The Latest Insight Report on Metaverse Marketing: China's Virtual KOL

The Latest Insight Report on Metaverse Marketing: China's Virtual KOL

07 Dec 2021 | Andy S & Tian Xing Z | 9 min read


As a sci-fi concept published in novels for nearly thirty years, Metaverse has ushered in a round of speculation in the capital market this year. With the in-depth exploration of the Metaverse market, the continuous breakthrough of technology, and the deep participation of capital and virtual idols presenting and experiencing the “Metaverse” have begun to flourish in China.

2021 can be described as a booming year for China’s virtual idol industry. At the beginning of the year, Luo Tianyi, a virtual influencer with millions of fans, appeared on the stage of the China CCTV Spring Festival Gala. Since the beginning of this year, Chinese Internet giants and entertainment companies have entered the virtual idol industry and won the favour of capital.

China’s virtual idol industry is approaching its peak. According to iiMedia Research’s data, the scale of China’s virtual idol core industry was 3.46 billion yuan in 2020, and they expect it to reach 6.22 billion yuan in 2021. 2020, With the full exploration of commercial value, they expect the scale of the industry driven by virtual idols to rise from 64.56 billion yuan in 2020 to 107.49 billion yuan in 2021.

This article will give you a preliminary understanding of the concepts of Metaverse and China’s virtual KOL(key opinion leader) or virtual influencers and provide some Chinese Metaverse advertising guide, mainly referring to the marketing of China’s virtual KOL.

What is the Metaverse

Simply put, people will experience, participate, build, and live in the digital world with a virtual digital identity.

First, this is a digital world, which is like the Internet world behind smartphones. Many elderly people may not understand why young people are addicted to mobile phones because they cannot understand the rich Internet world hidden in mobile phones. By the same logic, people will live in the digital world called the Metaverse in the future.

Secondly, brands in Metaverse all have countless digital accounts. These digital accounts are attached to the offline subject with a real identity.

Third, people can participate and build rules together. Similarly, people can build a brand and a business form together.

How to understand the Metaverse? There are still divergent opinions. After all, it is still an emerging technology concept. Here are only some more general opinions.

In such a Metaverse, combined with brand marketing, should current brands participate in this digital space? What kind of gameplay and opportunities will there be?

Many brands embrace the Metaverse

It is the first time that the “digital collectibles” and the “new physical products” will be introduced during China’s Double Eleven. However, in the past, foreign brands such as LV, Gucci, Stella Artois, etc. have already carried out brand marketing in the form of selling NFTs early.

Gucci also announced the launch of the first digital artwork when it coincided with their 100th anniversary. At the same time, it also cooperated with Roblox to create a new space called “Gucci Garden”, allowing customers to experience “immersive multimedia in the Metaverse “.

Gucci Garden
Gucci Garden

Last month, McDonald’s offered digital token “Big Mac Cube” in Shanghai to celebrate its 31st anniversary of entering the Chinese mainland market and the official opening of its new headquarters building on the west bank of Shanghai. This “Big Mac Cube” is a three-dimensional dynamic digital creative work.

Big Mac Cube
Big Mac Cube

From the perspective of the optimistic technology school, these works with NFTs are the constituent elements of the ” Metaverse.” China’s Metaverse market has huge growth potential, so Metaverse advertising has become a hot topic in China.

What does Metaverse bring to virtual idols?

Like Metaverse, virtual idol is also just a relatively new concept. China’s major Internet giants and idol brokerage companies have long been scrambling to enter this track.

In particular, more tainted stars in the physical world flopped, and many people set their sights on virtual idols who will never go against their public image.

However, the virtual idols are more than “substitutes” for real idols. You can divide Virtual idols appearing on the market into several categories.

Virtual singers represented by Hatsune Miku and Luo Tianyi; virtual network anchors represented by Kizuna Ai and Mirai Akari; Metahuman represented by Ling; the virtual actor represented by Hezhui, and the brand anthropomorphic image represented by the Mengyaxiong, Tangyuanjiang, and Huaxizi.

a’s virtual KOL: Ling
China’s virtual KOL: Ling
Enlybee’s Guide

The brand marketing value of virtual idols

Influencer program

Lil Miquela, a virtual idol born on Instagram, has accumulated more than 1.5 million followers in less than two years. Its real identity is an art model simulated by a Silicon Valley technology company through artificial intelligence.

The producer also gave it a “real” identity: a nineteen-year-old mixed-race American girl who lives in Los Angeles as a model and singer. Due to its own style image and special character attributes, while its popularity has skyrocketed, Lil Miquela has also attracted the favor of CHANEL, Prada, LV, Supreme, and other brands.

Lil Miquela
Lil Miquela

Cross-border cooperation

In 2018, the brand “Vita Lemon Tea” collaborated with the virtual idol “Luo Tianyi” and staged a real summer carnival. The brand not only invited the virtual idol to endorse but also established a music platform belonging for the Z generation.

A nationwide singing event was established with Luo Tianyi as the initiator. Through this barrier-free interactive method, Luo Tianyi’s fans have contributed a huge amount of UGC to the brand.

Vita Lemon tea
Vita Lemon tea

Co-branded customisation

In September 2019, the classic American denim brand LEVI’S announced an in-depth cooperation with QQ Xuanwu. Not only did they launch joint costumes, but they also collaborated to customise virtual costumes for the characters in the game.

Popular dancers Wu Jianhao and the virtual idol Xingtong in QQxuanwu performed together, breaking the boundary between virtual space and the real world.

LEVI'S & Xingtong
LEVI’S & Xingtong

Mobile phones and related products have a long history of cooperation with ACG content. You can regard the cooperation with the ACG contents. The cooperation between Xiaomi and Hatsune Miku can be regarded as a model.

Not only the release of a collaboration song and the official image, but Xiaomi also has a deep insight into the strong spending power of the fans behind the virtual idol. Xiaomi launched the limited-edition set, which quickly sold out within 2 seconds after opening for purchase.

Xiaomi limited-edition set
Xiaomi limited-edition set

China Virtual Influencer Video Description:

Chinese virtual key opinion leader made her world online debut, leading the latest internet trend among positive influencers and cultural inheritors and showcasing China’s soft power and culture.

Relying on its self-developed full-stack end-to-end AI technology, Xmov has opened the process of intelligent characterisation from intelligent modeling to AI performance animation technology.

The technology could drive facial expressions, eyes, body, and finger movements and generate short videos or real-time broadcasts to realise interaction and commercialisation of virtual intelligent property (IP).

Ling’s team will generate content around such characteristics as the national essence of Peking Opera and the combination of classic and modern fashion on social platforms like Weibo, Instagram, and TikTok, Xmov said in a statement.

CEO and Xmov founder Chai Jinxiang said they would release virtual IP value at the maximum level via live streaming and short videos.

International TOP virtual idol


Country: United States

The nineteen-year-old Brazilian and Spanish girl who “lives” in Los Angeles is now the most popular virtual idol. Lil Miquela has more than 1.7 million followers on Instagram and is active in the fashion industry as a model, endorsing products for streetwear and luxury brands, shooting large commercials, etc.

In the global advertising blockbuster “I SPEAK MY TRUTH IN #MYCALVINS” released by Calvin Klein in 2019, Lil Miquela collaborated with another real model Bella Hadid to shoot the commercial film.



Country: France

Noonoouri is from France and is nineteen years old, and this lovely girl with big eyes has more than 330,000 followers on Instagram. With its distinctive appearance and fashion taste, Noonoouri became the darling of big-name fashion.

In November 2018, Noonoouri reached a partnership with Luxury Pavilion, an exclusive platform for luxury products on Tmall, and represented Tmall in the Valentino 2019 Early Autumn Fashion Show.



Country: England

Shudu.gram is a young black woman. Her existence brings more diversity to the fashion industry, and people love her mystery. She has reached a cooperation with the clothing brand Soulsky, and their official website is a photo of Shudu.gram.


4. Hatsune Miku

Country: Japan

Hatsune Miku should be the most well-known virtual idol. The blue-green double ponytails and the sweet and lovely voice are already the favourite of all Otaku. This “veteran singer” who has held many concerts is not only active in the music circle but also deeply loved by the fashion field.

In 2016, Riccardo Tisci, the creative director of Givenchy, designed a set of haute couture dresses adorned with Swarovski crystals for Hatsune Miku and was on the cover of the American version of Vogue.

Hatsune Miku
Hatsune Miku

Two ways to cooperate with virtual idols

According to the needs of marketing, brands can choose two ways to maximise the value of virtual idols: work with an established virtual KOL and their ‘agency’ or create their own.

Brands create virtual idols on their own and bear the cost of virtual idol establishment and post-maintenance costs. At present, this method is common in the gaming industry.

The other method is to cooperate with the existing virtual idols and find the right person without bearing the cost of maintenance and operation. There are four main modes of cooperation: video, real-time broadcast, cross-media planning, and games.

China’s virtual KOL digital marketing cooperation guide

The image of the brand itself is closely related to the spokesperson. Compared with the real idols, virtual idols have the advantages of a long lifecycle and stable reputation. The virtual KOL can be controlled and will not cause negative attentiondue to their personal life or political comments.

As well as acting ‘correctly’, you can control virtual KOLs to look a certain way and never be ‘out of shape’. At the same time, they can continue to learn and interact with fans. Cooperating with virtual idols is undoubtedly a good choice for brands.

Different types of virtual KOL in China have different distinctive characteristics. How can brands design content on these characteristics, so fans feel it is worth spending money?

Use the existing characteristic on virtual KOLs

Professional virtual KOL in China has been in operation for a long time, with a deep-rooted character set, rich skills, and a vast fan base. Brands can cooperate with them to create co-branded products or creative content based on the key points of their existing personality.

The virtual singer Luo Tianyi was to be a cute “foodie”, so KFC exaggeratedly designed the plot in which Luo Tianyi eats more than a dozen wing buckets by herself in the commercial to strengthen KFC’s brand awareness.


Create new characteristics for the virtual KOL

Virtual KOLs have the potential to be more customisable than real celebrities. Brands can design them based on their identity and skill.

They designed virtual Ling to love Tai Chi and calligraphy when she debuted. Nayuki has also customised her identity as an AI tea researcher to promote new drinks.

In the poster, Ling is an explorer of tea culture in a virtual environment, demonstrating how to develop pomegranate-flavored tea in a technological space. Nayuki gives this virtual KOL new identity and characteristic, communicating with young people the charm of the tea with Chinese fad.

Ling& Nayuki

Making a design on the characteristics of virtual idols does not always have the effect of blessing the brand, and instead, it seems that the brand is promoting the idol.

Zegna chose Noonoouri, a virtual influencer, and partnered her with star Li Xian to shoot a spring-summer collection for the Chinese market.

However, though many fans comment on the brand’s website, they are still overwhelmingly sourced from real-life celebrities. This virtual blogger from Germany’s Opium Effect company and represented by Vogue has not yet been in place in China, lacking a fan base, and brand cooperation has not achieved great results.

Use the fan economy to attract traffic

The application of AR(augmented reality) and VR(virtual reality) have brought the IP industry to a new era in the virtual world.

The industry does not only include virtual idols and virtual influencers, which have become popular in the past two to three years, but also covers all entertainment and character IPs, including those big IPs in ACG(comics, animation, and games) content.

There is a concept called “Star-making” in China, which refers to using Chinese virtual characters in ACG content to allow those “cardboard characters to break through the image restrictions and become an idol.

This virtual idol derived from existing popular content has a large fan base. Their fans have invested a lot of time, emotion, and money into the content, so they are more likely to spend on cooperative brands.

 Honor of Kings & M·A·C
Honor of Kings & M·A·C

The virtual idols who debuted in the game Honor of Kings formed a group in 2019 and now have millions of Weibo fans, endorsing brands such as Nivea Men, MECO Juice Tea, and M·A·C.

The limited-edition jointly launched with the well-known makeup brand M·A·C has become the hottest item of the brand in 2020. As the ambassador of Nivea’s, the men’s brand directly drove the sales of cooperative products to increase by 50.8%.

Design virtual images for real stars

Designing a virtual image based on the character of the real celebrity. The virtual image of the star is in a separate virtual space. This feature allows users to interact more deeply with the idol’s virtual image. At the same time, brand cooperation can also have more diversified presentation methods in content.

Tmall announced that Yiyangqianxi’s virtual image “Qianmiao” is the brand spokesperson and has developed a variety of product features to provide fans with opportunities to coexist in the virtual space where the idol is, allowing consumers to associate their shopping preferences with their emotional needs.

Yiyangqianxi’s virtual image
Yiyangqianxi’s virtual image

Design an anthropomorphic image for the brand

Compared with short-term cooperation with idols in the physical world, many brands created their virtual spokespersons according to their positioning. With the help of virtual spokespersons, brands can now convey their message and connect with customers.

At the 2020 ChinaJoy exhibition, the virtual image of You Yogurt, Xiaoyou, appeared. Xiaoyou has a very distinctive bob head and blue eyes and is endowed by the brand with fun-loving features.

The virtual image of Xiaoyou has narrowed the psychological distance with young people through a series of marketing events.


How to make virtual KOL

RM Technology has created the first metahuman AYAYI in China. Different from other China virtual influencers, AYAYI has a virtual image closer to real people. In terms of skin texture, it achieves a high-strength restoration of real people.

In May of this year, AYAYI made its debut on Xiaohongshu, with nearly 3 million views of the first post and nearly 40,000 followers overnight.

So far, she has 74 thousand fans in Xiaohongshu, with a total of 154,000 likes and collections. Although Douyin has only one film so far, she has accumulated 50 thousand fans.

In fact, AYAYI is still in the early stage. It remains to be seen how it will follow. This article will focus on this initial outbreak of AYAYI and show 5 key points.


1. Nimbus

The reason why AYAYI is so successful is that this character is spiritual. Although there are many virtual idols, and many of them are quite good at technology, the character looks like a puppet and lacks a soul.

While AYAYI is like a supermodel who has come alive, there is a kind of human energy radiating through the eyes and expressions.

Whether the character is spiritual or not mainly depends on the creator. The creative company behind AYAYI, Ranmai, is a comics company. Perhaps it is this creative experience that makes virtual humans that are more spiritual and empathetic.

2. Technology

Metahuman must be supported by high-tech. AYAYI’ was made with Unreal Engine Technology, and the model diagram of AYAYI is as follows:

AYAYI’s model
AYAYI’s model

3. A good platform

As a social media virtual influencer in China, AYAYI chose Xiaohongshu as the main battlefield. This is the key factor for AYAYI to break out.

The previous China virtual influencers were mainly on Bilibili, Weibo, and WeChat video accounts. The audience on these platforms has lost their freshness in virtual idols.

While Xiaohongshu has the densest fashion crowd and many fashion brands suitable for the fashion characters, it is also beneficial for future commercial brand cooperation to bring in cash flow income as soon as possible.

As for how to choose the right social media platform to start operations in China, you can refer to this article:

The top 10 Chinese social media networks

4. Co-creation

You cannot separate all events that can form a major outbreak from the co-creation and participation of the masses. The co-creation will be on different platforms and different brands. In Xiaohongshu, clothes, accessories, and makeup are important basic social currency.

It is clear that AYAYI’s beauty plays an important role in social currency. Several Xiaohongshu users imitated her makeup or made a second creation, which not only formed multiple dissemination but attracted more media attention.


5. Cooperation with brands and stars

After AYAYI became popular, it quickly cooperated with various brands, including Disney, Guerlain, SMFK, CANOTWAIT, Boya Aviation, etc., and photos with real stars.

Guerlain & AYAYI

 Boya Aviation & AYAYI
Boya Aviation & AYAYI


Whether a brand chooses to cooperate with an existing virtual KOL or build it on its own, you need to find your market position and understand the expectations of fans for virtual KOL. Let virtual KOLs better serve customers, and virtual idols can bring value to the brand.

The Metaverse market includes many aspects. In addition to the virtual KOL, there are also AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual reality), blockchain, cloud services, NFT, etc. In short, the Chinese Metaverse market is booming, especially for the virtual KOL market.

If you are entering the market, our Enlybee team could help you get more directions and inspiration for Metaverse marketing in China.


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