The rise of virtual influencers is upon us

Interestingly, and amidst palpable influencer fatigue, virtual influencers are gaining traction with modern youth, which we explored in The Global Culture Forecast. Brands are starting to get in on the action with their own CGI influencers, allowing them to be part of youth’s dedication to the culture of influence while experimenting with new marketing strategies that more deeply resonate and engage with young people, especially Gen Zs.


The majority of young consumers—68% in the UK and 64% in the U.S.—say it’s hard to feel an emotional connection to a brand today, but KFC is striving to mitigate this disconnect with the debut of its Virtual Influencer Colonel, a buff, computer-generated, salt-and-pepper model who has recently taken over KFC’s official Instagram account. Followers of the account are treated to shots of the Colonel engaged in all manner of typical “influencer activities,” including lounging on a private jet, visiting Joshua Tree, and, obviously, posting sponsored content with brands that include Old Spice and Casper.


Luxury Italian fashion brand Moschino launched a Sims-inspired capsule collection back in April. The clothes are influenced by the outfits worn by characters in The Sims, a life-simulation video game (and one of the best-selling video game series of all time), and the campaign heavily draws from the digital world that Sims players occupy. This worlds-bending blend of digital tech and high fashion sets the bar for future digital fashion mashups and places brands such as Moschino at the forefront of next-gen fashion.


1sec Inc., a venture company that plans and develops virtual humans, claims to have created Japan’s first male virtual influencer, named Liam Nikuro. His head is entirely computer-generated while his body is crafted from a 3D rendering that is based on a human model who is filmed in live action. He joins influencers such as Lil Miquela, whose uber trendiness and lack of human fallibility resonate with youth. Liam’s creation is part of an effort to produce A.I.-driven creative content that lives within the realms of fashion, music, and entertainment.

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