In the ever-evolving landscape of social media and digital marketing, a fascinating phenomenon has emerged in recent years i.e. Virtual Influencers. Virtual influencers have taken the social media world by storm, blurring the line between reality and artificiality. Despite their lack of flesh and blood, these virtual influencers have garnered massive followings and are redefining the influencer marketing landscape.
Who are Virtual Influencers:
Virtual Influencers are computer-generated characters mostly created by brands and software companies for advertisements and marketing. Although virtual influencers are not human beings but digital personas, they are brought to life through advanced graphics and animation technology. Virtual influencers often possess strikingly lifelike appearances, with carefully crafted features, hairstyles, and clothing. They are designed to appeal to specific target demographics and embody aspirational lifestyles. These digital avatars frequently engage in the same activities as human influencers, from news anchoring and promoting fashion brands to advocating for social causes. What sets them apart is their complete control by their creators and the absence of personal experiences and emotions.
Let’s talk about some famous avatars of Virtual Influencers
Lu Do Magalu
Lu do Magalu is created by Magalu, a renowned Brazilian retail brand in 2003 as the in-store voice of Magazine Luiza’s Commerce site. Her animated persona brings a burst of excitement to my social media feed, making me look forward to her updates. Lu feels like a friend who’s always in the know about the latest trends and deals. From fashion inspiration to product recommendations, Lu is a trusty source. She effortlessly combines shopping and entertainment, making every interaction feel like an adventure. It’s like having a shopping buddy who understands my style and needs.
Miquela Sousa, also called Lil Miquela, or known mononymously by the stage name Miquela, is a fictional American character, singer and social media personality who was created by Trevor McFedries and Sara DeCou. The character was created in 2016 with the background of being a Brazilian-American 19-year-old girl. Miquela is one of the most prominent virtual influencers to capture the public’s imagination. It was created in 2016. With her slender figure, flawless complexion, and impeccable fashion sense, she has amassed millions of followers on Instagram. Despite being a computer-generated character, Lil Miquela has signed endorsement deals with real-world fashion brands, attended fashion shows, and collaborated with other influencers.
An iconic example of virtual influencers is Hatsune Miku, who is a 16-year-old virtual girl who emerged in 2007 as a virtual singer. This unique personality with long twin-tails was created by Crypton Future Media. This is a pioneering virtual character to garner global acclaim. Over the years, Hatsune Miku has evolved into one of Japan’s most beloved “vocalists,” maintaining a strong hold on audiences worldwide with her captivating performances.
Kyra, India’s first virtual influencer, created by Himanshu Goel in Jan 2022 represents a new era of digital charisma. Born from cutting-edge technology, she captivates audiences with her flawless appearance, diverse fashion sense, and relatable persona. Kyra’s content transcends boundaries, resonating with followers worldwide. As a virtual influencer, she skillfully navigates the digital landscape, promoting brands, championing social causes, and offering a glimpse into a hyper-realistic existence.
Barbie, the doll of our childhood, emerged as a virtual influencer, transcending her iconic toy origins. She seamlessly blends high-tech artistry with fashion-forward sensibilities. Designed to embody empowerment and inclusivity, Barbie champions diverse narratives, fostering a relatable and aspirational connection with her audience. With an impeccable sense of style, she leverages social media platforms, embodying the essence of a modern influencer. Barbie’s evolution from a plastic doll to a virtual trendsetter signifies a shift in the digital landscape, where imagination and innovation converge to redefine the concept of influence in the 21st century.
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Pros of Virtual Influencers
The rise of virtual influencers can be attributed to several factors.
- Unbiased Persona & Reduced Controversy Risk: Virtual influencers offer brands a high degree of control over their image and messaging. Traditional human influencers come with their own personalities and values, which may not always align with a brand’s desired image. Virtual influencers, on the other hand, can be programmed to convey a brand’s message and aesthetics consistently.
- Endless Creativity: Virtual influencers are not limited by the physical constraints of human models or celebrities. They can be designed in any way, allowing for creative, imaginative, and extraordinary appearances and personalities that may align better with a brand’s identity or target audience.
- Consistency, 24/7 Availability & Long-Term Partnerships: Virtual influencers are consistent in their appearance and behavior, which can be essential for branding and messaging. They won’t age, get into controversies, or experience personal problems that could negatively affect a campaign. Virtual influencers are available around the clock. They can interact with audiences and post content at any time, which can be particularly useful for reaching global audiences in different time zones.
- Cost-Effective: While the initial creation of a virtual influencer may require a significant investment, they are cost-effective over the long term. There are no appearance fees, wardrobe costs, or other expenses associated with human influencers or celebrities.
- Targeted Messaging: Brands can precisely control the messages and values associated with virtual influencers, ensuring that they align perfectly with the brand’s image and values. This level of control can be challenging to achieve with human influencers.
- Data-Driven Insights: Virtual influencers can generate a wealth of data and analytics, allowing brands to track engagement, reach, and audience demographics with precision. This information can be used to refine marketing strategies.
- Innovative Storytelling: Virtual influencers can engage in unique and imaginative storytelling that may not be possible with real individuals. This can lead to more engaging and entertaining content for audiences.
- Appeal to Younger Audiences: Virtual influencers often appeal to younger, tech-savvy generations who are more accepting of digital avatars and virtual personalities.
Cons of Virtual Influencers
Virtual influencers have gained prominence in marketing and social media campaigns, but they also come with their own set of drawbacks and challenges:
- Limited Interaction: Virtual influencers may struggle to engage in real-time conversations or respond to comments and messages effectively, which can hinder community-building.
- Dependency on Technology: Virtual influencers are vulnerable to technological glitches and advancements. Changes in technology or software can affect their appearance and functionality.
- Inability to have first-hand Experience: These virtual influencers can’t experience the product, so it is difficult to believe their reviews.
- High Initial Costs: Creating and designing a virtual influencer can be expensive, requiring skilled 3D modeling, animation, and voice acting. This initial investment can be a barrier for some brands.
Trust and legal issues
- Lack of Authenticity: Virtual influencers, by their nature, lack the authenticity and genuine human connection that many real-life influencers can offer. Audiences may perceive them as inauthentic or insincere.
- Legal and Ethical Concerns: There may be legal and ethical considerations when it comes to using virtual influencers, such as copyright issues or disclosure regulations.
- Limited Emotional Connection: Virtual influencers struggle to create emotional connections with their audience since they lack human emotions, experiences, and relatability.
- Cultural Insensitivity: Designing virtual influencers without sensitivity to cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings or backlash from diverse audiences.
It’s essential for brands to carefully consider their target audience, campaign objectives, and potential drawbacks before using virtual influencers in their marketing efforts. Balancing the benefits and challenges of virtual influencers is crucial for a successful campaign.
What the critics say about Virtual Influencing: Benefits and Drawbacks
Proponents of virtual influencers contend that they offer a fresh and innovative approach to marketing. These characters can be used to promote causes and messages that are important to their creators, such as sustainability and inclusivity. Virtual influencers also challenge societal norms of beauty and appearance, as they can be designed to represent a wide range of identities and body types.
However, critics argue that virtual influencers represent a troubling trend of artificiality in the online world. They emphasize the importance of genuine human connection and the potential for virtual influencers to deceive and manipulate their followers. In a digital landscape already fraught with issues of authenticity and misinformation, the presence of computer-generated virtual influencers raises ethical concerns.
The phenomenon of virtual influencers is still evolving, and its long-term impact remains uncertain. It is clear, though, that they have carved out a niche in the influencer marketing industry and are likely to continue shaping how brands connect with their audiences online. As technology continues to advance, we can expect virtual influencers to become even more sophisticated and integrated into our digital lives. Whether you view them as a harbinger of a more artificial future or an exciting frontier in marketing, there is no denying that virtual influencers have left a significant mark on the world of social media and digital advertising.