With the rise of social media, brands have tapped into the tremendous marketing opportunities offered by platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Needless to say, influencers are today’s most sought-after advertisers, especially for those seeking to “humanize” their brand. And while there are many examples of such approaches leading to great success, there is a new trend which is increasing in prominence around the world — the use of virtual influencers.
Puma is the latest brand to create a computer-generated brand ambassador. The sportswear company has developed Maya in partnership with UM Studios x Ensemble Worldwide to represent Puma in Southeast Asia (SEA) and promote the brand’s Future Rider sneakers.
Described as “Your average not so average Southeast Asian Virtual Girl”, Maya was created using So.Min. The social media artificial intelligence (AI) platform mapped millions of Southeast Asian faces from various online sources including a user-generated process via Instagram. For her personality (yes, she has one) the developers used multiple innovative techniques and a SEA psychographic study.
While Puma will continue to collaborate with other human influencers, the company has seen a high level of engagement with Maya in the first weeks since her launch. Currently, the AI model has over 8,500 followers on Instagram.
“As an agency, we’ve always been interested in the idea of creating a virtual influencer. When the prospect of an influencer-based campaign presented itself with PUMA, we jumped at the opportunity,” UM Studios & Ensemble Worldwide CEO Amit Sutha said as quoted by The Drum on Tuesday.
“Maya is an influencer at heart. She is relatable to consumers because her followers have had a first-hand look at her life from conception. Her story is also carefully constructed to cater to the Southeast Asian audience, meaning the emotional connection they have with her is on a much deeper level than with other influencers.”