CGI influencers have actually been around for the last 3 years but have only just begun to disrupt the Influencer Marketing industry with the likes of @lilmiquela who now has 1.6 million followers on Instagram. For someone who isn’t real, Miquela has got a lot going on for her — from meeting with celebrities, to running her own clothing label, making music, affecting social change, and being on the covers of various magazines.
What is compelling and relevant to note in light of Influencer Marketing is the sheer amount of funding and investments that these virtual influencers are pulling in. Venture capitalists pump money into the $20-30 million brackets at a go, and the startup behind Miquela (called Brud) is now valued at $125 million, according to Entrepreneur.
What does this mean for Influencer Marketing?
It means that CGI influencers are the newest, most powerful PR platforms for brands. Before we can talk about why CGI marketing is the way forward, let’s get to know some of the more popular and successful virtual influencers on Instagram.
1 – Bermuda: @bermudaisbae
She was created as a ‘rival’ of sorts to Miquela, but the two seem to have forged an amicable friendship on social media. Bermuda has 137K followers on Instagram, and quite an interesting country distribution, with her two largest audiences coming from the US and Indonesia:
Her top post this year features Miquela and it garnered a 15% engagement rate, which is more than 5 times the average engagement for micro influencers in the US. Her average engagement of 3.9% is also slightly higher than the average and because she is a micro influencer, brands that work with her can benefit from a low CPE.
2 – Blawko: @blawko22
Third in this trio of Brud influencers is Blawko, who is Bermuda’s on-and-off boyfriend. They were together at some points but she has since started helping him to beef up his dating profile, so we can only assume that they aren’t an item anymore. Blawko’s vibe seems to be the face mask — we never see his entire face and even in pictures without a mask, his face is strategically blocked by something else.
His top post this year is a Yeezy giveaway that features Bermuda.
The pair is cleverly perched on a bench in Downtown LA, snapped candidly (presumably by Miquela) in the midst of unboxing these shoes (that Bermuda is clearly unimpressed by, hence the giveaway). Their lives are so carefully crafted it almost seems natural, and that is one of the trio’s biggest selling points.
3 – Shudu: @shudu.gram
Shudu is the world’s first digital supermodel, and has endorsed a number of makeup brands including Fenty Beauty, as well as posed for the cover of Elle Magazine and Vogue Australia. Her style is inspired by @mistythebrandofficial, whose real life poses and general physique help the artists to render Shudu as a virtual influencer. Consider Shudu’s top performing post this year which has her fully decked as an African ‘Shero’.
This post garnered a 25% engagement rate, which is really quite impressive for a virtual influencer, and very positive news for the brands that collaborated on this post. There are also two other models created by the same artist that go by @brenn.gram and @galaxia.gram (an alien supermodel) who are not as popular.
It is interesting to note that Shudu was not created for the purpose of becoming an influencer, but the fact that the market is so ready and hungry for innovation has thrust her into the spotlight.
4 – Imma: @imma.gram
The final CGI influencer that I want to draw attention to is Imma, who is a pink-haired Japanese girl. Despite having the least number of followers amongst those listed here, she is an ambassador for big brands like Dior and Nike, and is also followed by a number of Japanese celebrities as well as SKII’s official account.
Some of her other top collaborations include Alexander McQueen, High Snobiety, and Onistuka Tiger, which is really quite impressive for a virtual micro influencer.
Here is her top performing post of 2019 which puts an aesthetic and ironic twist on what we understand by human and machine. This got an 18.2% engagement rate, which is 6 times the average engagement rate for Japanese nano-micro influencers.
It is interesting to note how diverse these influencers are, as well as how wide their network of connections with brands and magazines span. The level of creative freedom that can go into managing a virtual influencer is enviable, and the possibilities are endless. In our next article on this topic, we will cover all the reasons why investing in a virtual influencer is a key to successful Influencer Marketing.
This is the 1st in a 2-part series about CGI Influencer Marketing and the uptake of virtual influencers on Instagram. Look out for our next article to read about why this investment will be a fruitful one for your next brand awareness campaign.