Product Seeding Tactics For Free KOL Marketing

Carolina Wu

It’s a common practice in the Influencer marketing industry to send products to Influencers and Key Opinion Leader (KOL) in the hopes of free publicity. This tactic is called product seeding, and it’s a type of word-of-mouth marketing.

When done right, gifting is a great relationship-building tool and can lead to free marketing for your brand, by sending the message that you value the Influencer work or opinions by giving them your newest products.

However, fashion and beauty brands must keep in mind that giving gifts by no means obligates KOLs or Influencers to post about them on Social Media. But if they genuinely like what they receive, they will often share it with their audience voluntarily.

Mega beauty KOL Kakakaoo pictured with many PR boxes. Source: Weibo@kakakaoo-

To ensure the gift is shareable and Social Media worthy, besides the product itself, there are some key tactics for brands to follow. Including packaging, and customization or personalization as this increases the chances of a KOL actually posting about the product.

Unique product packaging also allows brands to showcase their aesthetic and personality, and customizations such as embellishing products with Influencers’ names or adapting packaging to better suit each individual Influencers’ style goes a step further to show a brand’s sincerity.

Why is Product Seeding a useful tactic for brands?

Many brands opt to include a Product Seeding strategy in their marketing efforts to help develop KOL relationships and utilize a cheaper advertising option, as the main cost is just the products themselves.

Marketers don’t have to negotiate with an Influencer’s team about the cost of collaboration, nor do they need to allocate more budget for Social Media platforms to promote the Influencer’s sponsored post. Product seeding saves both time and budget for brands. And on most occasions, your gifts are welcomed. Even if KOLs don’t post your products online, they have at least learned of your brand and may have tried your products.

Identifying the right KOLs

Though budgets for a Product Seeding campaign are lower than traditional Influencer and KOL marketing, brands still need to spend time carefully selecting Influencers that align with their values and core industry. If a KOL or Influencer voluntarily and positively showcases products that you send them, this could mean they support or like the product, are hoping for more gift boxes, and might be open to future collaboration.

Fashion KOL Teacher Xu recommends a comb from Taobao in a social post. Source: Weibo@深夜徐老师.

Brands should be monitoring the Influencer’s social profile closely, their following and activity, to ensure they are a good fit to speak on the brand. In traditional Influencer marketing, brands often outline what format of the content they want Influencers to post, and what keywords and images to use. Those rules might be good for building brand imagery but they ignore an influencers’ creativity for content creation and knowledge of exactly what their following likes, which may result in a low Social Media impact. Whereas with Product Seeding, Influencers have complete freedom around how and when to post.

As a rule of thumb, send gifts to KOLs that have a high engagement rate and a strong connection to their followers. You can also check the Influencers’ sponsored posts, and whether their followers are reacting more to the product they are recommending, or if followers are just saying hello to the Influencer and ignoring the product on show.

Brands also need to take into consideration that many Influencers have very specific styles and so any gift or PR box should be on-brand and tailored where possible to suit them. For example, a fashion KOL that is known for a strictly black and white style aesthetic may not showcase your multicolored product on themselves or their social platforms. A shareworthy product will make the point of difference, remember, top KOLs receive gifts on a weekly – sometimes daily – basis. So brands need to put themselves in the shoes of KOLs and think about what might convince them to post.

For example, a deep purifying face mask from a Chinese cosmetics company Proya once went viral on Social Media. Countless KOLs and users were wearing the face mask on Douyin and RED, to have fun and to show that they were on-trend. If Proya sent this face mask to influencers at that time, many Influencers would want to be on-trend and post about their user experience.

Users sharing experiences with the foaming face mask on Social Media. Source: RED.

Customization and Packaging matters

PR gifts are often packaged differently from products sold to consumers. Creative packaging emphasizes your brand tone and makes your products stand out among the many PR boxes that have been sent to Influencers. From the moment your parcel arrives at influencers’ door, the marketing begins.

Exciting and distinguishing packaging is the easiest way to make your box stand out. For example, major beauty brand L’Oréal once launched a skincare cream, known as the space cream in Chinese, and the product had an attention-grabbing futuristic style packaging, including a spaceman toy to hold the cream that also doubled as a speaker. It was an attractive combination that KOLs couldn’t resist.

KOL 豆豆babe showcasing L’Oréal’s space cream PR box. Source: Weibo@豆豆_Babe

Good packaging is not only attractive but practical and can be used again and again by Influencers. For example, Kiehl’s PR box for its 170th anniversary was designed as a phonograph, standing out among other PR gifts which are often packed in boxes.

KOL 豆豆babe showing viewers Kiehl’s PR gift. Source: Weibo@豆豆_Babe.

Customization is a better way to demonstrate a brand’s sincerity and effort to an Influencer and may encourage them to share it on their social channels.

Essentially, Product Seeding can be a key factor in building and maintaining relationships with KOL in a cost-effective manner. If brands tailor their packaging and thoughtfully send products to suit selected Influencers, then it’s likely that their product will be promoted to a loyal following.

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