Brown, Sarah M (2020-08). Let's Get Virtual: Measuring Virtual Influencer's Endorser Effectiveness. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon

abstract

  • The use of endorsers has been an effective marketing strategy for companies to break through the advertising clutter and generate awareness for their brands. Endorsers were traditionally, celebrities, experts, and peers and then with the increase of social media use influencers were born. Now, with new technology computer generated avatars based on fictious people have become virtual influencer endorsers. In fact, millions of dollars are being invested in the growth of virtual influencers, as more companies have started to integrate them into their marketing campaigns. Currently, there is a gap in the endorsement literature explaining virtual influencer endorser effectiveness and what characteristics make them persuasive. The purpose of this exploratory research is to fill that gap by utilizing a mixed methods approach to qualitatively evaluate how consumers process, interact, and respond to virtual influencers on social media and quantitatively test those findings to measure virtual influencer endorser effectiveness. Study 1 featured a netnography and content analysis of five virtual influencer's branded post on Instagram. Five major themes were extracted: (1) affective parasocial interactions, (2) cognitive parasocial interactions, (3) behavior parasocial interactions, (4) foreign language, and (5) phishing. These findings indicated that consumers were interacting and responding to virtual influencers like human influencers. Further, subthemes emerged from the content analysis including consumers attitude toward the advertisement, purchase intention, and perception of virtual influencer attractiveness and expertise. Thus, Study 2 sought to further quantify these findings. Specifically, Study 2 evaluated (1) whether the presence of a virtual influencer in an advertisement increased consumer attitude toward the advertisement and brand and purchase intention, (2) whether virtual influencer credibility enhanced their persuasiveness, and (3) whether brand-endorser fit enhanced virtual influencer persuasiveness. Study 2 featured a 2 (brand-endorser fit: good vs. poor) between subjects x 2 (Presence: with VI and without VI) within subjects' design and three multilinear regressions. The results revealed that purchase intention was enhanced by the presence of a virtual influencer and that brand-endorser fit did not enhance the persuasiveness of the virtual influencer. Further, results indicated that the credibility dimensions were not consistent and insufficient at predicting virtual influencer persuasiveness. This study extends the endorsement literature by measuring virtual influencer endorser effectiveness. In addition, this study provides an important foundation for further exploration of virtual influencers as endorsers.

publication date

  • August 2020
  • August 2020
  • August 2020
  • August 2020