Key Opinion Leader (KOL) is a marketing termused to describe individuals with the ability to influence the opinions and behaviors of others. They are generally a member of a reference group and have similar personality, interests or demographics with the group members. Due to their expertise, product knowledge, personal character and access to media, KOLs are often sought by others for information and advice during decision making process. They have great influence on their followers’ opinions and behaviors. Therefore, KOLs are now playing an increasingly important role in brands’ marketing campaign
Characteristics of Key Opinion Leaders
I. Key Opinion Leaders in general have greater exposure to mass media. KOLs act as a middleman between the mass media and the public. Messages from mass media are delivered to the public via KOLs and therefore they have greater exposure to mass media. Greater mass media exposure provides them with information useful in enhancing their leadership.
II. Key Opinion Leader in general has higher socio-economic position. Research conducted by Chan & Misra (1990) have shown that opinion leaders can be characterized as younger, highly educated and with a higher income. KOLs need to try different products to acquire special knowledge in the field so that they can provide information and advice for their followers. This means they need to spend a larger sum of money than average people in trying different products. In addition, since they have the special category knowledge, they will have the credibility and influence in the group, creating a higher social status for them.
III. Key Opinion leaders have extensive social network and are more gregarious. Opinion leaders act as a bridge between mass media and their followers. It is essential for opinion leaders to have extensive social network because they need interact with their followers and receive information from mass media. And sociability is a prerequisite for developing an extensive social network. Therefore, KOLs are in general gregarious so that they can have extensive social network.
IV. Key Opinion leader likes to differentiate themselves from group. Chan and Misra (1990) suggested that KOLs should also be characterized by a strong need to be unique and gain attention. In their experiment, they found that KOLs in general feel comfortable to be different from the group while others were reluctant to do so, even when such behavior would help them get rewards. The findings are in accord with our daily observation. KOLs are usually self-confident and with a favorable personality or with a sense of humor such that they can stand out from the crowd and become the leader.
V. Key Opinion leaders have more knowledge on the specific product category. KOLs can have great influence on their followers’ perceptions and actions because they are more knowledgeable about the product category. To maintain this leadership role, KOLs have to spend a lot of effort to understand and obtain the extensive knowledge about the specific product category.