Essence Cosmetics is the latest brand with a virtual Instagram influencer

By December 4, 2019Advertising

In an Instagram post, a freckled, sandy-blond influencer tosses beauty products up in the air. People scrolling quickly through their feeds might not notice that she’s computer-generated.

The avatar in the post is named Kenna, and she’s beauty brand Essence Cosmetics’ new virtual influencer. Essence introduced Kenna in a post Wednesday on Instagram, where the brand has 2.1 million followers. In roughly eight hours, the post saw more than 7,500 likes. Essence has created a personal Instagram account for Kenna as well, @thisis.kenna.

Essence is the latest brand to tap into a social media trend; other computerized beings on Instagram include Lil Miquela (1.8 million followers), who kissed supermodel Bella Hadid in a spot for Calvin Klein and has worked with Prada, as well as Noonnoouri (332,000 followers), who has worked with Marc Jacobs, Dior and Versace. Balmain created digital models for Instagram, including Shudu (195,000 followers), and in April KFC debuted its own virtual Colonel Sanders, who had his own deals with Dr. Pepper and Casper on KFC’s Instagram account. 

Kenna’s backstory matches that of the Essence target demographic: She’s supposedly a vivacious, ambitious 21-year-old woman who wears the latest makeup trends and flaunts them on social media, but she also cares deeply about issues facing Gen Z, such as environmental concerns. Essence introduced Kenna as an intern in its product development department, and the brand says she’s confronting things that many in her generation face, like living on a small budget and furnishing her first apartment. (It’s not clear how many people who saw Essence’s post realized that Kenna is computerized.)

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