Blue ocean strategy refers to the pursuit of a market with no competition, created by a player lowering costs and differentiating the offering to maximize value. Blue ocean builders enjoy growth as fast as execution enables and far as demand allows. Beyond lowering cost and maximizing value, blue ocean builders write the rules and enjoy the fruits of uncontested labor.
The recent innovation of virtual influencers as a medium has opened the floor for multiple blue oceans to unfold in a variety of industries: modeling, music, acting, pornography, digital influencing, and any other industry dependent on a human image.
Ask yourself, why compete head to head with humans in overly saturated markets when you can, instead, create more engaging, interesting humans from scratch, carving a new market while doing so?
Unbeknownst, humans wrote the playbook for virtual influencers by capitalizing on their own self image for decades. Now, CGI artists, storytellers, and other creatives work in unity to innovate on human media experiences by building new humans for the masses to consume. Today, virtual influencers 10x more valuable than human influencers have arrived, yet the other key ingredient to successfully spawning a blue ocean still pends: lowered creation cost. When the day comes where a team enables the inexpensive, mass-production of highly valuable, virtual influencers at a net cost lower than partnering with IRL humans, a tipping point will result—a blue ocean will appear, and everything will change.When the day comes where a team enables the mass-production of highly valuable, digital human beings at a cost lower than partnering with IRL humans, a tipping point will result—a blue ocean will appear, and everything will change.
As a result, celebrities and influencers within the aforementioned industries will be rapidly displaced by virtual influencers over the decade following, creating a seismic shift in how media companies, brands, and human influencers produce content. Simultaneously, the influencer marketing industry will experience a drastic, meta shift of ad-spend from human influencers towards virtual influencers as they offer lower cost and greater value, and with greater control, eternal youth, reliability, creative freedom, ubiquity, and worlds more. Ultimately, the segment will be best defined by a label of its own: virtual influencer marketing.
How valuable is a human being in a digital medium if they can be augmented, innovated on, and replaced?
Existing human influencers falling below some to-be-witnessed level of fame will experience significantly shortened careers, expedited by the flood of shinier, cooler, perfectly imperfect virtual influencers for consumers to follow.
The only way human influencers will be able to compete with this shift will be to further embrace a digital identity, innovating on themselves and creating their own virtual influencers, much like a finsta. In the same way celebrities are followers of social media trends, so too will celebrities follow the trend of creating and managing a virtual version of the self, an insurance policy to maintain their audience in the face of increasingly digital interests.
How did we set ourselves up for this?
Humans stepped into a digital playing field just a few short decades ago with our adoption of the internet, then social media, then streaming platforms, now metaverses, next augmented reality (when virtual influencers appear as frequently in the real world as do humans, driven by the holy trinity of AR glasses, smartwatches, and earbuds, we will become even more digital and connected than our screens currently allow, but that’s a tangential conversation for another time.)
Parents over the last decade, ignorant to the effects of raising their kids on the digital pacifier commonly known as “The Internet”, instill a worldview in their children that cartoon characters are proxy teachers, influencers are proxy role models, YouTube personalities are proxy parents, and video game characters are proxy friends. Is this process just beginning? No. It’s been instilled for years, and it’s all systems go—full speed ahead. Facebook is 16 years old. Twitter is 14 years old. Tumblr is 13 years old. Instagram is 13 years old. Snapchat is 8 years old.
The teenagers of today (read: Gen-Z) were born on the internet and, per how they were raised and socialized, respect ambiguous internet personalities not only as sources of information and entertainment, but as actual human beings.
On the internet, everyone is a virtual human. Embrace it.
Written by: Christopher Travers
Christopher is the Founder of VirtualHumans.org and is an expert on the virtual influencer industry. He loves creating unmatched experiences, executing on ambitious growth strategies, and facilitating magical, memorable moments for others.
Art by IKONICK