[News]Are you a virtual human? But you look incredibly realistic! Our research on 'Virtual Influencer Marketing' using Generative AI has just been published in JBR

13 Mar 2024

Excited to share our research titled "Virtual Influencer Marketing: Evaluating the Influence of Virtual Influencers’ Form Realism and Behavioral Realism on Consumer Ambivalence and Marketing Performance," which has just been released in the esteemed Journal of Business Research [SSCI; Q1/Top10%; IF: 11.3; ABS: 3; ABDC: A].

Although virtual influencers (VIs) are becoming increasingly prevalent in the influencer marketing landscape, and despite their diverse appearance and behavior, there remains a notable gap in our comprehension of how the characteristics of VI interfaces impact consumer perceptions and their effectiveness in marketing.

To bridge this knowledge gap, our study investigated how varying levels of human likeness in VI appearance (low vs. mid and low vs. high form realism) and behavior (low vs. high behavioral realism) elicit mixed emotions (eeriness and coolness) among consumers, consequently influencing VI marketing performance (follow and purchase intentions).

We conducted two experimental studies:

  1. In Study 1, utilizing contemporary VIs from the market, we found that a VI displaying mid (vs. low) form realism induced heightened perceptions of both eeriness and coolness, particularly under conditions of high (vs. low) behavioral realism.
  2. In Study 2, utilizing VIs generated through StyleGAN, a Generative AI technique, we confirmed that those with high (vs. low) form realism were linked to decreased perceptions of eeriness and increased coolness, especially when coupled with high (vs. low) behavioral realism. Additionally, our findings emphasized the negative impact of eeriness on VI performance outcomes, while highlighting the positive influence of coolness on these outcomes.

Our study's primary contribution lies in revealing VI interface designs as significant factors in VI marketing performance, while acknowledging consumers' ambivalent emotions as crucial mediators in this relationship. Another important contribution of our study is providing conceptual and operational definitions for a 3 x 2 taxonomy for avatar design in the VI context. This framework will enable future researchers to make further contributions to this topic, providing a more nuanced understanding of the factors necessary to maximize VI marketing performance.

We extend special thanks to Dr. Hyunhwan "Aiden" Lee at CSULB for his invaluable expertise in Generative AI solutions, which enabled us to create authentically fake VIs and incorporate them into our experiments. I eagerly anticipate further collaborations and future publications together!

For the full article, please access it here: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1ikHxXj-jjgs0

DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2024.114611

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