Have you ever played The Sims? There, you create a virtual being, select its “gender” and appearance, set its character, and let it live a virtual life. Your hero has a name and values, “he” or “she” need to make money, manage their apartments, and boost knowledge. Along with this, your character interacts with other virtual sims; they can even become friends or spouses.

The difference between The Sims and virtual influencing—a game can be turned off, but virtual influencers are acting in the real world and influencing our behavior.

The recent episode on our “Creativity: Inside & Out” YouTube channel is dedicated to the history of virtual influencers, their personalities, and impact. You can also find out about their creation process. Here, we’d like to share our top 6 virtual influencers in 2022.

 

Why do people like virtual influencers? 

Although players clearly understand their sims are nothing but algorithms, the games they play captivate them and evoke emotional responses to scenarios on screen. Why? Because humans are emphatic.

Whatever we see, we interpret through our own experience. The scene (regardless of it being real-life, virtual, or one that emerged in our imagination while reading a fiction novel) makes us re-experience the same emotions we felt in a similar situation.

The “flexible” empathy inherited by humans from their distant ancestors brings success to computer simulators like The Sims or FIFA, and also makes virtual influencers possible.

 

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And while “alive” influencers are harder to cooperate with because of their human nature, virtual ones will do whatever you decide, just like puppets or sims. Moreover, you don’t have to cover their travel expenses or fit into their busy schedule.

Easily manageable, always good-looking, never asleep or on vacation, cheap to make look adorable and trending, and highly influential—they are a real treasure for marketers. 

To leverage virtual influencer marketing, you can either start by creating your own influencer or cooperate with existing ones owned by companies, artists, and creative groups. We invite you to learn more about the top 6 virtual influencers of our time to make a reasonable decision.

For more information on marketing strategies involving opinion leaders read this article: Do You Really Need Instagram Influencer Marketing?

 

Top 6 virtual influencers to track in 2022

#1 Lil Miquela (Miquela Sousa)

Identity: 19-year-old pop singer, social activist, and style icon

Creator: Brud (Cain Intelligence), AI and robotics enthusiasts

First activity: 2016

 

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A post shared by Miquela (@lilmiquela)


Instagram | Spotify 

According to the legend, Lil Miquela is half Brazilian and half Spanish. She is a 19-year-old pop singer with a certain view on what’s going on in modern society. She values diversity, promotes social activism, follows fashion trends, “seeks changes”, and releases songs on Spotify. Miquela was launched “for good” by Brud, an LA-based start up focused on AI and robotics.

In 2018, she was included in the list of the most powerful influencers globally (Time Magazine) and by 2022, her model portfolio included Prada, Calvin Klein, and Burberry. The influencer “poses” with real celebrities and releases new tracks online. Recently, she announced her switch to the metaverse and NTF to closely interact with communities.

 

#2 Shudu

Identity: fashion model

Creator: Cameron James-Wilson, photographer

First activity: 2017

 

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A post shared by Shudu (@shudu.gram)

Instagram

Shudu is a virtual fashion model and brand ambassador created by photographer Cameron James-Wilson. It is hardly possible to distinguish her from a real person—the virtual being looks photorealistic and remains a typical fashion model.

For example, 4 years ago, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty reposted her on their media platforms (with over 8.1 million followers of coverage) without even knowing whether Shudu was real or not. Shudu considers herself as the world’s first digital supermodel and—partly due to her huger success—fashion experts call virtual models the future of fashion and commerce.

 

#3 Hatsune Miku

Identity: a 16-year-old pop star with turquoise twintails

Creator: Crypton Future Media (and the crowd)

First activity: 2007

 

Facebook 

Hatsune Miku is a global pop music star born in Japan. She doesn’t even pretend to be a real person: her appearance looks unrealistic and she doesn’t sound like a human singer either. The virtual character has a computer-generated voice and a 3D body. She was teaming with Pharrell Williams and Lady Gaga to perform on stage, and also held numerous solo concerts (sometimes, several at a time!).

What’s more, Hatsune Miku belongs to the community, not just its creators—she is an open-source computer program that performs songs their authors wrote for her. As a result, she enables young artists to gain first audiences and takes them on her world’s tours. As of the beginning of 2022, she released over 100,000 songs.

 

#4 Liam Nikuro

Identity: a young multimedia producer

Creator: 1sec, the “virtual human planning and production” company

First activity: 2019

 

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A post shared by Nikuro®︎ (@liam_nikuro)

Instagram

Liam is a Japanese-American who lives in Japan, produces music, and works as a part-time fashion model. He was born in the US, but then moved to Japan. The creative also loves basketball and hangs out with various celebrities online, including famous musicians. Liam has groundbreaking technologies behind his creation—his head is made with CG and his body is a 3D animation based on real body filming.

Although companies rarely reveal the technologies behind their characters, 1sec is doing the opposite. One of the reasons is—Liam is a more “independent” and “self-standing” personality compared to his older colleagues like Lil Miquela, because he is somehow powered by AI.

 

#5 Lu of Magalu

Identity: digital specialist and content creator, Magalu brand spokeswoman

Creator: Magazine Luiza (“Magalu”), Brazilian retailer

First activity: 2009

Instagram | YouTube | TikTok

In 2022, Lu is the most followed virtual influencer (24+ million followers on social media) and is a bright example of how brands can benefit from turning their virtual assistant into an influencer pretending to live her private life.

The character first appeared on YouTube where she promoted iBlogTV, but then became something bigger than just a medium for advertising or in-app navigation. Lu’s social media accounts became extremely popular among Brazilians and started collaborating with third-party brands like Adidas and Red Bull.

 

#6 Casas Bahia (CB) 

Identity: a teenage boy and Casas Bahia brand mascot

Creator: Casas Bahia

First activity: 2017

Facebook | Instagram

This teenage boy represents one of the biggest retail brands in Brazil. Although the boy is named after the retailer, he is a self-standing media person—over 5 million users follow him to learn about his opinions on recent video games, youth culture, and even ecological issues. He also shares memes and, according to his fans, is just really fun and welcoming.

The modern teenage character appeared in 2017 after Bahianinho’s character redesign. Bahianinho was a 2D kid and more of a mascot than an influencer sharing his fictional life details and opinions. The teenage Casas Bahia also promotes Brazilian culture and goes far beyond brand advertising—he is almost a part of the national heritage!

Want to know more about virtual influencer history? Check out our YouTube channel.

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Wrapping up

Virtual influencers have higher engagement rates compared to humans with the same number of followers (HypeAuditor). In addition, they are budget-friendly (you don’t need to pay an honorarium or salary to your virtual character!), flexible, and obedient.

However, the main difficulty you’ll face when creating your future influencer—be it a brand ambassador, a mascot, or a virtual model—is storytelling. Virtual characters are successful if they evoke empathy, which means they have to undergo similar life situations as their audience and have a coherent, believable persona.

Watch our video on YouTube to get step-by-step instructions on how to create a virtual influencer, or learn more about storytelling by reading the following articles—A Brief Guide on Sequential Storytelling and 4 Marketing Experts on Visual Content in a Brand’s Storytelling.

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