"Humanized Robots": A Proposition of Categories to Understand Virtual Influencers

  • Antonio Batista da Silva Oliveira COPPEAD Graduate School of Business / Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)
  • Paula Chimenti Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6492-4072
Keywords: virtual influencers, digital marketing, exploratory study, artificial intelligence, robots, virtualization


Worldwide investments in influencer marketing are growing and could reach US$ 101 billion in 2020. But how can the brands shield themselves from scandals and other limitations of human influencers? The solution for many companies has involved robots. Virtual influencers (VI) are virtual robots that can emulate human appearance and behaviour and have become a trend in marketing. This study analyses how non-human influencers affect marketing communication by adopting two methods that are unpublished in the investigation of this phenomenon: a systematic literature review and netnography in conjunction with in-depth interviews with specialists resulting in the study identifying five categories (two of which are unpublished and unexplored in the literature) that can facilitate management decisions and also future studies around VIs: anthropomorphism/humanization, attractiveness, authenticity, scalability, and controllability. This study also identified more convergences than divergences between the virtual and the real and between humans and non-humans, generating challenges, opportunities, and guidelines for future research and for assisting management in making decisions concerning digital marketing.

Author Biography

Paula Chimenti, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)
PhD in Business Administration from the Coppead Graduate School of Business of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Master in Business Administration from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, where she also completed her Specialization in Marketing (IAG Master in Marketing). Paula teaches courses in Management of Platforms and Markets in Networking, Digital Marketing and Research Methods in the Executive MBA, Master's and Doctoral courses at COPPEAD / UFRJ. She taught at the Global Partners MBA program at Georgia State University, IAE / Sorbonne and COPPEAD. Coordinator of the Center for Studies in Strategy and Innovation, where she develops research on the impact of disruptive innovations on business ecosystems Her research interests include the impact of innovations on business, both in strategy (ecosystem studies, scenario planning, leadership challenges and incumbent pitfalls) and marketing dynamics (digital marketing, adoption and diffusion of innovations). Her article on Business Ecosystems received the first prize in the most important academic event of Brazilian Marketing. She has worked in companies from different sectors, in the areas of marketing and communication. She acts as consultant for public and private organizations in the area of strategy and innovation.


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How to Cite
Batista da Silva Oliveira, A., & Chimenti, P. (2021). "Humanized Robots": A Proposition of Categories to Understand Virtual Influencers. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 25. https://doi.org/10.3127/ajis.v25i0.3223
Research Articles