What You Need To Know About CGI Influencer Marketing: Why Should My Brand Invest?

In our previous article on CGI Influencer Marketing, we introduced the five virtual influencers to be contended with: @lilmiquela, @bermudaisbae, @blawko22, @shudu.gram, and @imma.gram.  In this article, we will delve directly into (1) why virtual influencers are an asset to influencer marketing campaigns & collaborations, and (2) how the influencers mentioned have proven to be successful ambassadors and more. 

1 – Creative Freedom

This is perhaps the hardest obstacle to overcome when working with a human influencer. A lot of the time, brands need to work around an influencers existing persona and presence on Instagram. Take, for example, Kylie Jenner’s post frequency on Instagram: 

If a brand were to work with her, they would have to ensure that their content doesn’t drown in hers. Posting 2 times a day means that anything more (which would not go live at prime time) is unlikely to be consumed by her followers. This is the case with a lot of influencers, to whom brand content is secondary or collateral to the original content that they put out. 

With CGI influencers, however, their existence is entirely predicated on the developer or brand which owns them so all the content that they post can be endorsements or shout-outs or reviews. Additionally, there is greater room to experiment and try new concepts which do not have to be congruent with the influencers ‘personality’ or views, fundamentally because these are up to the creator to determine.  

For example, Imma’s collaborations with Nike differ quite greatly from her collaborations with MAPS Magazine. Nike puts forth something bold and avant garde, while MAPS appeals to softness and femininity. 

Imma for Nike
Imma for MAPS

Authenticity is not something that virtual influencers or their creators are confined to, so there is liberty to experiment with different brands, styles, and moods. 

2 – Building a Narrative

A big part of being able to sell a product, service, or idea is being able to sell a story. Often, brands are compelled to work with influencers whose story aligns with theirs, and this isn’t always an easy thing to do. With a CGI influencer, however, their history is entirely up to you to craft. Here is where the Brud influencers have done well.

The first image in this carousel post was shared across all 3 accounts — Miquela’s, Bermuda’s and Blawko’s — each with captions that fit their online personas. Creating three separate CGI influencers but connecting them with a backstory is an ingenious way to help people believe that these are real people with real experiences, without having to go through the trouble of working through the complex web of human relationships. It makes them relatable while at the same time keeping that ‘relatability’ within your control. 

For example, Bermuda and Blawko’s on again off again relationship spurns content that allows them to create shared meaning with other real influencers

@breadfaceblog, who is popular on Instagram for unceremoniously pairing her face with various breads, has been cheekily roped into this virtual romance just because. 

Imagine what a good segue this would make for a potential collaboration.

3 – Bending Space and Time 

Virtual influencers don’t have to eat or sleep or board a plane from LA to Paris so they aren’t subject to the clock or geographical constraints in the same way real people are. They don’t suffer from burnout and so they can endorse a Supreme lifejacket on the beaches of Bali at 10AM and a Fenty lipstick at the MET Museum at 6PM. It also doesn’t cost any money at all for them to do this. They don’t need a passport or a VISA or an air ticket. It costs practically $0 for a virtual influencer to stand at the Banks of the Seine and endorse a pair of Gucci shades, for example, which thus drives the cost of working with them down as well.

Case in point: Blawko stands with the Eiffel Tower in the back, repping @ragandbone

In this post he endorses Balenciaga at The Home Depot:

The fact that they are VR means that they are not confined to a single space or skill, and can change their location and style as the brand requires. 

4 – Internal Promotion

By creating this network of virtual influencers who are not necessarily in competition with one another (if they are created by the same brand or developer), they can benefit from the spirit of internal promotion which is of low or no cost. In the post below, Bermuda gives a shout-out to @club404notfound, which is Miquela’s label.

This wouldn’t have cost either of them anything but what it essentially does is create a feedback loop where a brand’s repertoire of CGI influencers, for example, can continually endorse or shout-out each of the subsidiary campaigns/labels. Imagine: a whole influencer marketing campaign with no real influencers, which entails complete control on the part of the brand and no hefty price tag

5 – All-Roundedness

As mentioned, these influencers are entirely up to your design so you can make them as woke or as tech-savvy or as musically-inclined or as artistic as you like. Or all of the above. This helps a lot with brand image because consumers are more likely to purchase (and re-purchase) from a brand that is socially and self aware. 

For example, the most ‘conscious’ of the lot is Miquela who has collaborated on multiple social causes to date. 

Popular Chips
Popular Chips

From LGBTQ+ issues, climate change, abortion, and spotlighting local heroes, Miquela has covered them all. She also mentions @justiceforyouth in her bio which is a national initiative against the incarceration of youth. The other influencers have generally only collaborated on Pride Month so far, but it is a start. 

Having influencers that do more than just endorse a consumer product really goes a long way for brand image and sales; virtual influencers can be invested in any cause that you please. 

With the number of benefits that come with investing in a virtual influencer, it is no wonder that this trend has penetrated the influencer marketing industry so fiercely. So far the collaborations we have witnessed within these 5 influencers have been short-term, and we are looking forward to a campaign that we might be able to track for better insight. I foresee that this trend is going to grow quite quickly and greatly very soon, so we will check back with updates as they come. 

This is the 2nd in a 2-part series about CGI Influencer Marketing and the uptake of virtual influencers on Instagram. If you missed our 1st article introducing the 5 popular virtual influencers, click here.

Written by Deesha Menon

Influencer Marketing at Popular Chips. Interested in social issues, narratives, books, social media, and machine learning.

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