What Happened: Chinese childrenswear brand Balabala has made its first foray into the metaverse by appointing a virtual child ambassador named Gu Yu. First introduced on Xiaohongshu, Gu Yu doubles as an independent influencer — sharing regular short-form content and product releases from the brand alongside real-life models and in the form of NFT pieces. For Balabala, this strategic repositioning aims to target digitally-native young parents who have outgrown the princess and Chinese hanfu clothing styles traditionally associated with the childrenswear category.
The Jing Take: Virtual influencers are not a new phenomenon in the Chinese market. In fact, with top virtual idols Ayayi and CELIX 赛 recently collaborating with Tiffany and Calvin Klein, respectively, to promote new product launches, brands are unquestionably taking notice of the opportunities that virtual influencers provide. From full image control to maximum flexibility, brand-focused meta-ambassadors allow for nuanced and customized cultural relevance — ultimately paving the way for richer consumer-brand experiences.
Balabala’s introduction of Gu Yu confirms that virtual KOLs as more than a passing trend. Alongside the increasing use of the metaverse for social interaction comes the certainty that digitally developed young Chinese will have identities there. By showcasing the virtual star in a variety of outfit styles ranging from preppy to sporty to girly, Balabala hopes to connect Gu Yu with real-life children as their meta-companion, inspiring them to freely express themselves and their unique lifestyles through their fashion choices. Soon, the brand hopes to introduce Gu Yu to offline events including fashion shows, which means the lines between physical and digital will continue to blur.
As younger cohorts increasingly demand greater immersion and interaction with influencers, it comes as no surprise that the metaverse provides an ideal feeding ground for consumer connection. By bringing Gu Yu to life, leading childrenswear brand Balabala bets on tech activation as the future of consumer-brand relationships — one where the metaverse is synonymous with identity and self-expression.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.