Market Dealer | BRAND AVATARS: 2020 TREND
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Brand Avatars: 2020 Trend

One of the top trends for 2020 started with a very basic yet powerful human need, CONNECTION!

Human beings by nature are social animals, we are born wired for connection – it is in our DNA. We build relationships with each other and with the brands and business we like to engage with.

In this post, we are going to look at one trend that is changing the way consumers relate to brands in 2020.

Do you know who this is?

Lil Miquela of course! A 19-year-old Brazilian-American model, musical artist, and influencer with over 2.5 million Instagram followers, who is computer-generated!

She is a virtual character that makes very real money by appearing in advertising campaigns and last year she appeared in a Calvin Klein video campaign with supermodel Bella Hadid.

People engaged with this campaign, gained traction, mainly because it explored the blurred lines between reality and imagination.

There is a deeper story at play here, and that is the evolution of brands. The rise of social media that lead the relationship between brands and consumers to a personal one.

Where we have a general conversation with brands as well as the deep underlying forces that are fuelling the rise of BRAND AVATARS.

How has this evolved?

Well, in the last few years we have seen an explosion of digital platforms. Facebook and Instagram are the common channels but there are multiple platforms where these conversations between brands and consumers are happening. Each with its own set of demands, its own set of users and its own set of traditions. This is a new kind of challenge for brands – diffusing these channels.

At the same time, we’ve seen the nature of consumers relationships with technology, particularly with virtual characters evolve, in an interesting way. We have seen the rise of virtual companions, which are AI fuelled characters where consumers have more than just a functional relationship with these AI entities. Deeper than just “Alexa please check the weather forecast”.

We are seeing the rise of AI fuelled character entities, where consumers have a deeper relationship that is about health or wellness or creativity and yes, even friendship. What that’s doing is priming consumers to expect and accept deeper relationships with virtual characters of all kinds, including virtual influencers like Lil Miquela.

That’s what Brand Avatars are all about!
It’s about 2020 and beyond, consumers are going to looking at brands to bring themselves to life in interesting new ways via virtual characters and virtual brand avators in all kinds of virtual channels.

We have seen a few examples, and if you think this trend is only for a niche of virtual influencers, let us help you think outside the AI box!

The Chinese state news agency launched a virtual news anchor. The 2018 AI news anchors were used on various distribution channels including WeChat, the TV webpage, Weibo, and Xinhua’s English and Chinese Apps.

What’s incredible about this brand avatar is that it is more than just a marketing asset, it is truly transformative for the actual service that the Chinese state news provides. A human news anchor reads the news every hour or so and it is the same broadcast for the millions of people watching. This virtual news anchor can read the news hundreds of times a day simultaneously and it can deliver each user a personalised news bulletin based on their preferences.

A band avatar can be a powerful marketing asset, but it can also totally transform the relevance and the power of a service you are offering.

What is a powerful, emerging channel that you should think about when it comes to creating your own brand avatar?

We’ve got one word for you. GAMING. During the first quarter of 2020 digital content spending across console, mobile and PC gaming platforms reached $10.86 billion in total from January to March, the NPD Group calls this a record.

There are massive online shared virtual worlds that are a powerful new channel for you to consider when it comes to deploying a brand avatar of your own.

Take a look at Wendy’s, an American international fast food restaurant chain, whose competitors include fast-food restaurants like Burger King and McDonald’s. Many years ago, Wendy’s committed to “fresh-never-frozen” beef to differentiate itself from competitors.

Last year, Wendy’s created a brand avatar and entered Fortnite, a battle royal survival game where 100 players fight against each other in player versus player combat to be the last one standing.

Fortnite announced an event called “food fight” between team pizza and team burger. Wendy’s dropped into the game and instead of killing other players, they started destroying burger freezers. Emphasising their “fresh-never-frozen” motto. They posted their aim in the game on Twitter inviting gamers to watch their mission on Twitch, an online site that allows users to watch or broadcast live streaming video game gameplay. Soon, other players stopped killing each other and destroyed burger freezers with Wendy’s!

How often do you get to literally play alongside consumers, collaborate with them, and have them WELCOME YOU into their world in the way they did with Wendy’s? If you can achieve that with a brand avatar it could be hugely powerful

How do you apply this trend?

Applying this trend starts by gathering your team and start asking some huge and deep questions about your brand, like:

  • Who are we?
  • What are our core values?
  • What do we stand for as a brand?

Only when you know who you are and what you stand for will you assess how you will take that brand identity and turn it in into a character that you can deploy into this digital sphere.

Brand Avatars are just one part of a massive shift that we all know very well, brands must exist in the media that transmit them! In “old media” we had brands identified by “physical” brand avatars like Mc Donald’s Ronald McDonald, Grimace, Hamburglar and many more.

Now we need participative brand characters and brand avatars that can be adapted to the media that transmits your brand in 2020 and beyond!