TAPPING THE CGI INFLUENCER MARKET: HOW BRANDS CAN LEARN FROM LIL MIQUELA

Creating a product that resonates with Gen Z involves tapping into the core tenets of the human experience, using innovative technology, and on-trend delivery methods. There is no product that embodies this better than Lil Miquela, the über-famous robot influencer who expressed in a live interview that she doesn’t expect ‘humans’ to relate to her.

The CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) influencer market is growing at an exponential rate, but the technology itself isn’t new. CGI was brought to the forefront of children’s imagination with the release of Pixar’s Toy Story in 1995. Back to the future, CGI has infiltrated the phones we keep in our pocket. One of the most popular messenger apps today, Snapchat, was the first service to mainstream the technology as a way to interact with friends. Tik Tok and Instagram quickly adopted the trend, followed by Apple which reintroduced Animoji at the Grammys, in a collaboration video with rappers Migos and Childish Gambino.

Yet, rushing to use CGI for the sake of staying relevant isn’t a successful strategy on its own. Here are what brands can learn from media moguls and unicorn startups in appealing to the masses:

  1.     Focus on your core product:

The most successful products in the power centers of media, technology, and entertainment are similar in that they share a straightforward, universal appeal. At the core, Brud’s product is simple: Lil Miquela is a Gen Z influencer supposed to earn revenue using her notoriety. While ‘influencers’ are often associated with social media, the fundamental idea of a ‘celebrity’ influencing the purchasing decisions of others has long been proven successful if well executed.

The CGI influencer’s core aesthetic is also familiar, if not expected: a human Miquela could’ve walked runways and red carpets because her beauty is unequivocal. Described by her followers as a ‘princess fit for Disney’, Lil Miquela boasts a perfectly symmetrical face that doesn’t age, Kylie Jenner-like lips, and piercing, hazel eyes that catch the light. Gen Zers are known to prefer ‘realness’, but the Lil Miquela they follow, like many celebrities before her, still represents the epitome of unrealistic beauty standards.

Here, Brud’s true success lies in its use of CGI technology to modernize its product. It’s a technique Disney has successfully been using since its beginning in 1923. Bob Iger articulated the need to balance heritage with innovation. His goal at Disney was to build on its core values, as opposed to shift away from them, explaining “A lot of brands miss that because they believe in order to be relevant that’s what you need to do. It’s typically not about that. It’s how you present those values to the world.”

  1.     Tap into human emotions:

Another part of Brud’s success lies in its storytelling skills that appeal to people’s emotions. Creating compelling narratives attracts the consumers’ subconscious and creates an emotional connection with the product, whether human or robot. According to a study performed by Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon published in the Harvard Business Review, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. “These emotionally connected customers buy more of your products and services, exhibit less price sensitivity, pay more attention to your communications, follow your advice, and recommend you more”

This applies to Lil Miquela, who caught the eyes of 1.8 million followers because she is surprisingly human. Beyond her computer-generated appearance, the CGI influencer resonates with her young followers on a personal level as she opens up about her not-so-private life and tackles universal, human themes. “Everyone is trying to be more authentic,” says Lexie Carbone, a content marketer at Later, a social-media marketing firm. “People are writing longer captions. […] I think it all goes back to, you don’t want to see a girl standing in front of a wall that you’ve seen thousands of times. We need something new.”

Perhaps even more striking is the depth and realness of Lil Miquela’s facial expressions. Unexpectedly human, the robot can convey the many raw emotions that teenagers and young adults, regardless of their generation, have felt at one point or another. When  it comes to the importance of successfully appealing to human emotions, academy award winner Brad Pitt recently explained his personal life informs all his work. “You gotta make it personal or it’s just not grounded, it doesn’t land. I make everything personal.”

  1.   Deliver your product properly:

Ultimately, products need to be delivered in accordance with their target market for them to gain visibility and become successful. Brud used modern technology and new platforms to deliver an age-old product: celebrity (‘influencer’) advertising. The influencer herself, while being super-model beautiful, is styled in accordance with Gen Z trends. No flashy labels here but a clear penchant for thrift store shopping. No perfect blowout but hair styled in two buns.

Finally, Brud delivered their product on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok to Lil Miquela further expand her narrative and human connection. The influencer’s official debut as a robot was marked in 2018 when she finally revealed to the world, she wasn’t human. The twist to the story couldn’t have been more modern: Lil Miquela coming out was prompted by robot “Bermuda” who hacked the influencer’s account and accused her of a “fake person who was duping her followers.” Delivering yet another compelling narrative, Lil Miquela came out tapping into her follower’s universal love for scandals.

About The Author

Anne-Lise Sharbatian is the CEO Tempo, a gaming company releasing the first synthetic influencer multiplayer, hyper casual games for Generation Alpha. At 15, Anne-Lise started LJH, one of the first influencer marketing firms focused on Instagram. She also worked for Scopely, a leading interactive entertainment and mobile games company that created the Wheel Of Fortune, Yahtzee and Star Trek Fleet Command games

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