Children’s clothing brand Balabala assembles a virtual influencer by deviating from the traditional playbook

Children’s clothing brand Balabala has unveiled its new official brand ambassador, Gu Yu (pictured), a one-of-a-kind virtual influencer. Made in collaboration with Ogilvy Shanghai, the introduction of the influencer and virtual ambassador is part of the brand’s rejuvenation journey Balabala, which aims to move away from the traditional fashion marketing playbook in favor of innovative activations. and steeped in technology that resonates with the next generation. digital native parents.

Gu Yu, which translates to grain rice, takes its name from the eponymous Chinese lunar calendar festival on April 20, which signals rising temperatures and the onset of heavy rains essential for good crop growth, Balabala said. As such, the virtual influencer is presented as a symbolic nod to the brand’s belief in promoting children’s free growth and self-expression.

Gu Yu got her start on social commerce app Xiaohongshu, as a freelance fashion blogger and connecting with fans through regular short content that documents her life as an influencer. Content includes behind the scenes of upcoming promotional videos and previews of Balabala’s latest wearables releases alongside actual child models, or in the form of non-refundable tokens (NFTs).

Additionally, the brand also released a limited edition “meta dress” NFT piece, where 1,000 customers could get their hands on it by shopping at the brand’s flagship store or using their loyalty points. According to Balabala, the children’s clothing category in China has been overwhelmed by homogenized Chinese traditional princess and hanfu clothing styles, which are outdated and old-fashioned in the eyes of many young parents. As such, Gu Yu acts as a modern companion to real-life children, who possess unique passions and lifestyles, showcasing a variety of outfit styles, the brand explained. Ranging from preppy, urban, sporty to girly, he seeks to inspire children to express themselves freely through fashion.

Beyond social media and commerce platforms in China, Balabala plans to integrate the virtual influencer into its new phygital experiences, where digital and physical boundaries will merge to deepen interactions with customers. Whether walking the runway at Balabala’s offline fashion shows or co-hosting in-store brand events, fans will be able to connect with Gu Yu beyond their smartphone screens.

dress gu yue meta

Gu Yue also came into existence through Ogilvy Shanghai, which conducted extensive research on targeted consumers and analyzed datasets of children’s faces which were then aggregated in 3D rendering software to create an initial prototype. Afterward, the creative tech team then used a suite of AI and 3D modeling tools to further refine her facial features, including eye shape, hair thickness, and skin texture. Additionally, they animated the virtual influencer in various scenarios as Gu Yue explores her passions.

“Bringing Gu Yu to life has been an incredibly exciting creative journey, from the very early stages of research and conceptualization where we defined his main traits, facial features and personality, to implementing technology and creating agile social content,” Thomas Zhu, group chief creative officer at Ogilvy Shanghai, said. As one of the first virtual influencers for a
A Chinese-born children’s clothing brand, Gu Yu demonstrates Balabala’s commitment to digital innovation and positions the brand as a true metaverse pioneer in the children’s fashion category, he added.

gu yue meta dress 2

Balabala joins other brands and organizations in leveraging technology and the digital space to forge a greater connection with their audience. For example, Down Syndrome International (DSi) partnered with creative agency Forsman & Bodenfors (F&B) and global digital modeling agency The Diigitals to create a Down Syndrome Virtual Influencer – Kami, in May. . With the launch of Kami, DSi hoped she would become a powerful representation that Down Syndrome is not a flaw or error, and does not need to be “fixed”. The brand went on to explain that Kami’s mission began with a promise to invite the world’s most forward-thinking communities and brands to help improve the digital space, making it a more friendly and inclusive place. for people with Down syndrome.

Similarly, Alibaba Group, a partner of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has also launched a virtual influencer for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Developed by Alibaba DAMO Academy, Alibaba Group’s global research initiative, Dong Dong was created to be a passionate, outspoken 22-year-old Beijing-born woman who enjoys winter sports. To better connect with Olympic fans, especially the tech-savvy younger generation, Dong Dong was created with authentic human traits, a bubbly personality, as well as her specialty in interacting with audiences in an engaging way.

Besides promoting Olympic products available at the official Olympic store in China on Tmall during her dedicated live broadcasts, she answered questions in a lively and natural human voice with different emotions, as well as various body gestures such as thumbs up. survey. and display a heart-shaped gesture. Additionally, she presented live talk shows to introduce the audience to fun facts about the Olympics and showed off her enthusiastic and upbeat dance moves to accompany Olympic-themed songs to cheer on the Olympians.

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