This year we have started to see an array of technological advancements within the Metaverse. Who would’ve thought that the creation of digital influencers could give brands the opportunity to leverage influencer marketing with no physical limitations and minimal risks. It’s definitely an emerging trend that has caught our eye!
Here, we’ll look at what the metaverse is and some brands who are making the most of virtual influencer marketing.
What is the metaverse?
With the Metaverse already growing in popularity, this ‘virtual universe’ is the newest topic of discussion within the influencer marketing sphere.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of the Metaverse, it is essentially an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds. It is usually used to describe virtual reality, and worlds that can be digital worlds that can be accessed through the internet or a headset, allowing people to interact in real time and face new experiences across this virtual network of 3D worlds.
As the Metaverse is becoming an increasing large part of the social and digital landscape, the metaverse is constantly providing new opportunities for content creators and influencers alike, but Influencer marketing in the Metaverse is an area often gone unnoticed.
With its potential to significantly impact future marketing trends, its ability to shape the way brands engage their audiences and market their products cannot be ignored.
When we talk about influencers, we usually think about the social media influencers we see daily on our feeds – the foodies, the fashionistas and the fitness fanatics- those who are ‘mostly’ human, except the dog influencers who happen to be our favs!
However, in the past few years we have seen the rise of the virtual influencer. The computer-generated avatars that take the form of real people. These online personalities are typically created by media agencies and/or brands.
Brands and agencies alike have curated story-like backstories and have given these digital influencers realistic personalities as well as characteristics that make them seem somewhat life-like. Virtual or CGI influencers are used as a substitute for human influencers in the Metaverse and are used for marketing purposes.
Thanks to evolving technologies, influencer marketing in the Metaverse is constantly changing, with many virtual influencers surpassing 1 million followers. In fact, 54% of all UK consumers find virtual entities appealing on some level. Virtual influencers being used in a range of ways to promote products, increase brand value and engage new audiences for brands. But, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell them apart from actual people, in their lavish world of online content.
LilMiquela is one of the most well-known virtual influencers. She first started posted on Instagram, back in April 2016, but as of today she has a following of over 3 million. She is the creation of a Los Angeles-based start-up Brud, whom are also behind the creation of Miquela’s friends — Blawko and Bermuda, who are also virtual avatars. Alongside Miquela’s avatar, Brud had also created a dominating narrative for her too. ‘Miquela Sousa is a Spanish-Brazilian American model and musician from Downey, California.’
Why brands use virtual influencers
Even though the Metaverse is still under construction, virtual avatars becoming influencers does not happen overnight, but will happen with time. Popular virtual avatars such as LilMiquela, Shudu and Lu do Magalu are promoting some of the world’s biggest brands.
There are many benefits for brands when it comes to using virtual influencers as part of their influencer strategy. And choosing to work with virtual influencers doesn’t mean working with human influencers is out of the question. The option to choose between influencers enables brands to try new influencer marketing strategies.
Recent reports have shown that virtual influencers have nearly 3x higher engagement rates than ‘real’ influencers. The report by HypeAuditor, found that this was especially pronounced on account of over 1m followers, where virtual influencers are getting 2.89% engagement rate, versus the 0.7% engagement rate on real influencer accounts.
One of the key benefits of using virtual influencers is that brands can have complete control over the influencer image. Through AI, brands can strengthen their brand image and curate content that promotes the brands values accurately. Brands can create their perfect influencer and have complete control over the look and personality portrayed to their audience.
It’s important to also point out that creating virtual avatars for brands, can result in less worrying about sourcing relevant influencers – as they can be created to embody the values of the brand.
Brands utilising virtual influencer marketing
Late last year, Prada revealed the new face for their infamous perfume Prada Candy. Though the new ambassador was not a supermodel or a celebrity. Instead, the brand opted for CGI influencer Candy, to promote its fragrance collection of the same name. Candy wore many of the brand’s pieces, including a pair of iconic Prada triangular logo-plaque earrings. She is seen to be Prada’s first virtual muse and the face of the Candy perfume collection.
Prada’s main aim was to utilise the notion of digital muses to target audience of tech-savvy Gen Z, as the Prada Candy fragrance has always been directed towards a younger audience.
However, it is not the first time the luxury fashion brand has worked with a virtual influencer. During the 2018 Milan Fashion Week, popular avatar, LilMiquela took over Prada’s Instagram, as she attended their fashion show and posted behind the scenes of the show. Since then, she has continued to collaborate with the Italian fashion house.
In early 2022, Samsung debuted their own influencer, a digital avatar named Zero who had been created by Offbeat Media Group, to promote its new Samsung Galaxy S22. The product was promoted in the World’s First Metaverse live shopping event, with Zero acting as one of the hosts for the event, alongside TikTok creator Liam Kalevi.
Samsung explained in a press release that Zero is a fully virtual being who lives in his bunker inside of the Nexus universe and he is the first character that the world knows about so far from the universe.
Zero was created to co-host the live shopping event to tap into the ever-growing popularity of 3D digital worlds, whilst being the first of his kind to explore how these virtual influencers can be used to further explore ‘metacommerce’ and social commerce.
Back in 2018, luxury fashion brand. Balmain announced their ‘New Virtual Army’ recruiting virtual icons Margot, Sudu and Zhi. These virtual avatars were created by photographer Cameron-James Wilson, who famously created the World’s first digital supermodel- Shudu, back in 2017.
Balmain’s Creative Director, Oliver Rousteing says inclusivity and diversity were the driving force behind the virtual model campaign. Though there were mixed opinions on the campaign, criticism hit when it was pointed out that Balmain could’ve hired actual diverse human beings for the campaign, rather than constructing avatars to ‘replace the jobs of underrepresented models.’
Balmain has been in the metaverse environment, longer than most and now, the French fashion brand is adapting the long-term possibilities of the metaverse across the experiences they have to offer. Their Non fungible thread strategy was first launched in 2021, with the tokens acting as a point of access to the Balmain Metaverse. Now they are getting ready to launch their exclusive Metaverse experience with September’s 2022 Balmain Festival, which will be a digital reinvention of its fashion show.
— Balmain (@Balmain) August 30, 2018
Obviously, we are still in the early stages of the Metaverse, so we’re not able to predict how big of an impact this will make on social media and influencer marketing – but we do know that the possibilities are almost endless.. we’ll be watching this space!
At Prohibition we work with a range of B2B and B2C brands to deliver successful, authentic and creative influencer campaigns. Get in touch with us today to find out more. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.