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The rise of virtual influencers and their impact on brand marketing strategies

by | Jun 3, 2024 | Public Relations

Virtual influencers are an interesting emerging trend that isn’t just about entertaining people, it’s changing how marketing works. According to a survey conducted by The Influencer Marketing Factory, 58 percent of users follow at least one virtual influencer on social media platforms. These computer-generated characters act like real influencers for social media marketing. And they do almost everything—share photos and content, and even partner with big brands.     

But, are virtual influencers here to stay? 

In this blog, we’ll help you understand what virtual influencers are, how they function and influence brand marketing strategies. Let’s get started!

How virtual influencers work

Powered by AI, CGI, and motion capture, virtual influencers are digital characters that engage with online audiences. Some famous virtual influencers include Lu do Magalu, Lil Miquela, Barbie, and Any Malu who are making a significant impact to help brands stand out among others. 

These digital avatars interact with people on social media by posting content, promoting products, and communicating with followers. They offer brands a new way to reach their target audience; however, the way they engage with products and followers is artificial made-up. For example, Lil Miquela is a virtual influencer marketing avatar for renowned fashion brands such as Dior, Calvin Klein, and Prada. Virtual influencers also collaborate with email marketing platforms to further enhance brand engagement and outreach.

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Benefits of virtual influencers

Sprout Social survey found out that influencer marketing ad spend is about $5.78 per internet user. Influencer Marketing Hub found that 39.1 percent of buyers say AI influencers significantly impact their purchase intent. It’s no surprise the potential of virtual influencers in digital marketing is growing steadily. 

Partnering with virtual influencers gives brands better control over the shared content. This works well when brands want to convey very specific messages to enhance their brand identity. Interestingly, they are highly adaptable and flexible – don’t speak or age, know different languages, and can virtually travel anywhere.  Thus, brands can use the same influencers across different marketing campaigns. 

Unlike real influencers, virtual influencers have a uniform appearance, personality, and content style, assuring brands with predictable promotion strategies without unanticipated changes.   

How virtual influencers influence brands

With so many virtual influencers in all niches, brands need to be careful while pursuing partnerships with them. Some important considerations include: 

  • Brand reputation: Though virtual influencers may seem like a safer option compared to real influencers, they don’t come with guaranteed immunity to controversies. For example, Barbie faced backlash for promoting unrealistic body standards and lacking diversity. Also, her focus on beauty, fashion, and domestic roles was criticized for narrowing girls’ aspirations and supporting gender stereotypes.  Therefore, brands must carefully monitor their partnerships with virtual influencers to prevent adverse situations. Utilizing brand monitoring tools can help brands stay informed about public sentiment and engagement metrics.

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  • Authenticity: Virtual influencers lack authenticity due to their non-human identity. They can only imitate behaviors but can’t share genuine emotions, honest reviews, and real-life experiences.  This lack of a human experience may impact relationships of your brand with the audience. Despite the fact that they are created carefully, they feel less genuine.  
  • Ethical concerns: Ethical concerns issues arise with virtual influencers. Since their creators often remain unidentified, this leaves doubt about the accountability of their influence. Is the audience aware that they are engaging with fabricated characters? Brands must choose carefully, ensuring their audience is aware of the type of influencers to uphold trust. 

The most influential virtual influencers on social media platforms

From animated personas to style icons, here are a few virtual influencers who are shaking up the digital marketing domain. Let’s explore their journeys: 

  • Shudu Gram: Created by Cameron James, Shudu is the world’s first digital supermodel and fashion queen from South Africa.  She has collaborated with major brands including Smart Car, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Balmain, and others. She is a prominent advocate for virtual community. She is often seen posing in beautiful locations, flaunting jaw-dropping apparel. As a leading AI Instagram model, she has 240K followers owing to her realistic appearance and great fashion sense. 

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  • Lil Miquela: Miquela Sousa, famous as Lil Miquela is a 21-year-old robot in Los Angeles, California. Voted as one of TIME Magazine’s 25 Most Influential People on the Internet, Miquela has partnered with brands including Prada, Calvin Klein, and Pascun.  She has been dominating the Internet world since 2016, talks about equality to build an empathetic world, and endorses forward-thinking brands. Her first single titled “Not Mine” was released in August 2017 and topped the Spotify charts. 

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  • Bermuda: With solid Instagram marketing, Bermuda,  a robot queen from Los Angeles has 228K followers and has advertised for Chanel, Starbucks, Tesla, and Balenciaga. She is popular for her controversial opinions including supporting Trump and disagreeing with climate change. Passionate about modeling and music, Bermuda was involved in the biggest scandal of revealing the identity of Lil Miquela to the public which brought her massive followers growth. In April 2018, she hacked Miquela’s Instagram account, deleted photos, and posted that she gave Miquela the chance to show her true identity to the world or else she would do it.  Did Bermuda hack? No, it was just a brand marketing strategy with a win-win situation for both avatars. This strategic move helped them draw more attention and attract followers. 

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  • Rozy Gram: Korea’s first virtual influencer, Rozy ( meaning one and only in Korean) has 168K followers on Instagram and flaunts her toned body and beautiful facial features. She is popular amongst Gen Z for modeling, travel, and style. She has partnered with Calvin Klein and Tiffany & Co. and made about USD 854,000 from sponsorship deals.  

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Conclusion

It is evident that virtual influencers have a lot to elevate your brand marketing strategies. But you need to explore other aspects of this technology. Assess virtual influencers as you would do with any real influencer. Gauge the expectations of your customers and your brand’s principles to derive value from a partnership with a virtual influencer partnership. Last but not least, inform your audience if you are using a virtual influence to ensure transparency. 

Archi Gupta
Archi, a Digital Marketing Manager at alttxt.com, possesses a wealth of expertise in crafting persuasive and impactful content for SaaS businesses. With an impressive track record spanning three years, she has consistently excelled in devising content strategies that deeply connect with the intended audience, resulting in increased website traffic and a steady flow of leads.

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