With the proliferation of hardware technology advancing every day, virtual influencers are becoming more popular and even going as far as becoming the face of some brands, such as Prada who created their very own virtual influencer named Candy, promoting their new Candy fragrance line. With huge brands adapting their strategy to implement virtual influencers, you’re probably wondering what a virtual influencer is.
Virtual influencers are computer-generated influencers. They can either look like a human with a relatable personality and human features (eyes, hair, a smile, etc) or they can look like a cartoon character, looking like Barbie or even being a sausage brought to life. Virtual influencers can be called digital avatars or characters, or even computer generated influencers.
Although virtual influencers do not physically exist alongside us, they have their very own lives and fully developed life stories, they often become famous virtual influencers. Being a virtual influencer may seem like a dream to some, but it takes more than just one person to consistently create realistic and narrative content. Behind each virtual influencer comes a design team, multiple writers and many artists, making the process tricky and something not just anyone can decide to create.
Now that we have established what a virtual influencer is, it’s time to explore what they do for a living. Virtual influencers, more specifically, virtual influencers on Instagram, choose what to wear, how to act, what to do, who to meet up with, who to argue against, who to date and more. Most importantly, they make brand deals—making money for themselves and the brand.
When a brand partners with a virtual influencer, not only do they have a unique content provider, but also reduced lead times and mistakes. With a team working to create high-quality content, brands are able to post more content at a faster pace. As virtual influencers are digitally editable, brands have an easy ride when briefing virtual reality influencers as it is harder to misinterpret given instructions.
Virtual influencers are completely changing the game—you can choose any backdrop, location or setting, helping brands create unique content. Using virtual influencers can show audiences brands are culturally relevant by tapping into social media trends and staying up-to-date with the ever-evolving tech world.
Although virtual influencers seem great, there is an argument they are pushing real social media influencers out of the picture. Brands can control everything about a virtual influencer, whereas they cannot change a real social media influencer’s personality or what they stand for, making it difficult to collaborate if they do not align when it comes to values.
Another reason why virtual influencers are pushing real social media influencers out of the spotlight is because they currently have no regulations, leading to much more creative freedom for the brand’s content. With more creative freedom, brands can push the boundaries and not feel restricted to an influencer’s regulations, values or messaging. A virtual influencer can be as fun as you want them to be—from skydiving from the world’s highest vantage point or riding the world’s fastest motorbike across the Sahara desert, the possibilities are endless with virtual influencers.
The last reason why virtual influencers are becoming more popular than social media influencers, is because they cost less. Real social media influencers with 1 million followers costs averagely $250,000 per post, whereas a virtual influencer with 3 million followers costs $9,000, saving a brand $241,000 simply by opting for a virtual influencer.
Although there are many benefits to investing in a virtual influencer, there are some cons. When it comes to content, there is a fine line between producing fun and engaging content versus making followers feel uneasy about the virtual influencer—thanks to the uncanny valley, it is hard to navigate between positioning robots as scary vs relatable.
There are also issues with authenticity. How can an artificial influencer be authentic and real? This is something that brands have to solve. Virtual influencers can be involved in scandals, making it hard for brands to remain politically correct. And lastly, there are legal issues surrounding copyright and trademarks—who owns the virtual influencer?
Having explored the pros and cons, it’s clear that no matter how many cons there are, virtual influencers are slowly taking over the influencer marketing industry.
So, let’s take a look at some of the top virtual influencers.
Lu Do Magalu
Lu Do Magalu is one of the world’s most famous virtual influencers, active since 2009. She regularly shares unboxing videos and product reviews, partnering with some big brands such as Adidas, leading to 5.5 million followers on Instagram and 4.2 million followers on TikTok.
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Up next is the male virtual influencer, Blawko, who is LA-based and specialises in streetwear style and has a range of cool tattoos. With a unique style, Blawko is idolised for having a big personality although he never reveals his full face. He is also in a relationship with another popular virtual influencer Bermuda. Bermuda and Blawko are just one example of how big the virtual reality world really is. Blawko can be found on YouTube, often featuring in interviews and even completed a DJ set, showing virtual influencers have developed personalities that allow them to stand out.
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Miquela Sousa—better known as Lil Miquela—is one of the top virtual influencers and has worked with big-name fashion brands including Prada, Dior and Calvin Klein. She also released one single, “Not Mine”, in 2017 and debuted her first music video, “Hard Feelings”, at Lollapalooza’s online festival. Created in 2016, she is often hailed as the first virtual influencer and started the virtual influencer craze.
This freckled Brazilian-American influencer was created by Brud and has over 3 million Instagram followers, dubbed as “Miquelites”, 3.5 million TikTok followers and more than 30,000 Twitter followers.
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