Next Step for Influencer Marketing: The Fascination of Robots

Sofia Santo António & Urte Gaidamaviciute

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this research study is to gain some knowledge about the rising popularity of virtual social media influencers (VSMI). The study has used a single case to explore the phenomena and conduct some qualitative research by questioning the followers of one virtual Instagram account - Lil Miquela. Miquela Sousa is a forever 19-year-old robot from Brazil, created by the L.A. based agency Brud.
Currently, there are no empirical studies on Virtual Social Media Influencers, which has caught the researchers' attention as a potential research gap. Since these virtual influencers are starting to get some traction, it was decided to study their following to learn about the specific motivations to follow. This study makes use of the brand equity model by Keller (2001) and Aaker (1996), to evaluate the brand value of a VSMI. Moreover, the profile of the predominant target groups of Lil Miquela was established by analysing the main motivations to follow this Instagram account - namely the Community Seekers (which amounted to 22% of the entire sample) and the Technological admirers (that resulted in 78% of the sample population). Community seekers find her exciting, and their motivation to follow is highly based on her being interactive and engaging with her audience. Technology lovers admire new technology, are interested in knowing the new trends, therefore found this new phenomenon amazing and having a bright future ahead. They cannot relate to Lil Miquela and therefore they are not loyal to this human brand. The main motivations to follow the account are curiosity and intrigue. In order to understand the brand equity of Lil Miquela, the authors have started analysing two dimensions of Keller's brand equity pyramid (2001)- brand salience and brand meaning; the results were both positive to both segments. After analysing these two dimensions, the authors felt the need to study further the value of Lil Miquela as a brand; therefore, the model of brand equity from Aaker (1996) was evaluated to have an overview of the various dimensions, giving different results for both target groups.
Finally, theoretical and Managerial Implications were discussed. The managerial implications were divided into three sections - those brands who are thinking of creating a virtual social media influencer, the ones who already have one, and the ones who would like to collaborate with one in the future. Future research in this research field could be related to conducting a broader spectrum study, including both followers of the virtual social media influencers and people who have never encountered them.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages178
SupervisorsStefan Markovic