Original Article: AdWeek by Eric Dahan
By allowing people to interact with one another in immersive, three-dimensional virtual worlds, the metaverse offers an alternative to real-life social interaction. And while it’s still new and evolving, we cannot ignore its potential to disrupt our daily lives.
A perfect example of this is the rising trend of virtual influencers. Fictional characters on social media present a massive opportunity. Though several brands have partnered with virtual influencers and even created their own, it is safe to say this trend will expand even more this year as brands experiment in the metaverse.
Not such a crazy idea
While there are obvious differences between real and virtual influencers, people experience and interact with both in the same way. Most people interacting with Addison Rae, Zach King or Kendall Jenner have never met them in real life. Any connection or relationship between the creator and audiences is digital, and audiences mainly interact with influencers indirectly via the content they create.
A skeptic may say, “Well, theoretically, yes, but we still know that they are real people.” However, for years, most people on social media have been interacting with accounts that are not really a person at all.
These accounts are more commonly known as “meme accounts,” such as @FuckJerry and @MyTherapistSays on Instagram. These accounts have gained millions of highly engaged followers despite not having a persona.
One way of looking at a virtual influencer is the evolution of meme accounts. The only difference is you add a face, tone and POV. This is exactly what the meme account @Litquidity did when it created the virtual influencer, Bart P. Fuchs IV (@thisguyfuchz).
Success boils down to good storytelling.
Brands getting in the game
It’s no wonder brands are experimenting with virtual influencers to engage their customers. Using computer-generated imagery, they can create avatars with lifelike features and characteristics that partake in the same day-to-day, Instagram-worthy activities as human influencers, reaching similar audiences.
Collaborating with virtual influencers also allows brands to maintain complete control over the messaging and creative process from conception to execution. Marketers have the ability to innovate in ways that were never possible. For example, digital celebrity and Robloxcreator Kai was able to perform in seven different virtual concert venues simultaneously, an impossible feat for a human influencer.
Aside from just partnering with virtual influencers, brands can create the perfect brand ambassador or face for their brand. They don’t have to worry about their brand ambassador going off-script, aging or leaving for a competitor. Examples like KFC’s millennialized coloneland Mattel’s Barbie highlight the potential of having a virtual brand spokesperson.
A way for brands to personify themselves
We live in a world where brands are fighting for relevance and mindshare, and one of the key drivers of relevance is trust. People trust people.
That is why it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to personify themselves. A virtual influencer allows brands to anthropomorphize themselves, so they can be more relatable and connect better with audiences.
And in the metaverse, people can interact with these anthropomorphized characters. Think about the brand mascots we have seen in the past that are multidimensional and have a real persona, values and potentially even a character arc.
Can perfection be engineered?
Influencer marketing is undeniably powerful. With plenty of evidence to suggest that virtual influencers are effective, more brands will embrace their own avatars and take the next steps in building a deeper, richer community.
With virtual influencers, brands can tailor their creations to their audiences and communities, and they can engineer the perfect ambassador. Advancements in AI could provide the ability to go a step further, enabling brands to further engineer the perfect virtual influencer, so lifelike and socially intelligent that it blurs the lines between what’s real and what isn’t in the metaverse.
In the meantime, working with virtual influencers in the metaverse presents a massive opportunity for both new and established brands to build out their communities and establish deeper connections.