Brands try to create their own influencers to control their messages.
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With more than 1 billion people using social media around the world, it is more difficult than ever for brands to stand out from the crowd. So was the rise of the influencer, which was one of the most significant changes in marketing in the past decade.
Some creative marketers have decided to find an alternative to the typical approach for influencers and instead create their own brand ambassadors using artificial intelligence. These virtual influencers are computer-generated fictional characters whose “personalities” are completely fictional. They are combined with animated images by digital artists to accurately reproduce the subtle features of human faces. Some companies build their own influencers from scratch and create their own character from which they can control every aspect.
Lil Miquela and friends
Instagram users have already seen creations like 19-year-old Lil Miquela who released music while going through a carefully written drama that has captivated their 1.6 million followers. One can say that Lil Miquela, which was founded by LA-based Bruder, launched the CGI influencer phenomenon in 2016 when it blew up on Instagram. Now she is a regular face in fashion magazines and faces a variety of luxury brands. Every month, more than 80,000 people stream Lil Miquela's songs on Spotify. She gave Coachella interviews and showed a tattoo designed by an artist who inked Miley Cyrus. By the time her creators revealed her true origins, many of her fans were convinced that she was a flesh-and-blood teenager.
Just like Lil Miquela, Blawko was created by brother. With his sporty streetwear style and tattoos, he describes himself as a "sex symbol for young robots". Because of the mask that covers half of his face, he's perhaps the most mysterious of all virtual influencer stars. It has become popular with users because of its relaxed nature and close relationship with Bermuda, another influencer created by CGI.
The virtual colonel and others
KFC's virtual Colonel is supposed to parody the lifestyle of Instagram influencers and shows the ridiculously good-looking Colonel Harland Sanders, who leads his best influencer life. The scary human character comes from KFC's official account, which has 1.3 million followers. It identifies him as a virtual influencer who pursues the dream, sells chicken, and is based in Louisville, the company's headquarters. He's wearing the colonel's signature gray hair, black-rimmed glasses, and a white suit, but instead of a chubby old man, this version is a model hipster with a torso tattoo that says "Secret Recipe for Success". He often works with other brands, including Dr. Pepper, Old Spice and TurboTax.
In autumn 2018, the French luxury fashion house Balmain launched a campaign with three digital models. Two of the models are available exclusively for the Balmain brand, while the third, Shudu Gram, is a free agent that is popularly known as the world's first digital supermodel. British fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson created Shudu, who has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram and blurs the line between digital and reality. She can't speak and isn't artificially intelligent, but with Wilson's help she shares her message of empowerment and diversity in the fashion industry.
Will it take?
"Just a few years ago, the idea of social media influencers was in its infancy. Its popularity is a sign of how quickly the trend aroused the public's imagination," says photographer and online marketer Katerina Leroy. She says the use of virtual influencers benefits brands because they have full control, save time finding the right human influencers, and reduce the risk of negative feedback. On the other hand, it could be another marketing experiment that is fading, "not one that is changing the course of influencer marketing," she says.
Harry Hugo, co-founder of the Goat Agency, says virtual influencers will be inevitable in the next 12 months. “They are available around the clock and have a personality that is exactly what you want. You can literally be what you want. These things are massive pluses for brands because they are the perfect ambassador. "
According to HypeAuditor, "virtual influencers have almost three times more engagement than real influencers. This means that followers are more concerned with the content of virtual influencers." The play suggests that novelty is a key element in its current popularity, and as digital models become more popular, they lose some of that interest. But will you? Will we even know who is real and who is not in the future? The statistics here indicate that this is likely to be a major point of discussion.