Virtual influencers: how far will they go?

This is a phenomenon that has been gaining momentum in recent months. The virtual influencers seem to be launching to overcome all borders and especially the "real influencers". But deep down, who are they really? Focus on a trend that is as intriguing as it is frightening.
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5 min

Lil Miquela, the first virtual influencer

It is impossible to ignore the trend of virtual influencers in recent years. And for good reason, while influencers make a lot of noise on social networks, their fictitious « colleagues » are popular.

This phenomenon began in 2016, when Lil Miquela, a 19-year-old American influencer « appeared » on all screens and exploded the counters on Instagram.

Behind this doll perfectly tailored for social networking is, in reality, the startup Brud located in Los Angeles. A bet launched by the company? Design characters halfway between the Kardashian and Marvel comics.

Dressed by the biggest brands, involved in many causes (she advises her subscribers to vote), this influential woman does not hesitate for a single second to appear alongside real stars, including Rosalía Sousa.

In just over three years, Lil Miquela has managed to attract 1.5 million subscribers for 466 publications.

A frightening trend that continues to grow

Since Lil Miquela’s arrival on Instagram, the trend of virtual influencers has continued to grow in importance. All over the world, « virtual influences » have multiplied at lightning speed without resembling each other.

Putting themselves in real situations, blowing out their birthday candles, shopping or chatting with their friends, these fictional characters manage to gather a large number of subscribers and « sell them a dream ».

Well known in the CGI (Content Generated Imagery) sphere and recently appeared, Liam Nikuro created the surprise a few hundred kilometers from Los Angeles. To surf the trend, 1sec Inc (One Second) created, for the first time in Japan, this « virtual human » as it is written on its Instagram.

In less than a month of existence, Liam Nikuro already had 5882 subscribers at the time of writing and is collaborating with brands such as Valentino, Off White and Acne Studios.Other fictional characters also continue their media journey towards glory. Among them, Shudu and its 170K subscribers, Ronnie Blawko and its 135K subscribers or Bermuda and its 131K subscribers. Three examples among others that prove how much the virtual influencers market still has a bright future ahead of it.Other fictional characters also continue their media journey towards glory. Among them, Shudu and its 170K subscribers, Ronnie Blawko and its 135K subscribers or Bermuda and its 131K subscribers. Three examples among others that prove how much the virtual influencers market still has a bright future ahead of it.Other fictional characters also continue their media journey towards glory. Among them, Shudu and its 170K subscribers, Ronnie Blawko and its 135K subscribers or Bermuda and its 131K subscribers. Three examples among others that prove how much the virtual influencers market still has a bright future ahead of it.

Other fictional characters also continue their media journey towards glory. Among them, Shudu and its 170K subscribers, Ronnie Blawko and its 135K subscribers or Bermuda and its 131K subscribers. Three examples among others that prove how much the virtual influencers market still has a bright future ahead of it.

Brands are asking for more

Obviously with such media coverage of these unreal characters, brands around the world have become interested in the trend. Some of them even collaborate with them to represent their brands.

This is particularly the case for the major houses Dior, Balmain, Kenzo and Prada, whose interest in these new influencers has continued to grow in recent months. While some rely on « simple partnerships » via social networks, others involve them in parades.

For the launch of its « Balmain Army » last August, the famous luxury house called on Margot, Shudu and Zhi, three fully virtual multi-ethnic muses.

The Prada brand had also surfed the wave by using Lil Miquela’s very popular image during his fashion show in Milan. Buccellati, Dior,…. A very large number of brands seem to have taken the virtual reality train from the very beginning.

Why this choice by brands? It should be remembered, however, that IMCs have all the advantages of humans, without the disadvantages that they can generally bring. On the financial level in particular, they allow companies to save various costs (housing, travel,…). This may explain this.

Real Influencers vs. Virtual Influencers?

What about the real influencers in all this? This is the main question that individuals who are even slightly concerned about the fate of the K.O.L. (Key Opinion Leader) ask themselves.

In the face of this increased competition, « real influencers » have no choice but to offer better quality content and to build loyalty among their subscribers.

Fortunately for them, where large companies and other well-known brands are constantly being dazzled by virtual influencers, many companies still rely on 100% flesh and bone influencers.

While « virtual influencers » are gradually beginning to gain a place in people’s minds, their role in marketing influence campaigns has not yet been established. The issue of trust is also a key consideration. Can we really trust an influencer we can never meet or talk to?

Ask Suzy also conducted a study in the summer of 2018 to gather consumer impressions of virtual influencers. Among them, 59% feel that replacing real influencers with 3D models is negative.

If progress is good, the K.O.L. aren’t done surprising us.

Who are the virtual influencers?

De facto, virtual influencers are robots, fictional characters created from scratch on a computer, people who simply do not exist.

Like the real influencers, they share their moments of life with us through real photographed scenes.

Like the K.O.L., they are solicited by brands as part of partnerships or marketing influence campaigns to represent them in posts, advertisements on various and varied channels.

Virtual influencers inspire, entertain and educate Internet users with increasingly appealing and well-realized photos. Over the months, they have become very popular with young communities.