It’s tougher than ever for brands to stand out from the crowd, with more than 1 billion people using social media all over the world. One of the most noteworthy changes in marketing in the last decade is hence, the rise of the influencer.
So, instead of the typical approach to influencers, some creative marketers have decided to find a substitute to it and form their brand ambassadors themselves using artificial intelligence. These virtual influencers are digitally created fictional characters and, their “personalities” are completely imaginary. They have been combined with animated images from digital artists to accurately re-create the understated features of human faces. Some companies are building their own influencers from the ground up by creating their own character. Every aspect of whose can be controlled by them.
Lil Miquela and friends
While undergoing a carefully scripted drama that kept her 1.6 million followers fascinated, creations like 19-year-old Lil Miquela release music is something that Instagram users have seen before. Created by the L.A.-based firm Brud, Lil Miquela, can be said to have started the CGI influencer phenomenon in 2016, when she became a hit on Instagram. Now she faces a wide range of luxury brands, and is a regular face in fashion magazines. Lil Miquela’s songs have been streamed by more than 80,000 people stream on Spotify every month. She has appeared on several interviews from Coachella and dawned a tattoo designed by an artist who inked Miley Cyrus. Many of her fans were convinced she was a flesh-and-blood teenager, until her creators revealed her true origin.
Blawko was created by Brud, just like Lil Miquela. He describes himself as a “young robot sex symbol”, sporting streetwear style and tattoos. Due to the mask that covers half of his face, maybe he is the most mysterious of all the virtual influencer stars. His on-off relationship with Bermuda, another CGI-created influencer and his laid-back nature are some of the reasons why he is so popular.
The virtual Colonel and others
KFC’s virtual Colonel shows the ridiculously good-looking Colonel Harland Sanders living his best influencer life, which is intended to parody the lifestyle of Instagram influencers. The eerie human character posts from KFC’s official account, which has 1.3 million followers. A virtual influencer who is chasing the dream, selling chicken and based out of Louisville, the company’s headquarters is what it portrays him as. He has the Colonel’s signature gray hair, black-rimmed glasses and white suit. But this version is a modelesque hipster, complete with a torso tattoo that reads “Secret Recipe for Success,” instead of a chubby old man. TurboTax, Dr Pepper and Old Spice are the brands he often collaborates with.
French luxury fashion house Balmain launched a campaign in which starred three digital models in the fall of 2018. Two of the models are exclusive to the Balmain brand, whereas the third, Shudu Gram, is a free agent popularly known as the world’s first digital supermodel. British fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson created Shudu, and she is a figure who has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram and hazes the line between digital and reality. With Wilson’s help, she shares her message of empowerment and diversity in the fashion industry even though she can’t talk, nor is she artificially intelligent.
So, will it last?
Photographer and online marketer Katerina Leroy says, “Only a few years ago, the idea of social media influencers was in its infancy, so their popularity is a sign of how quickly the trend took hold of the public’s imagination.” Using virtual influencers benefits brands because it gives them full control is what she says. It also saves time searching for the right human influencers, which reduces the risk of negative feedback. It could be another marketing experiment that diminishes away on the other hand, and “not one that will alter the course of influencer marketing,” is what she says.
Virtual influencers will be unavoidable in the next 12 months is what Harry Hugo, co-founder of the Goat Agency, says. “They can be available 24/7 and have a personality moulded to be exactly what you want. They can literally be whatever you want them to be. These things are massive plus points for brands because they make the perfect ambassador.”
“Virtual Influencers have almost three times more engagement than real influencers. That means that followers are more engaged with virtual influencers content,” according to HypeAuditor. Novelty is a key element in their current popularity is what this piece suggests, and as digital models become more conventional, they’ll lose some of that interest. Will they lose interest? Or will they understand who’s not in future and who’s real? It is likely to become a bigger point of discussion is something that the statistics here would recommend.