EWHA's Research Power for Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences
January, 2024
EWHA's Research Power for Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences


Virtual Influencers’ Attractiveness Effect on Purchase Intention: A Moderated Mediation Model of the Product–Endorser Fit with the Brand


by Prof. Min-Jung Park
Department of Fashion Industry
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Prof. Minjung Park and Dr. Hyojung Kim’s recent work titled “Virtual Influencers’ Attractiveness Effect on Purchase Intention: A Moderated Mediation Model of the Product–Endorser Fit with the Brand” was published at Computers in Human Behavior. We explored the relationship between a virtual influencer’s attractiveness and a consumer’s purchase intention, the mediating effect of mimetic desire and brand attachment, as well as the moderating effect of the product–endorser fit with the brand.

The fourth industrial revolution has fundamentally altered the way we live, and social media has become a crucial channel for the promotion of brands through influencers. Virtual influencers, defined as computer-generated characters or personalities that are created by people on social media and are like human beings, have become the preferred brand endorsers for companies for their social media-based marketing campaigns. Despite a significant rise in the global popularity of virtual influencers among industry brands and consumers, further research is required to understand the effects of virtual influencers’ attractiveness on the online behavior of consumers. Virtual characters today are widely adapted for various types of brand advertisements. Following the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a high demand for virtual influencers for collaboration with global companies because they exist virtually and promote products without creating any adverse repercussions.

Based on the source attractiveness model, an attractive source tends to increase persuasion, which affects a person’s subjective attitudes. Social media influencers positively affect brand image, and consumers’ purchase intentions can be significantly influenced by digital influencers’ attractiveness. Influencers’ attractiveness stimulates the followers’ mimetic behavior in terms of their popularity and lifestyle, and consumers’ favorable attitudes toward desirable celebrities improve purchase intention. Furthermore, Instagram celebrities create in their followers a high emotional attachment to the brand, and many researchers claimed that strong brand attachment strengthens consumers’ behavioral intentions. Additionally, the product match-up hypothesis was supported by the endorser’s effectiveness in predicting the brand’s advertisement success.

Thus, this study delves into a deeper understanding of the manner in which virtual influencers’ attractiveness stimulates consumers’ mimetic behavior, creates strong brand attachment, and influences purchasing decisions. By assessing the virtual influencer’s attractiveness in the social media environment, this study seeks to identify how the product–endorser fit with the brand influences the way consumers respond to the endorsement.

Online survey was conducted and survey participants were asked to view a female virtual influencer’s Instagram account that had two million followers. Korean female Instagram users were considered suitable for the sample of this study. Only those individuals who agreed to the purpose of the study were asked to assess a URL link to the virtual influencer’s brand-endorsed contents and to complete the survey questionnaire.

The online survey of 364 female Instagram users was developed using confirmatory factor analysis and PROCESS macro models 4 and 59. The findings revealed that virtual influencers’ attractiveness was not directly associated with purchase intention; however, mimetic desire and brand attachment mediated this relationship. Additionally, the conditional direct effect of virtual influencers’ attractiveness on purchase intention was partially supported while indirect effects via mimetic desire and brand attachment were moderated by the product–endorser fit.

This study makes important contributions to source attractiveness model literature through emphasis on the role of virtual influencers in enhancing customers’ favorable perceptions toward advertisements, which in turn leads to greater purchase intention. It also suggests managerial implications for marketers, including the finding that a good product–endorser match is a crucial factor in determining the effectiveness of advertisements. Brand marketers should ensure a good combination of the virtual influencer’s image as an endorser and their fit with the branded product. The managerial marketers should confirm in advance if the target consumers’ perception of the brand’s endorsed product matches the company’s advertisement purpose. Carefully measuring consumers’ perception of an effective brand endorser and product fit will be the key to developing a successful virtual influencer endorsement.

* Related Article
Hyojung Kim, Minjung Park, Virtual Influencers’ Attractiveness Effect on Purchase Intention: A Moderated Mediation Model of the Product–Endorser Fit with the Brand, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 143, 107703, June 2023

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