“Body Render:100%. Good Morning Southeast Asia! It’s me, Maya! I’m here and I’m now ready to start this adventure! So jom, lepak?”, says @mayaaa.gram, the virtual influencer created by PUMA, UM Studios, and Ensemble Worldwide for the new PUMA Future Rider sneakers. The idea was inspired by a research, saying that it’s impossible for any single influencer to cut across the entire Southeast Asian (SEA) region, so UM Studios and Ensemble Worldwide decided to create one.
To create Maya’s figure, multiple 3D versioning techniques were used, and 3D production houses, Graph Studios and Fly Studios were involved. Maya’s personality was developed through proprietary UM Studio wave studies on psychographics in SEA, and it evolves with time as her interests are taken from social listening and AI curation of the content generated by her interactions. The process of Maya’s birth was posted on her Instagram with all the data like SEA culture, language and music to show the audiences that just like her introduction on Instagram, Maya is the virtual girl with true Southeast Asian values.
In addition to bringing Maya to the real world, PUMA created a campaign video with three “real” influencers from Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, entering the virtual Rider World with Maya for an adventure to unlock the Rider sneakers. And like all other influencers, Maya posts on Instagram, hanging out with her influencer friends, and interacting with fans. PUMA says it has seen a high level of engagement with Maya, even in the nascent weeks and more plans are in the pipeline.
The power of influencer marketing is undeniable, we leverage influencers to spread awareness and uplift sales, but how do we appeal to consumers with a clear and refreshing message in the cluttered business? Nowadays, simple endorsement and the “hashtag #ad” approaches aren’t as effective as before, making consumers numb and question the authenticity of both brands and influencers. Virtual influencer, on the other hand, has been a growing force in the sector, yet not all brands are leveraging it right as it is a relatively new concept.
As unreal as these computer-made influencers are, brands should stay human when adopting virtual influencers. The fluid identity of digital counterparts is trendy and interesting, but also unpredictable and uncontrollable at times, especially when tapping into sensitive real topics in the human world. PUMA demonstrates innovation with virtual influencer and stays authentic with the consumer-centered thinking, putting out content that perfectly integrates both worlds.