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3 Brands That Created Virtual Influencers in the Metaverse

Mar 01 2022


Brands are creating their own virtual influencers to reach young people in the metaverse…


TL;DR

  • Over a quarter of young consumers are interested in following someone that is computer-generated on social media
  • Virtual influencers have been around for years, but they’re becoming popular again during the rise of the metaverse
  • To grab young people’s attention, brands have been creating their own virtual influencers to market products in the metaverse

We told you that the metaverse marketing trend would take off even more this year, and barely a day has passed in 2022 that hasn’t been filled with metaverse-focused news. As a refresher: the metaverse is the idea of a massive, centralized virtual community, and though it’s still being formed, brands have been in veritable gold rush mode to make their mark in virtual world spaces. Though we’ve long advocated marketing inside virtual world games, more are jumping into the trend as brands “bridge the digital and physical divide,” with industries including fashion, beauty, music, and even social media platforms like Meta (née Facebook) doubling down on their virtual strategy. In fact, marketing in the metaverse was one of the top trends that was prevalent in this year’s Super Bowl. But as hype around metaverse grows, some brands are looking for new ways to grab attention in the newfound digital world.

Cue virtual influencers. Of course, much like marketing in virtual worlds, digital influencers have actually been around for years. Lil Miquela is perhaps one of the most well-known, and with 3 million followers on Instagram, she has already worked with numerous brands including Calvin Klein and Prada. But Lil Miquela has been joined by legions of other virtual influencers, and brands across industries have been tapping them for promotions. Amazon Fashion recently partnered with “Japan’s first virtual human” Imma (who has 356K followers on Instagram) to promote its latest line on The Drop, which featured limited-edition clothing from global influencers. Meanwhile, The WHO recruited virtual influencer Knox Frost at the beginning of the pandemic to share tips to Gen Z and Millennials about COVID safety. Porsche also recently announced that they are expanding its footprint in the digital industry by investing in iMaker, which is China’s “leading provider” of virtual influencers and digital ecosystems.

The importance of virtual influencers is sure to grow in the metaverse and the virtual worlds that young people are already inhabiting. YPulse’s upcoming metaverse trend report found that nearly a quarter of 13-39-year-olds have followed a virtual person on social media, but perhaps more notably, the majority of young consumers who play virtual world games say brands should hire avatars as influencers to promote their product. Now, as focus on metaverse marketing  intensifies, brands are leaning  into the virtual influencer space even more by developing their own computer-generated influencers to market their products in the metaverse. Here are three brands that have done just that:

Prada’s Candy
Last fall, the luxury brand debuted a virtual influencer by the name of Candy to promote its fragrance collection of the same name. She even wore many of the brand’s pieces, including a pair of triangular logo-plaque earrings from the Spring/Summer 2021 collection, to do so. While the Prada Candy collection was introduced by the luxury Italian house back in 2011, it was relaunched last year through new beauty licensee L’Oréal. Much of the campaign challenges consumers to “rethink reality,” and Candy is featured in several advertising formats including a print campaign, short films, and social platforms such as Twitch, Snapchat, and TikTok, where she interacts with the real life perfume bottle. A spokesperson for Prada said in a statement: “As her own reality glitches, she begins to perceive another, expanding her existence through the power of technology. Free of constraints, her curiosity grows, new creative perspectives are opened and with them, an invitation to rethink reality.” However, this isn’t the first time Prada has ventured into the virtual avatar space. In 2018, Lil Miquela took over Prada’s Instagram account at Milan Fashion Week and “attended” the show to upload preview images and backstage videos. The brand has continued to work with and “dress” Lil Miquela and other virtual influencers like Noonoouri, but Candy marks “the first time” they created its own “virtual muse,” reported VirtualHumans.org.

Alibaba’s Dong Dong
At the beginning of February, we told you about the content young people were actually watching during the Winter Olympics–and how much of it was not about the actual events. ​​To generate excitement ahead of the event, Chinese tech company Alibaba worked with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to introduce Dong Dong (“Winter” in Chinese), a 22-year-old female virtual influencer designed to hype up younger audiences and promote merchandise for the Winter Games. Dong Dong’s promotions led fans to the official Winter Olympics shop on Alibaba’s ecommerce platform, Tmall. Livestreamed shows where Dong Dong responded to fan questions via gestures and facial expressions were also available—oh, and she danced along to Olympic theme songs, too. Dong Dong is based on cloud technology, and the personality was designed by Alibaba Group’s research division. Alibaba’s virtual human and intelligent customer service, Xiaolong Li, told The Drum that they developed Dong Dong with the hope that they “can create better engagement with the younger, digital natives excitingly and naturally.”  She added: “In the future, we will push technology boundaries even further to create an enthralling mixed reality. Digital personas or virtual influencers will find new ways to engage with their audience through immersive experiences or a metaverse-style setting, whether during large-scale, global sports events like the Olympic Games, virtual conferences, or 3D exhibition tours.”


Samsung x Offbeat Media’s Zero
Alibaba isn’t the only tech company that debuted its own virtual influencer last month. Offbeat Media worked with Samsung to unveil an avatar influencer named Zero to promote its Samsung Galaxy S22 at a livestream shopping event co-hosted with TikTok creator Liam Kalev. Offbeat Media, which builds virtual influencers, created Zero and gave him a fictional backstory, describing him as “a fully virtual being who lives in his bunker inside of the Nexus universe.” According to digital director of Samsung Electronics Nordic Area (SENA), Krister Karjalainen: “We are proud to be the pioneers bringing live video shopping to the virtual world and to be trailblazing in connecting virtual reality to the selling of physical goods. Samsung is a company that is driven by innovation, so it’s only natural that we also explore the future of metacommerce.” Offbeat Media’s CEO Shep Ogden added that events like these show how the metaverse can provide “meaningful, real-world business opportunities.”

YPulse Business users can access the full Metaverse trend report and full data on March 3rd. 

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