The Impact of AI-generated Influencers on Brand Marketing

May 22, 2024
The Impact of AI-generated Influencers on Brand Marketing
Out of 1.32 billion Instagram users, 78 million, or more than 27%, followed AI influencers in 2023 – and the number continues to grow.

Now, if AI influencers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, one’s love or hate for it has no play in the ecosystem. I know some who certainly won’t mind dealing with better-managed machines, as compared to the shrill and cacophony that surrounds influencer marketing these days – in ways that clear the playfield for only the truly funny, interesting and creative humans – as it ideally should be.

Humans and machines aside, there’s also the question for marketers about humanizing brands. Rather, if or how AI entities fit into that paradigm, and whether marketers humanize their brands less or more when they choose AI influencers.

Before discussing esoterics, let’s look at some hard data, first – a recent market survey found that Over 25% of web users follow virtual influencers for their content, 19% for their storytelling, and 15% because they find these inspiring. The harder fact? These digital personas are causing waves (and not ripples), where the more successful ones have delivered triple the engagement compared to their human counterparts.

On one hand, data justifies pursuit, while on the other, virtual influencers offer lifelike interactions when backed with the right creative assets and continuous machine learning. If you have used a chat box with “office hours” embedded, it’s easy to visualize an actual brand ambassador that’s now available around the clock, flawlessly delivering content tailored for diverse campaigns. Through AI analysis of audience demographics and preferences, marketers can also finely tune content, pinpointing specific consumer segments with more precision.

Not surprisingly, brands have leaped into experiments with AI influencers, integrating new personas into their marketing strategies.

Having an existing mascot made it easy for KFC to create and feature a computer-generated Colonel Sanders as a virtual influencer, where the CGI Colonel shared his “secret recipe for success” tattoo on Instagram, and even cross-promoted Dr. Pepper, Old Spice, and TurboTax.

Clueless, a Spanish modeling agency, chose to create afresh when it debuted Aitana López, an AI influencer who looks and ‘acts’ according to their perception of the “global preference”. Aitana now earns over €1,000 per advert and serves as the face of Big, a sports supplement company.

Vogue teamed up with virtual influencer Noonoouri to boost their September 2023 issue. Noonoouri, a digital creation by Joerg Zuber of Opium Effect, was designed by a 19-year-old fashion icon who collaborated with top brands like Dior and Balenciaga. With over 400,000 Instagram followers, the AI influencer advocated sustainable fashion and veganism, while the magazine showcased it in an outfit right out of the September issue on Instagram.

Renault unveiled Liv Renault as the brand ambassador for their Kadjar SUV, leveraging AI to embody the brand’s values, while simultaneously utilizing AI social listening tools to identify trusted influencers and segment audiences, which in turn informed insights relevant to Liv’s persona.

That being said, despite its disruptive potential, AI-driven influencer marketing isn’t without its fair share of challenges, and brand marketers must consider a few key issues as a part of their strategy and planning process.

Copyright and IP issues – AI-generated content may inadvertently tiptoe into copyright, patent, or trademark territory, sparking concerns over ownership and legal ramifications. Ensuring compliance with data acquisition laws of the land, and securing proper licensing is imperative in this landscape.
Brand safety – While virtual influencers may seem less prone to controversies than human influencers, these aren’t immune. Brands must see to it that virtual influencers align with their existing brand values, and appear authentic to their audience despite potential perceptions of artificiality.
Lack of accuracy of audience insights – Notwithstanding that Ai analytics remains in a nascent stage, the efficacy of AI algorithms also hinges on the quality of data it’s fed. Outdated or flawed data can compromise insights, resulting in ineffective campaign targeting and diminished ROI. Additionally, human biases present in training data can sometimes adversely impact AI-generated insights.
Lack of human touch – The absence of genuine emotions and personal experiences might make connecting with audiences somewhat difficult in an age where brands are expected to be authentic. This gap, if not addressed – be it via disclaimers, or tests, may pose a hurdle in resonating with audiences.
Skepticism continues to linger among some consumers regarding the authenticity of interactions with virtual influencers, casting doubt on the credibility of their endorsements. The eerie concept of the uncanny valley further fuels audience skepticism, complicating matters.

Some ethical considerations also come to the forefront that any responsible marketing campaign should not fail to care for.

Transparency – As AI-powered virtual influencers become more prevalent, maintaining transparency about their virtual nature is crucial. Audiences need to be aware that they are interacting with AI to establish trust and credibility.
Content manipulation – The digital nature of virtual influencers opens up possibilities for content manipulation and crafted messaging, potentially promoting certain agendas or misrepresenting products. Brands must navigate these ethical considerations to avoid misleading their audience.
Unrealistic standards – This is the Big SCARY. Virtual influencers are often portrayed as idealized images that then contribute towards setting unrealistic beauty standards, for one, raising concerns about the reinforcement of stereotypes and their impact on human self-esteem.
Gender disparities – The majority of successful virtual influencers today are female, prompting questions about gender representation dynamics in virtual influencer marketing and potential societal impacts.

There are many answers to this question, but the most obvious (and easy) one is to combine AI with human creativity.

When infused with unique personality traits, humor, empathy and relatability, your AI influencer can be a work in progress that incrementally humanizes a virtual persona. Relatable user-generated content featuring the AI influencer can also encourage audience participation and a sense of actual dialogue. As long as marketers are prepared for a few, potentially, awkward moments, the idea holds much water. Also, given that the perceived authenticity of AI influencers significantly influences audience engagement and purchase intent, brands additionally stand to benefit from continually evolving the AI influencer’s persona and content to align with shifting audience preferences, while maintaining transparency about their virtual nature.

As yet, human influencers retain the advantages of their ability to share personal experiences that help form deep connections. As AI technology advances, a hybrid approach leveraging both AI and human influencers may be most effective in creating compelling, authentic brand stories.

In conclusion, there’s zero doubt that AI influencers are here to stay, and their impact on the creator marketing landscape will be significant. Despite some challenges, it offers clear benefits like better brand control, precise targeting, and easy, comprehensive content creation. This, however, is the time for both AI and human influencers to work together, bringing different strengths to brands and audiences. Just remember to maintain transparency and authenticity.

Source: medianews4u