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Virtual Influencers + The Creator Economy

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How AI-Generated Characters in social media will play a role in marketing

In the bustling and noisy arena of social media, creators (“influencers”) have become the go-to stars for brands looking to shine. But let's face it, traditional influencer marketing is filled with hurdles and headaches. 

Prices have increased significantly, 44% from 2020 to 2021 and 45% from 2021 to June 2022 on average (Source: The Motherhood Agency). Organic reach has also fallen off a cliff in the past several years across all platforms. 

Tapping content from creators, however, is a necessity to be relevant in social media, and thus, relevant in marketing. 

So, don’t fret, there’s a new player in town that's turning heads and breaking traditional barriers. Meet the virtual influencers, the pixel-perfect personalities that are reimagining how we connect and create online. Intrigued? Let’s learn more about them and how they can help your brand grow. 

What Are Virtual Influencers Anyway?

Ever stumbled upon an Instagram influencer who seemed a bit too perfect? Maybe their smile was just right, their travels to exotic, and their style out of this world? Well, you might've just crossed paths with a virtual influencer.

Virtual influencers are computer-generated characters designed with human-like features and personalities. You might also call them digital avatars, CGI models, or even digital celebs. Some, like Barbie, have become mainstream, while many virtual influencers are still finding their footing on the online stage. A few have already amassed millions of Instagram followers. 

These characters may not exist in our physical world, but they lead lives that feel surprisingly real. And the credit goes to talented teams of designers, artists, and writers who craft these artificial beings and the stories they associate with on our feed.

How Virtual Influencers Work

Virtual influencers bring a fascinating blend of technology, creativity, and marketing strategy together. But how exactly do they come to life, and what makes them tick? Let's break it down:

  • Creation and Design: Virtual influencers are crafted using advanced computer graphics software like Cinema 4D, Unreal Engine, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Lightroom. They are meticulously designed by professionals to have human-like features and expressions so that they can resonate with the audience. 
  • Personality and Storytelling: Unlike traditional CGI characters, creators provide virtual influencers with their unique backstories, interests, and even values. These digital characters are often seen engaging with their followers, sharing personal experiences, and taking stands on social issues. This unique storytelling aspect helps them connect with audiences on a whole new level, making them a focal point for brand collaborations.
  • Collaborations and Partnerships: Virtual influencers collaborating with real-world brands and celebrities is already a reality. For instance, virtual influencer Lil Miquela is often seen partnering with brands like Samsung and Calvin Klein. 
  • Omnichannel Presence: Virtual influencers are not confined to a single platform. Today, these digital presences are everywhere, from Instagram to YouTube to TikTok,, engaging with followers and participating in various activities. Their virtual nature allows them to be present anywhere, anytime, breaking all geographical norms.
  • Future Prospects: The Global Influencer Market was valued at $16.4 Billion in 2022 (Source: Influencer Marketing Hub, 2023) and is on an upward trajectory. Projected to grow exponentially, the market is expected to touch $143 Billion by 2030 (Source: Statista, 2023). In my opinion, Virtual Influencers will undoubtedly play a significant role in this growth, showcasing the growing potential of this innovative marketing approach.

Virtual influencers are more than just digital avatars; they are now becoming the new frontier in influencer marketing, offering brands control, creativity, and endless possibilities. Whether it's a virtual fashion icon strutting down a digital runway or a pixel-powered activist raising awareness, these digital personas are redefining the way we think about influence online. 

The Benefits of Collaborating with Virtual Influencers

Virtual influencers are quickly becoming an integral part of brand marketing strategies. Let's take a look at some of the primary benefits virtual influencers offer and some standout collaborations in the USA.

Benefits for Brands
  • Control and Consistency: Virtual influencers offer brands complete control over their appearance, messaging, and actions. This level of control over campaigns ensures consistency in brand representation and eliminates potential PR risks associated with human influencers.
  • Global Reach: Imagine having an influencer who can speak to audiences in New York, Tokyo, and Paris all at the same time. With virtual influencers, that’s not a far-fetched imagination anymore. These influencers transcend geographical boundaries, allowing brands to reach diverse audiences without the limitations of language, culture, or location.
  • 24/7 Availability: Unlike human influencers, virtual ones are available around the clock, enabling continuous engagement with audiences and timely responses to trends and events.
Examples of Successful Collaborations in the USA
  • Pacsun and Lil Miquela: In 2022, Pacsun partnered with CGI influencer Lil Miquela for its back-to-school and holiday campaigns. The collaboration involved Lil Miquela sporting clothes from the brand and was a part of Pacsun's larger metaverse ambitions. The partnership was seen as a nod towards the brand's engagement with Web3 technology. 
  • Lu Do Magalu and VOGUE Brazil: Virtual influencer Lu Do Magalu graced the cover of VOGUE Brazil and won an award at Cannes with Ogilvy in the year 2022. With a following of 6.4 million on Instagram, she became a symbol of digital activism and modeling. The year marked a significant milestone for her, with potential earnings reaching an astounding 15,442,994 euros.
  • Amazon Prime and Kyra & Luks: In late 2022, a groundbreaking collaboration united India's Kyra and Brazil's Luks with Amazon Prime Video to promote "The Peripheral." This innovative campaign, reflecting the show's futuristic theme, leveraged virtual influencers to create a buzz that resonated with their audiences, marking a whole new era in entertainment marketing.

Some Leading Virtual Influencers

Lil Miquela

A fusion of Brazilian and Spanish allure, Lil Miquela is the virtual sensation that started it all. With a whopping 2.7 million followers on Instagram, the 19-year-old digital diva Lil Miquela is more than just pixels; she's a fashion icon and a pop star. From flaunting her latest fashion ensembles to dropping hit singles like "Money" and "Sleeping In" on Spotify, she's the virtual influencer who's got it all.

Her collaborations read like a who's who of the modern world. Teaming up with Samsung for their 2019 #teamgalaxy campaign? Check. Sharing the screen with supermodel Bella Hadid for Calvin Klein? Absolutely. Making it to The Times' list of 'Most Influential People on the Internet' in 2018? You bet.

Qai Qai

Say hello to the most popular doll in the world: Qai Qai (pronounced Kway-Kway), with 324K people following her online. But she's not just another toy; she's the beloved doll of Alexis Olympia Ohanian, daughter of tennis superstar Serena Williams and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

When Serena Williams chose Qai Qai for Olympia, it was more than a gift; it was a statement. Growing up, Serena didn't have many opportunities to own a black doll, and she wanted her daughter's first doll to reflect her heritage. The name "Qai Qai" itself has a personal touch, coming from Williams's nephew.

Ion Göttlich

Ion Göttlich, a virtual influencer in the cycling world, made his first appearance on February 28, 2015. Created by Claudio Pavan, the athletic virtual persona represents the sport worldwide. Ion Göttlich's unique presence in the cycling online social media world has garnered him 78.1k followers on Instagram. He has also been featured in various articles and contributed to discussions pivoting around virtual influencers and their impact on social media. He’s also seen supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement on his instagram.

Chef Jade

Hailing from Hatsukaichi, Japan, and raised in Springfield, Illinois, Chef Jade is the culinary sensation who's taken the entire city of Rome by storm. With a passion for vegan cuisine, she explores the world, serving up delectable recipes and travel tips on her website and social media. But that's not all; she's also the host of a podcast, where she shares her culinary adventures with her fur-baby, Zelda. Chef Jade is more than a virtual chef; she calls herself a taste explorer, connecting food lovers across the globe.

Wrapping Up

Ever felt like your brand needed a sprinkle of something extraordinary? Virtual influencers might just be the zest you're looking for! From Shudu's timeless elegance to Lil Miquela's trendsetting style, these pixel-perfect personalities offer brands a fresh, controlled, and innovative way to connect with audiences. Whether you're looking to break into new markets or add a creative twist to your next campaign, virtual influencers can help. Want more information? Feel free to drop us a note at Socialtyze. We’re always happy to help. 

How do I choose the right virtual influencer for my brand? 

Ans: Identify your brand's values and target audience, then look for a virtual influencer that aligns with your image. Consider their style, follower demographics, and previous collaborations.

Are virtual influencers more cost-effective than human influencers? 

Ans: Costs vary based on the campaign's complexity and the influencer's popularity. Virtual influencers may save on travel expenses but require investment in high-quality digital content creation.

How do I measure the success of a virtual influencer?

Ans: The core measurement metric is subjective. Does the talent match with your brand image?  Do you see content being created that could elevate your brand vision.  Or, do you like the creator’s content so much that you could see it helping to pave new roads? 

How do I measure the success of a virtual influencer campaign?

Ans: Success is dependent upon your precise goal but we measure success for brand lift by – i) quality of content; ii) brand integration into the content (how was the brand value positioned); iii) total views; iv) length of view; and v) engagement levels.   

For lower funnel metrics, look at cost per land page visit and sales—if you are looking to drive sales, be sure to amplify via paid media.  

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