society, particularly in consumer behavior. And the fashion industry is no different. Recently opinion leaders gathered at The Metropolitan Museum of Art to strut their stuff at the Met Gala, and people from around the world tuned in to watch them sashay their way into consumers’ hearts—and solildify their hold over consumer behaviors.

Consumers want to see what the rich and famous are doing, what they’re wearing, and most importantly, what they say. And they listen.

Collaborating or associating with these influential opinion leaders can set your brand apart, earning respect and appreciation from both customers and rivals. And every industry can profit from these influential figures. And we’re sharing how partnering with an opinion leader can enhance your reputation, inform your marketing strategies, and so much more, including:

  • How to identify and engage with opinion leaders
  • Examples of successful opinion leader campaigns
  • Benefits of working with opinion leaders
  • Tips for building long-term relationships with opinion leaders
  • The importance of opinion leaders in modern marketing

What are Opinion Leaders?

Opinion leaders can come in the form of influencers or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). However, there is a significant difference between the two:

A Key Opinion Leader (KOL) is a highly respected and trustworthy individual with extensive knowledge and experience in a specific area. KOLs can come from various backgrounds, such as healthcare, finances, agriculture, fitness, fashion, etc. They cannot be paid for their opinion and would find it offensive.

An influencer, on the other hand, is an individual within your niche or industry who possesses significant influence over your intended audience. These individuals have specialized knowledge, authority, or insights into a particular subject matter. And brands can partner with them to market their products.

To add further context, here are stats that speak to the value and growth of aligning or partnering with opinion leaders:

  • In the UK alone, there was a 400% increase in Google searches for “influencer marketing” between 2016 and 2021.
  • Germany claims the second spot for most spent on opinion leader marketing, with a spending of $14.96 billion (16.7%), while France secured the third spot with a spending of $10.73 billion (12%).
  • The influencer marketing industry in France is projected to achieve an average annual growth rate of 30% until 2025.

The Role of Opinion Leaders in Marketing

Opinion leaders are influential in marketing because they influence their followers’ and admirers’ opinions and behaviors. They are authorities in their fields and have established themselves as trustworthy sources of information and advice. Opinion leaders are frequently perceived as reliable and objective, creating strong ties with their audience. As a result, when influential people support or promote a product or service, their followers are more inclined to pay attention and follow suit.

By collaborating with thought leaders, companies can leverage their authority and reach a larger audience, increasing brand visibility, consumer engagement, and sales. Opinion leaders may help a brand generate attention, influence purchasing decisions, and provide helpful input to help improve goods or services. In addition, they can also offer insights and perspectives that can help brands to develop and refine their marketing strategies.

So, how do brands know which opinion leaders to engage with, and how do they find them? We’ll dive into that next.

How to Identify and Engage with Opinion Leaders

There are a lot of opinion leaders out there for virtually every industry—whether you are in CPG, healthcare, fashion, or automotive—you name it—there’s an opinion leader for it. But it’s not as simple as closing your eyes and randomly picking one.

The opinion leader you choose must suit your brand and align with your goals, messaging, image, and more. Consumer intelligence can help brands identify the right key influencers in their category or within other categories they hope to break into. Let’s take a look.

The first step is to understand what your audience cares about. By identifying these trending conversations, brands can effectively target their audiences with content that resonates while giving themselves a brand boost. For example, looking at our fashion conversation, social listening can show us top trending terms, brands, people, and even hashtags:

colored words showing top trending terms, brands, people, hashtags

The Met Gala is a major event in fashion and attracts significant attention. This could be a topic of conversation that interests your target audience; it’s essential to identify an appropriate opinion leader to engage with them effectively.

When identifying an opinion leader, the capability to structure and present information according to precise requirements is essential for agencies and brands. And being able to customize criteria and dashboards for analyzing influencers and KOLs, such as identifying an influencer within their industry or evaluating a recognized KOL, is critical.

influencer dashboard templates

Influencer analysis reveals top influencers for the fashion conversation. These industry leaders come in many boxes, not just via artists. They can be gamers, educators, health advocates, and more. Below are the more obvious categories of artists and designers and fashion and entertainment.

influencers for met gala influencers for met gala 2

From here, companies can track potential opinion leaders to understand better how they perform over time and how consumers engage with them. Once you’re sure of whom you’d like to work or align with, you must engage. But how is that done?

Brands can engage opinion leaders in a variety of ways. And these ways may vary depending on whether you’re working with an influencer or aligning with a KOL. We’ve outlined some ways brands can leverage opinion leaders below.


Brands can work with influencers to develop content, products, or campaigns that reflect their expertise and values. You see this form most often on social media, where an online personality will use a product in a TikTok video or Instagram Reel. For example, we have Met Gala attendee and online personality Emma Chamberlain, who partnered with Lancome to create a four-part video series:


By creating a relationship with opinion leaders, brands can fund events, conferences, or speaking engagements where they are present. This allows an opinion leader to see your support and tell your consumers you care about the same things.

Advisory boards: Opinion leaders can provide strategic insights and assistance in understanding what content might benefit brands. By inviting thought leaders to join their advisory boards, they can find ways to stay relevant with their audiences by offering resonating content. An older yet still relevant example of this is Clorox, who, in 2020, established an influencer advisory board to help them navigate influencer marketing.

Thought leadership: Brands can work with opinion leaders to generate content such as white papers or webinars to help the brand establish itself as a thought leader in their sector. For example, Rolex has collaborated with TED (short for Technology, Entertainment, and Design) to showcase its commitment to innovation and social responsibility. This partnership has enabled viewers to access and discover new ideas through TED Talks, connecting the brand with a global audience.

Sharing on social media: Brands can engage with opinion leaders by sharing their content, commenting on their postings, and creating relationships with them. And it’s not just about creating a dialogue with the opinion leader but also about communicating with your audience that you align with the values and thoughts of this leader.

These are just some ways your brand can leverage opinion leaders to help boost your brand health or campaign. And now, let’s look at some examples of companies that’ve done just that!

Examples of successful opinion leader campaigns

There are so many successful opinion leader/brand collaborations. This year at Met Gala 2023, we saw many of these opinion leaders shine in their finest fashions. So, it makes sense to focus on some of these greats and the successful brands behind them!

Karl Lagerfeld and Met Gala

This first one is a little on the nose–Karl Lagerfeld’s influence can be felt and is still being harnessed even after his passing to elevate events such as the Met Gala 2023. For this year’s theme, The Metropolitan Museum of Art used “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” which pays tribute to the iconic fashion designer’s long and successful career in the fashion industry.

Lagerfeld, a frequent visitor of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and a staunch supporter of the Met Gala, worked for several fashion houses and left a lasting impact on the industry that is still being felt, still drawing crowds, boosting the Met’s presence. Many celebrities and opinion leaders dressed to honor the late visionary, including our next opinion leader, who transformed into a cat to honor Lagerfeld’s feline friend…

karl largerfield met website imagery

Doja Cat and JBL

An attendee of the Met Gala this year, Doja Cat is an influencer and icon in her own right. She recently partnered with speaker and headphone brand JBL. The brand recognized the need to reach the internet-savvy Gen Z audience and took an authentic approach to engage with the singer’s followers.

Rather than creating a campaign, JBL worked with Doja Cat to curate a message that resonated with her audience without over-editing or over-briefing the influencer. Doja Cat announced the collaboration non-verbally by wearing a customized JBL Clip 4 speaker on her handbag on the red carpet at the Grammy’s.

JBL’s strategy paid off, as community engagement led to a significant 3,000% increase in traffic to from TikTok alone. Since then, they’ve continued the beautiful partnership with great success.

@jblaudio #duet with @Vogue channeling her memories and pretending like we were actually at the #MetGala ✨ cat ears and fur sold separately😼 #JBL #JBLClip4 #JBLxMe ♬ original sound – Vogue

Louis Vuitton with Pharrell Williams

Louis Vuitton, a renowned fashion powerhouse, has established itself as an opinion leader in the industry by leading the way during the 2020 hand sanitizer crisis and continuing to take the lead when leadership is needed. As a cultural influencer, the brand partnered with Pharrell Williams, appointed as the new menswear creative director, to demonstrate its cultural capital creation.

However, building and wielding cultural influence requires a different set of skills than producing and selling goods, which many brands underestimate. To strongly engage with Gen-Z consumers, Louis Vuitton focused on authenticity, digital mastery, and experience over products by partnering with Williams.

pharell williams LV website imagery

Anne Hathaway and Versace

Anne Hathaway is a fashion icon and proved it at the Met Gala, dressed in Versace while striking a pose with Donatella Versace herself—two opinion leaders with great power and poise and two robust and influential women in the fashion industry. Recently Anne was named the official face of Versace, and Donatella Versace herself shared the announcement on Instagram with her 10.3 million followers.

These women aren’t just opinion leaders in fashion but in business—and thus are worth watching and paying attention to for brands looking to strengthen their voices in the world of women and business.

Jenna Ortega and Adidas

Jenna Ortega may be the style icon that defines Gen Z. Since her role in the Wednesday series, she can be seen dressed to impress everywhere, including the Met Gala. Jenna Ortega, an actress, producer, and advocate, has debuted with Adidas, fronting the brand’s new label and Spring Summer 23 collection.

Though not a luxury fashion brand, Adidas knows a good thing when they see it. Jenna is known for her unique style and unapologetic expression of her beliefs. And she is seen as a next-generation icon who reflects and champions individualism and versatility. This aligns perfectly with Adidas Sportswear’s brand ethos and symbolizes how the younger generation is making a mark on the world.

jenny ortega adidas ad

And now that we’ve seen a few examples let’s look at some of the key benefits of having an opinion leader on your side.

Benefits of working with opinion leaders

Opinion leaders can bring numerous benefits to a brand, and it’s essential to understand each of them.

  1. By partnering with an opinion leader, you can enhance your brand’s credibility by leveraging word-of-mouth marketing from a trusted industry expert. When an opinion leader recommends your brand, it’s perceived as a personal endorsement from someone with a respected and influential voice in their field.
  2. Opinion leaders can also help boost product sales or bookings by recommending your product or service to their followers. This can increase your brand’s revenue and help establish your brand as a trusted and desirable choice in the market.


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A post shared by Emilia Clarke (@emilia.clarke_1986)

  1. Working with influential leaders in your industry can generate brand awareness, helping to establish your brand as a recognized and respected name.
  2. Opinion leaders can communicate to niche audiences that you may otherwise miss. By partnering with an opinion leader in a specific niche, you can reach a targeted audience more likely to be interested in your product or service.

Finally, partnering with a leader can increase engagement with your brand. When consumers follow their favorite influencers or KOLs, they are more likely to discover your brand, assuming you’ve partnered with the opinion leader. This can result in increased engagement with your brand and improved brand health.

Tips for Building Long-term Relationships with Opinion Leaders

These tips can help build long-term relationships with opinion leaders:

  • Identify the right leaders: Look for leaders who align with your brand’s values and have a track record of supporting causes related to your industry.
  • Build rapport: Connect with the opinion leader personally by sharing common interests or hobbies.
  • Provide value: Offer valuable resources or information they can share with their followers.
  • Support their work: Promote their work and share it with your audience to show your appreciation and strengthen the relationship.
  • Maintain regular contact: Keep in touch with the opinion leader regularly, even when you don’t have an immediate need for their support. This will foster a deeper bond and connection and encourage two-way communication, making future collaborations smoother.

And every brand needs to measure success, and this is just as true with opinion leader marketing as anything else. Regularly assess the impact of your collaboration with influencers and KOLs and make adjustments as needed to ensure that your efforts are aligned with your goals. Tracking and measuring your efforts must be done regularly so you don’t go off the rails without knowing.

The importance of opinion leaders in modern marketing

Opinion leaders play an essential role in marketing and can significantly impact a brand’s success. They are respected experts in their fields, with the power to influence purchasing decisions and change customer perceptions. Brands may acquire credibility, raise brand awareness, and ultimately enhance sales by collaborating with these respected leaders. Long-term partnerships with them necessitate a strategic strategy centered on mutual benefit and continuous communication. As the marketing landscape evolves, it is apparent that influencers and KOLs will continue to be essential to brand success.

If your brand is missing that special link between yourself and your audiences, an opinion leader may be just what you need. Reach out for a demo and see how NetBase Quid® can help you identify the right leader for your industry!

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