written by: Ma Sin Hang, Kristie

Today’s social platforms are full of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). Some marketers regard word-of-mouth of influencers as one of the best means to promote their brands/products. While a lot of brand marketers are trying to borrow KOLs’ personal branding assets to build their brands, some consider the KOL effect to be just a “15 minute of fame” showcase; which means social buzz could only be generated for a short period of time and would not last. After all, branding should be about long-term values rooted into the audiences’ mind. So how does a well-established KOL personal branding helps to build new brands?

One significant and common characteristic of personal branding and product marketing is the attempt to create emotional linkage between the brand and its audiences. Personal branding, achieves such with a more humanized approach, as it utilizes a person’s character or features to promote the person himself or his philosophy. The theory on Match-up Hypothesis outlines [1] that in order for an advertisement using celebrity endorsement approach to be successful, there must be an appropriate fit between the endorsing celebrity and the product or brand. Taking Hong Kong’s renowned female writer Daisy Wong as an example, it is easy for Hong Kongers to relate her with her feministic views and philosophies of love and romance. This leads us on to ask: how can these emotional connections become assets for building up a brand?

Recently One Media has launched an online Hong Kong local market called “ToPaau”, which is an online platform that exclusively sells “Made-in-Hong Kong” brand s and products. With the aim of promoting local brands and acknowledging locals who work hard to create high quality products, the platform became famous overnight. Strangely enough, the official launch of ‘ToPaau’ did not happen via the social media page of One Media, but through its marketing director Vincent Tsui.

Vincent is known as one of the well-known marketers in Hong Kong, is personally engaged in various meaningful social campaigns to promote social good. He is also known for his bold gestures of publishing articles that criticize the brutality of Hong Kong Police Force during the Umbrella Movement in 2014. His personal character is vivid: bold, creative, and socially responsible. With such personal branding, it is not surprising for One Media to launch “ToPaau” on his personal page together with One Media’s official channel . The personal traits of Vincent echo the fundamental brand value of “ToPaau”, the new on-line sales platform.

As mentioned, the process of brand building does not happen within a snap of fingers, and so is personal branding. Former Miss Hong Kong, Erica Yuen Mi-Ming, demonstrated good personal branding through her 10 years of career. Since Erica became Miss Hong Kong in 2005, people remember her elegance and attractive appearance. In recent years she joined the political party People Power and became its chairperson. As an outspoken female politician, her impression of being both clever and physically attractive became more and more vivid. Meanwhile, Erica started building her own brand of health care product ‘Miming Mart’. Again, we can easily spot the similarities between Erica and her own brand. Miming Mart stresses its brand value of ‘wise choice for health’, carries high-quality health care products that target the affluent segments. With the image of a wise and pretty female, the online market gains its reputation rapidly, and it even applies for listing on the Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) of HKEX earlier this year [2].

Strong personal branding of KOLs helps product brand building. Use of KOL is not about finding the perfect endorser; it is about borrowing the common/shared brand elements to associate with a product brand.

[1] Match-up hypothesis: Patra, S; Datta, K (2012). “Celebrity endorsement in India: Emerging trends and challenges”. Journal of Marketing & Communication. 5 (3): 16–23.
[2] https://www.hk01.com/%E7%B6%93%E6%BF%9F/67811/%E8%A2%81%E5%BD%8C%E6%98%8E%E5%89%B5%E8%BE%A6-%E5%BD%8C%E6%98%8E%E7%94%9F%E6%B4%BB%E7%99%BE%E8%B2%A8%E7%94%B3%E8%AB%8B%E5%89%B5%E6%9D%BF%E4%B8%8A%E5%B8%82