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Who are you Noonoouri and why are you dressed in Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini?

How to engage virtual influencers
Cartoon character in checkered dress

For Companies and brands, managed by Gen X (when you are lucky), it is no longer so hard to understand that working with influencers or content creators is important, if approached with a clear strategy.

But imagine when you show them (even to Millennials) a list of virtual influencers and you pretend to make it simple by explaining that it makes sense to engage with virtual influencers too. Before talking of Noonoouri, the list is long, from Lil Miquela Sousa to Blawko: a “streetwear kid” with face tattoos and an acerbic tone of voice on social media (which is not posting any video on his YouTube channel[29] since two years). Without forgetting Bermuda[30], the LA based robot, or Shudu[31]: a 3-D model created by photographer Cameron-James Wilson in the beginning of 2017 using a program called Daz 3-D[32].

Finishing (but it is far from being an exhaustive list), it is relevant to mention the first “owned by a brand” virtual influencer Daisy. Resembling the likes of actress Hannah Gross, Daisy is the creation of YOOX, self-proclaimed “leading online lifestyle store”. Making her first appearance on December 10th, 2018, Daisy identifies as a human woman and exists to promote YOOX clothing on the brand Instagram’s account[33]. If YOOX has been the first company creating its own digital model/influencer, before investigating the relationship between avatars/ digital models/ virtual characters and fashion companies, I want to highlight that on 4th Nov 2019 the Italian company launched YOOXMIRROR. The possibility for all customers to become an avatar, to try on the clothes virtually. As stated by Federico Marchetti, at that time, still Chairman and CEO of YOOX NET-A-PORTER Group: “I’m proud of the pioneering innovations our talented R&D team continues to make to give our customers a truly memorable and interactive experience”[34].

What does it mean? Once again it is proof, if you still need one, that the boundaries between what is considered virtual and what is physical, are blurring year after year. As customers, we’re looking at digital models as we would real life models, and we desire to have our own avatar, which represents our “onlife”. At this point of the course, there should be no surprise in seeing the digital model Noonoouri, dressed in Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini (the extension line of Alberta Ferretti[35]). Today you might look at this collaboration as if it is “nothing new”, but you should take into consideration when the campaign was launched. It was not just a post, it was made for the collaboration between Alitalia (the leading Italian airline) and Alberta Ferretti[36], and Lorenzo Serafini[37] casted Noonoouri for the Pre-Fall collection lookbook in 2019.

The CGI[38] influencer counted 235,000 Instagram followers back in those days. The numbers were not incredibly high in terms of likes/followers and interactions, but the strategy of the brand was clever: to be associated with the digital influencers, to be relevant for the target of Millennials and GenZ the Company wanted to reach, by adopting their language. The Italian brand “Philosophy by…[39]” has been the first brand to develop a campaign and a look book promoting a collection, but it was not the first paid campaign for Noonoouri. You should not be surprised to know that Dior was the first luxury brand to trust her power. Why? Because under the direction of Maria Grazia Chiuri, Noonoouri took the Instagram takeover of Dior Cruise Makeup in July 2018[40]. Have a look here to the Dior Instagram post announcing the collaboration: go to instagram

By analysing the Instagram account of Noonoouri, I see Tom Ford as the first fashion brand to appear: https://www.instagram.com/p/Be-mTRqlvat/

Noonoouri was created in the image of Naomi Campbell and Kim Kardashian. Speaking at the Conde Nast International Luxury Conference in Cape Town in April 2019, the former Zuber described her as having an “other-worldly beauty” that he’s always admired, while Kardashian he calls “the face of social media”. Watch this short video in which Noonoouri introduced herself, as if she was a human influencer:

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Today, all the digital influencers presented themselves as “real”: what have I already said to you? We should consider them as real, if they influence us, if they appear on the cover of magazines[41], if they have followers and have an impact in the Society. As Zuber stated in an interview at the beginning of 2019[42]: “Noonoouri is and will remain a character. I want everyone to realize that at first sight.” One of the main differences, that you might have seen at first sight in between Noonoouri and the other virtual/digital models, is that she is a “character”. Mr Zuber didn’t want to reinforce the unrealistic female beauty ideal even further, as he said in the same interview mentioned previously: “People follow her because she’s different. With her, you can immerse yourself in a dream world,”.

The “dream world” that is one of the founding elements of any video game ever played. Why have I selected to introduce you to Noounoouri?

First reason: she is a character, not an avatar, not a digital model in the way we use to refer to them. This should make it easier for everyone to understand that her influencing power is not the one of “representing the perfection of the digital beauties”, but the dream that relies on it.

Second reason: with other “digital recreations”, you could have possibly thought that they are representing “the myth, the reference for the hyper filtered influencers of nowadays”, while it is clear for everyone that Noonoouri is not a “look-a-like” digital model.

Third reason: Despite nobody believing in this project 9 years ago, Joerg Zuber was able to bring Noonoouri onto the market in 2017. And since then, she is a success story as a digital influencer: she has worked with brands like Dior, Versace[43], Marc Jacobs[44], Burberry[45], Tommy Hilfiger[46], Gucci[47], Guerlain and she has also done advertising for Kim Kardashian’s makeup line, look here:

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Watch this interview that Mr. Joerg Zuber gave to IGUATEMI TALKS[48]:

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

As we started this class by investigating the Manga influences on our Society, you might assume that, due to her big eyes and look, she is representing a Manga character too. But if we follow the interview that Mr. Joerg Zuber gave to L’Officiel Italia[49]: “Noonoouri is a citizen of the world. She can be Latin American, Arabic, Japanese[50]: wherever she goes, everyone can identify with her”. Let me add also Italian: to justify her “participation” to the Carine Roitfeld for Luisaviaroma fashion show[51]. Exactly as a video game hero or heroine: despite his or her aspect, everyone can identify with him/her: even when you are playing the role of Sonic the Hedgehog[52].

Discuss

  • In you opinion, what are the positives and negatives of using virtual influencers?

Discuss with your peers in the comments below.

References:
29. https://www.youtube.com/c/Blawko22/featured
30. https://www.instagram.com/bermudaisbae/
31. https://www.instagram.com/shudu.gram/?
32. https://wwd.com/eye/people/shudu-digital-fashion-model-avatar-1202683320/
33. https://www.instagram.com/yoox/
34. https://www.ynap.com/news/be-your-own-avatar-yooxmirror-reloaded/
35. https://www.albertaferretti.com/us_en/
36. https://www.instagram.com/p/BkPLRH6FZKC/
37. https://www.instagram.com/p/By-NxTno4wF/
38. CGI: Computer-generated imagery.
39. Originally Philosophy by Alberta Ferretti, it has changed is name with the fashion designer that is designing the collection. Back to FW2019, the designer was Lorenzo Serafini.
40. https://www.instagram.com/p/BjR0yNOlRpP/
41. Noonoouri had her first cover with Carine Roitfild for Madame Figaro: https://madame.lefigaro.fr/style/carine-roitfeld-et-star-virtuelle-noonouri-prennent-la-pose-280918-150791 for the September issue in 2018. Posted also here : https://www.instagram.com/p/BoRJp56ljzb/
42. https://www.deutschland.de/en/topic/culture/who-is-noonoouri-fashion-avatar-conquers-the-fashion-world
43. https://www.instagram.com/p/BhYtz0dll4E/
44. https://www.instagram.com/p/BnoHE-hFe2C/
45. https://www.instagram.com/p/B1V-kufISy1/
46. https://www.instagram.com/p/B2J2yYSoZ93/
47. https://www.instagram.com/p/BjojLG8lT0N/
48. https://iguatemi.com.br/iguatemitalks/#o-evento
49. https://www.instagram.com/p/B5Z8M52qk0P/
50. Noonoouri in Tokyo for the event Valentino organized with TMALL: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bqzoqg-n1tZ/
51. https://www.instagram.com/p/Byp8uewIGZ2/
52. Sonic is the hero of the Japanese video game series and media franchise created and owned by Sega. https://www.sonicthehedgehog.com/

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