Whilst human influencers are conquering the digital world, there is another breed of influencers that is taking over. Developments in tech, science, and artificial intelligence create new ways of interacting with robots and virtual personas. Even though we might still need to wait for a couple more years for us to interact with robots in the streets, we do already see Robot to Human (H2R) communication on social media. In this article, we will dive into what Virtual Influencers are, and how they seem to disrupt traditional marketing.
2021 Virtual Influencers with real business potential
Virtual Influencers, or in other words CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) are fictional computer-generated ‘people’ who have realistic characteristics, features and personalities similar to humans. The CGI’s are being presented on various social media platforms where some have gained a huge and engaging following base. Brands such as Prada, Samsung, Renault, and OUIA have already seen the potential of collaborating with these CGI’s. The prediction is that many more brands will follow.
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What are Virtual Influencers?
But what are these ‘Virtual Influencers’ exactly? They are, obviously, not real people. CGI’s are computer-generated images and often created by talented and clever creators who are excellent at creating realistic 3D visuals. Not only are these creators very gifted at creating visuals, but they are often also great at storytelling and are very well aware of the current (digital) trends and happenings. All of the above is a recipe for success; connecting a 3D persona to a wide range of people from all over the world.
Why do brands want to work together with CGI’s?
So, why are Virtual Influencers becoming undeniable in the digital influencer world? Let’s have a look at Miquela (@lilmiquela), who has a following of 3 million people (April 2021). Because of this vast community, brands such as Samsung have approached her for a collaboration. But why would Samsung choose a virtual influencer over a normal one? One of the reasons is that Miquela’s character can be easily altered to meet precisely the message that Samsung wants to portray.
These types of influencers will appear more often online, and as they are growing in liking, brands are wise to look into utilizing these CGI’s. Especially brands that like to stay ahead of the curve. Not only because Virtual Influencers are starting to have a huge following, but also because campaigns shot in real life can be time-consuming. With CGI’s, it’s often just a click on the computer to edit the virtual imagery that is created, which is way less time-consuming and costly.
Meet the different types of influencers that are already out there
There are many examples of CGI’s that are conquering social media platforms such as Instagram, Youtube, and Tiktok. Shudu, a dark-skinned virtual persona, has been featured by Rihanna’s beauty brand Fenty and joined the Balmain family as their latest virtual model. Blawko, a CGI that describes himself as a ‘young robot sex symbol’. Imma, a Tokyo-based virtual fashion influencer, with a pastel-coloured pixie haircut. And Zoe Dvir, a virtual human, vegetarian, and internet activist who loves Banksy.
These examples are just a handful of the CGI’s present on social media platforms. The prediction is that more of these CGI’s will be created in the foreseeable future. There is a substantial competitive advantage for these Virtual Influencers since they are created and altered effortlessly, which is a gain of time and budget for the businesses that want to collaborate with them. On top of that, their vast following shows that people are not shying away from following a ‘virtual’ character online.
What makes people interested in Virtual Influencers?
Humans are designed to be interested in stories. We love to both listen and tell stories, which stems from an inherent desire to express ourselves. CGI’s are just as capable as human influencers to bring across a story, both textual and visual. This is mainly because the creators behind these CGI’s are still human. Human creators still initiate all the captions, imagery, and reactions behind their creations..
A research by a master student of the Uppsala University in Sweden has looked into CGI’s and what makes their followers like them. The study concluded that CGI’s have to be human-like, but they should not come too close to reality. On top of that, the research shows that for a virtual influencer to be liked and come across as credible, they have to be trustworthy, attractive, and have similarities with humans. As a business, you can keep this in mind when choosing to collaborate with Virtual Influencers.
What is the future for CGI’s?
But what happens when machines and Artificial Intelligence create Virtual Influencers? Edward Saatchi, the co-founder of Fable Studio (which is a company for virtual beings), is working on creating CGI’s that are not created by humans but by computers. By using clever mechanisms such as Machine Learning, they will be able to design CGI’s that don’t need a human creator behind them. The future of CGI’s is rapidly evolving. There is a chance that you will follow CGI’s somewhere in the future, who collaborate with your favourite brands, who are entirely created by computers.
What does this mean for your brand?
To conclude, the worlds of tech, science and artificial intelligence are constantly improving, and we might be exposed to a different virtual world in the near future. If you have a brand that wants to stay ahead of the curve, you might want to look into collaborating with Virtual Influencers. Make sure to choose the ones that are human-like, are attractive, and come across as trustworthy since this is what followers seem to be attracted to. However, you can also look at the amount of followers the CGI’s have and how much engagement is present on their social media platforms as an indicator for likeability.
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