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    Pacsun collaborates with virtual influencer Miquela for back-to-school ads

    • Pacsun has teamed with Miquela, a top CGI influencer, to support its back-to-school and holiday programs this year, according to a press release
    • The freckled digital character factors into Pacsun’s social content and promotes the brand’s brick-and-mortar stores. In posts announcing the collaboration, Miquela poses in sporty Pacsun gear outside a location in the Soho neighborhood of New York City.
    • The youth-oriented retailer said the tie-up is part of a new marketing strategy that puts a bigger focus on virtual influencers and the metaverse, with plans to heavily ramp up activity around the fourth quarter. Pacsun sees this approach as a way to strengthen bonds with its core contingent of Gen Z shoppers.  

    Pacsun wants to carve out a bigger stake in the metaverse, and is turning to one of the earliest examples of a virtual influencer to do so. Miquela, which went live on Instagram in 2016, has frequently grabbed headlines — and stoked controversy — for acting as a purely artificial brand ambassador and poster. The lifelike character was created by the company Brud, whose focus on virtual avatars and transmedia seems prescient in the wake of marketers’ current metaverse mania. 

    Some critics have found the idea of Miquela unnervingly dystopian, particularly in the attempts to imbue her with a human backstory. The character generated backlash in 2019 for sharing a vlog about being sexually assualted in a rideshare, with many commentators viewing the coopting of an ugly real-world issue as cynical.

    Regardless, Miquela, with her carefully airbrushed appearance and signature hairstyle of bangs and buns, has proved a magnet for fashion brands as more gravitate toward CGI influencer marketing. Dior, Balmain, Kenzo and Prada are among the high-end labels Pacsun cited as helping buoy the trend in the category. Miquela and Pacsun both recently dropped into the metaverse as part of ComplexLand, a virtual shopping event put on by the publisher Complex

    For Pacsun, the partnership is a way to extend its reach on social channels that have been increasingly central to the retailer’s growth strategy. Miquela has over 3 million followers on Instagram and 3.6 million on TikTok at the time of publication. The perpetually young influencer is also positioned around the types of causes that Pacsuns’ target demographic is known to care about

    “She aligns with our core brand values and vision … speaking out on important social issues like [Black Lives Matter] and Rally The Vote, as well as achieving inroads into metaverse fashion and culture,” said Brieane Olson, president at Pacsun, in a press statement.

    Working with Miquela could help Pacsun build on recent social media successes. The brand last week said it surpassed its goal of reaching 2 million followers on TikTok, which it achieved by leveraging a mix of hashtag challenges, shoppable livestreams, creator partnerships and content made by its in-house team.

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