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The Metaverse & Virtual Influencers.

The thought of robots taking over the world has been a fear for many that once stemmed from sci-fi cinema. It has gone from a far-fetched thought to a potential reality because of the radical developments in science, engineering, and artificial intelligence - but to what extent? In this blog, we discuss one of the latest marketing trends in the tech and retail industry and explain why brands are using it!

Over the last year, we have started to see an array of technological advancements within the Metaverse. Nobody had thought that the creation of digital influencers would give brands the opportunity to leverage influencer marketing with no physical limitations and minimal risks. This is definitely an emerging trend that's catching the eye of many brands, but why exactly?

What is the Metaverse?

The Metaverse seems to be the latest topic of discussion in the influencer marketing field, and it is already gaining a lot of popularity.

For those who aren't quite familiar with the concept of the Metaverse, it's essentially an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds. It's usually used to describe virtual reality, and worlds that can be digital worlds that you can access through the internet or via headsets, allowing people to interact in real time and face new experiences through the virtual network of 3D worlds.

As the Metaverse becomes a greater part of the social and digital landscape, new opportunities for content creators and influencers are starting to emerge significantly, but influencer marketing in the Metaverse is an area that often goes unnoticed.

With its potential to significantly impact future marketing trends, its ability to shape the way brands will engage their audiences and market their products - it really shouldn't be ignored.

Virtual Influencers & How They Work.

When we discuss influencers, we typically think about the social media influencers that we will see every day on all of our feeds - whether that's the foodies, the fashionistas, or the fitness fanatics, all of which are human.

However, over the last few years, we have been experiencing the rise of the virtual influencer - the computer generated avatars that take form of a real person. All of these online personalities are normally created by media agencies and/or brands.

Brands and agencies have curated story-like backstories and have provided these digital influencers with realistic personalities and characteristics that make them come across as life-like. Virtual or CGI influencers are being used as a substitute for human influencers in the Metaverse, all to be used for marketing purposes.

With evolving technologies, influencer marketing in the Metaverse is always changing, with many of these influencers surpassing 1 million followers. 54% of all UK consumers have found virtual entities appealing on some level. The virtual influencers are simply being used in a variety of ways, however the main factors is to increase brand value and engage new audience for brands - although it's becoming increasingly difficult to tell them apart from actual people, in their luxurious world of online content.

Why Brands Are Using This Trend.

This is a trend that we should all be aware of, simply because these types of influencers will begin to appear more and more in some of our favourite brands' marketing campaigns in the coming years.

Nobody will need to be more aware of this trend than the brands that are looking to stay ahead of the curve and reach out to a completely new audience.

Something important to consider is that some of the most popular virtual influencers have reached over the million follower milestone, as people globally continue to be infatuated with their 'lives'. Like previously mentioned, 54% of UK consumers find virtual entities appealing on some level. So just like the 'human influencers', brands that choose to collaborate with these virtual faces will be showcased to an even wider audience that can bring a whole range of benefits that they have not yet faced.

Another thing for brands to consider when considering branching out into the world of tech for marketing is that virtual influencers can give brands much more control over their collaborations. For example, if a 'human' influencer makes a mistake or something needs to be changed, this can be difficult to resolve as more often or not, this will involve having to re-shoot, and as a result, the campaign can be delayed. Whereas with a virtual influencer, any mistakes can be erased and amended within minutes.

Brands Paving the Way.

Similar to most things, it takes someone to test the waters before others follow in their footsteps - and the same thing has occurred with this marketing trend for some brands. Here's just a few of them that stand out to us:

Marks & Spencer: This retail giant has become the first UK high street retailer to introduce a virtual influencer, who goes by the name of Mira, along with her very own Instagram account.

Mira is an acronym used for 'Marks & Spencer, influencer, reality, augmented' and the brand new digital character has been developed using a combination of photography, cutting-edge CGI, and computer vision.

"Mira gives M&S the opportunity to connect with a younger audience and build a community with a demographic that are interested in this new form of technology." - Marks & Spencer.

Samsung: In early 2022, Samsung debuted their own influencer, a digital avatar named Zero - created by Offbeat Media Group, to help 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 this event, alongside the creator of TikTok, Liam Kalevi.

Zero was generated to co-host the live shopping event in order to capitalise on the growing popularity of 3D digital worlds, while also being the first of his kind to explore how these virtual influencers can be used to further explore 'metacommerce' and social commerce.

Balmain: Back in 2018, the luxury fashion brand had announced their 'New Virtual Army' recruiting virtual icons Margot, Sudu and Zhi, all created by photographer Cameron-James Wilson, who had famously created the World's first digital supermodel - Shudu, in 2017.

The Creative Director of Balmain, Oliver Rousteing had stated that "inclusivity and diversity were the driving force behind the virtual model campaign". Although they experienced mixed opinions, and criticism hit when it was pointed out that they could have simply hired diverse human beings for the campaign, rather than constructing the avatars to 'replace the jobs of underrepresented models'.

Balmain has now been in the metaverse environment longer than most, and the French fashion brand is adapting the long-term possibilities of the metaverse via the experiences they have to offer.

We're still in the early stages of the Metaverse, so we can't really predict how big of an impact this could potentially have on social media and the overall marketing in the industries - but we do recognise that the possibilities are almost endless... we'll definitely be keeping an eye on this exciting trend!

Don't forget to let us know your thoughts on this topic - do you think it's worthwhile?

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