Huawei, KOLs and influence marketing
On February 28 I will be taking part in an event at the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) in Barcelona, entitled “Branding and Mobile Communications”, where the main topic of conversation will be Huawei’s Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) program. Also taking part will be Walter Jennings, Huawei’s VP of Corporate Communications, along with this year’s KOLs: Carlos Scolari of UPF, e-commerce expert Marsha Collier and Craig Brown, entrepreneur and an expert in big data.
Last year, when I was asked by Huawei to be one of their KOLs, I was skeptical until I looked into the company’s approach to a relationship of this kind. Some brands tend to think that by making it easier for you to attend events or by giving you their products, you are then beholden to write whatever they ask, a situation I have always avoided like the plague. My reputation for independence, built up over the last 15 years or more, is not about to be sullied by a few nights in a hotel or some freebies. But I have to say that Huawei has shown exemplary rigor in this regard. Other participants in the program, such as Shel Israel, have also written about Huawei’s smart approach to social marketing.
Ogilvy works with Huawei on its KOL program, which I have written about and whose approach to working with influencers I have used in my classes: I like Ogilvy’s code of ethics, both for the 2005 first edition and the revision in 2012: Huawei wants to promote its products and initiatives, is willing to facilitate that process, but gives its KOLs absolute freedom to write about what they like, when they want, and how they want. For me, taking part in the Huawei KOL program is an opportunity to meet other people working in my area of expertise, as well as a chance to know more about a leading brand in the world of consumer and industrial electronics and how a Chinese company approaches management: innovation cultural management fascinates me and is something I write about frequently without any sense of obligation.
In the coming days, I will be taking part in Huawei’s battery challenge for its P10 devices, which involves using one for a day and then sending the company my battery usage statistics. There was no pressure to take part, and I was asked if I simply wanted to contribute my stats or if I’d like to write something. Huawei has always taken this approach: try something out if you want, and write about it if you want; very different to many of its competitors and one that allows it to differentiate true influencers from mercenaries. There are many nuances in influencer marketing that require sensitive handling: a brand ambassador, for example, is well known and accepts using a brand’s products and talking about them in positive terms in return for money: actors, athletes, musicians or celebrities, but not necessarily anybody who knows about technology or a brand. Understanding these differences and what makes an influencer special is essential for successful KOL marketing. Putting together a list drawn up at random is a recipe for disaster.
Anybody interested in discussing these topics can follow the event (it will be in English) in Barcelona on Wednesday, in person or via a live stream. I will distribute the link for the streaming via Twitter (@edans) as soon as I have it.
(En español, aquí)