Virtual influencers: fad or future?

Virtual influencers: fad or future?

Door Lisa Bousie
Computer-generated models are undergoing a transformation from branded avatars to relatable and inspiring influencers. Leading is Lil Miquela, a digital simulation who rose to fame in April 2016 with people wondering whether she is an art project or a marketing stunt. Fast forward a couple of years and she has almost 1.5 million followers on Instagram. With numbers like that, this trend is worth looking into, right?

Miquela Sousa is a typical Instagram influencer. She is a 19-year-old model of Brazilian and Spanish origin, currently living in Los Angeles. A real fashionista, her Instagram feed is filled with designer looks and #outfitoftheday posts. She’s also a talented musician, having released a number of her own songs on Spotify. The only difference between her and any other Instagram star? Miquela is fake – and we’re not talking about her attitude.
What does it mean for brands?
Lil Miquela’s fast rise to Insta-fame poses a big question for brands and publishers. Does it actually matter if an influencer is fake if their influence is real?

I personally don’t think it necessarily matters. The main issue related to influencer marketing that everybody is talking about concerns misleading content. For example, when an influencer is being paid to promote a product, but fails to disclose it – or worse, lies about it. This leads to loyal audiences feeling like they’re being scammed and ultimately leading to negative sentiments towards the brand. In contrast, if virtual influencers are transparent – with no pretense that they’re actually real, there’s no reason why brands shouldn’t feel comfortable partnering with them or using them in campaigns.
Lastly, virtual influencers could also mean greater control for brands and less risk of scandals or controversy tied to the influencer. What’s more, if they begin to create their very own influencers, this control could be taken to another level. Essentially, brands would be able to create an ideal representation of what it is they stand for, and a spokesperson that their audience is most likely to identify with.
Meet Liv: Renault’s new virtual influencer
It’s well known that everyone leads two lives these days: a physical life and a virtual life. As the boundary between reality and virtuality is becoming more and more blurred, the real world nurtures the virtual world and vice versa. So why not reconnect the “virtual me” with the “real me”?
That’s the challenge taken up by Renault. To launch the new Renault KADJAR, the brand has created its own virtual ambassador, called Liv – the first ever in the automotive industry!

Talking about Liv, Gaëlle Le Grouiec, Renault’s Marketing Communication Director Europe G9, reveals: “This is Renault’s raison d’être. We have always built vehicles to suit people’s real life, to simplify it but also magnify it… ‘Passion for life’, our brand signature, is the demonstration of this. That’s why we are now continuing to embark on the launch of our new SUV model, the Renault Kadjar. And what better than a virtual ambassador to feel really behind the steering wheel of this vehicle and show the authenticity of the actual experience?”
The future?
Virtual influencers present a huge potential for brands, not only to engage with consumers on a deeper level but also to have complete control over what their influencers represent. While human influencers can be unpredictable and even attract criticism, digital influencers such as Lil Miquela and Liv have been accepted by the greater audience. Their presence shows it is a great opportunity for brands to use virtual content to drive affinity. As digital influencers create new possibilities for connection, avatars may be the future of online relationships.

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