Huddle 2018 - Content Hub

Virtual influencers: just a fad, or the future of influencer marketing?

The pace technology is evolving is driving a level of innovation in the media and marketing sphere unparalleled in the last twenty years. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the rise of the influencer marketing industry, building off the incredible success of social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, that in some cases, are barely a decade old.

Now we’re seeing these technologies give birth to the “virtual influencer” – a virtual being completely designed and inspired by its creator - enter the fray in service of brands and their marketing campaigns. With sixteen such personalities holding follower counts of over a million, it’s clear that underestimating their impact could be risky. 

Today at Huddle, we explored whether the future of influencers could be completely virtual, or whether we could ever relate to computer generated characters in a way that emulated the trust we place in their human counterparts. So, what did we learn? 

  1. Influencer transparency, particularly in the context of younger users is fundamental to building trust with audiences. Maintaining a sense of fantasy in spite of this, however, is key to inspiring consumer desire and want, particularly in categories such as fashion
  2. In terms of brand safety concerns, fully automated influencers are unlikely (witness the famous example of Microsoft’s Twitter bot gone rogue!), but virtual influencers offer a level of control over image and content brands desire
  3. Authenticity is a critical element of influencer marketing - witness the impressive audiences the likes of Zoella and KSI have built - but brands can use virtual influencers in a way that drives their values home with consumers they resonate with. In the age of politicised brands, that could be key.