As more and more services and products are promoted by virtual influencers, it’s time to learn more about this new way of marketing.
The interest of the technology market has not been limited to the creation of more advanced equipment. The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and the metaverse has expanded the market for digital spaces, and it has now entered social networks in the form of virtual influencers, avatars that represent a person who does not exist really but which has an impact on people’s consumption habits.
These characters, whose appearance matches that of a human being, are used by marketing organizations to showcase products and services in unique ways.
What is an persuader?
Mayra Alcántara, director of influencer marketing at another agency, said an influencer needs to be a trusted leader or guide for the public to respect them. Although “they can have a large population without influencing anyone”.
However, real influencers have a characteristic that requires the use of virtual avatars to occupy this position of exposure in social networks. This characteristic is that people can make mistakes and gain a negative reputation, which is something a brand wants to avoid when running an influencer-based marketing strategy.
“Influencers are within reach of a mobile phone, so if they don’t have a proper image and are not responsible for what they say, everything can go wrong. Additionally, there is a cancel culture, so one of the benefits of a virtual influencer is that they are under your control,” Mayra explained.
However, this is not the only advantage of these digital avatars. Another is that these characters are created to embody attributes that connect them with audiences from “birth.”
“One day, we can make them money experts who will discuss the subject. The next day, it may be a chef. The virtual influencer publishes content created by third parties and only adds their image […] Information can be adaptable and backed by authority,” explains Alcántara.
How a virtual influencer works
Virtual characters are developed by others to meet specific criteria; however, for there to be a link between consumers and content creators, the publications of these influencers cannot be generated solely for advertising purposes. In addition, digital avatars have a “life” in their digital environment.
Storytelling, a form of communication that involves delivering a story that an audience may be interested in following, is essential for a virtual influencer to be effective. “Even if they are nurses today and teachers tomorrow, (influencers) have to be active and live up to the same standards as any other content creator: be consistent and have good content. They must not only appear when they advertise”, guarantees Mr. Alcántara.
A well-known case is that of virtual influencer Lil Miquela, who currently has more than 3 million followers on Instagram and even had a real “boyfriend” with whom she was “photographed in public”, although she has had romantic relationships with other characters in his digital world in the past.
Mayra Alcántara notes that these stories are part of the strategy employed to keep the public captivated and close in order to obtain the interaction that the agencies expect from the profile of the virtual influencer.
Sometimes, however, virtual influencers cross the digital barrier and appear in the physical surroundings of a metropolis. This is the case of Pandemonia, a virtual influencer who comes to life through a costume.
“There are different types of profiles. There are people who were created virtually with all their surroundings. Others, like Pandemonia, appear in the real world but don’t actually exist. There is an assortment of things. Real and virtual worlds, as well as virtual worlds brought back to life,” the spokesperson said.
Who can use virtual influencers?
The use of a virtual influencer rather than a real influencer does not mean that there are not real-world individuals capable of creating awareness for a brand or product. Based on market research, expert opinions, and other considerations, a virtual campaign with avatars makes more sense than a campaign with real influencers.
“Influencer marketing standards also apply to virtual influencers, so you have to follow the same procedure as with a real influencer. It is essential to verify that the audience of this virtual person is compatible with the target audience of a product, that an interaction is generated and that the material produced is relevant to the brand,” he said.
In general, there is no fixed price for using the services of a virtual influencer; rather, the cost will depend on the metrics generated on social networks, the number of followers and the type of advertising campaign to be implemented.
On the other hand, there are internationally renowned musicians who use virtual influencers as a promotional platform, such as Rosala, who appeared in a photo with Lil Miquela in 2019.
Possibilities offered by the metaverse
With the advent of the Metaverse, the virtual arena in which these personalities perform, their horizons could be broadened and they could offer new experiences in which the public or the community interacts with the virtual influencer through their avatars.
A virtual influencer, often referred to as a virtual persona or virtual model, is an invented persona that is typically used for social media marketing in place of actual “influencers” for various marketing-related purposes.
Most virtual influencers are produced using computer graphics and motion capture technology to mimic real people in realistic environments. VTubers, a term used to describe online artists and YouTubers who present themselves using virtual avatars rather than their real identities, are examples of common derivatives of virtual influencers.
Virtual idols, which have their roots in 1980s Japanese anime and idol culture, are basically the same as virtual influencers. Lynn Minmay, fictional singer and protagonist of the animated television series Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982) and its animated film adaptation Macross: Do You Remember Love, was the first virtual idol ever created (1984).
Due to Minmay’s popularity, several Japanese virtual idols have been created, including Sharon Apple in Macross Plus and EVE from the cyberpunk anime Megazone 23 (1985). (1994). Virtual idols have not always been well received; in 1995, Japanese talent agency Horipro developed Kyoko Date, a dating simulation game that was inspired by the Macross series and Tokimeki Memorial (1994).
Date’s commercial failure, despite the attention she received for her debut as a CGI idol, was partly due to technological challenges that led to issues including awkward movements, often known as uncanny valley.
Many virtual idols have been produced since their inception, with well-known examples like Vocaloid singer Hatsune Miku and virtual YouTuber Kizuna AI. Thanks to technological advances, production teams can now use artificial intelligence and sophisticated procedures to modify the characters and actions of virtual idols.
Virtual influencers are much less likely to be embroiled in issues from a branding perspective. In China, celebrities who have been the subject of negative publicity, such as singer Wang Leehom and artist Kris Wu, have increased the popularity of virtual influencers, whose existence depends entirely on computer-generated imagery. and are therefore unlikely to damage a brand’s image by association.
As they have grown up in the digital age, several researches show that Gen Z consumers have a specific craving for virtual idols and influencers.
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Virtual influencers promote services and businesses
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