s we progress further into a digital era, more and more brands are seeking out innovative ways to engage with consumers through virtual tactics both in-store and online. IKEA, the furniture giant, saw an opportunity to do so by partnering with Tokyo-based virtual human imma. Yes, “imma”.
With last week’s announcement of $1M in seed funding from Coral Capital, Aww will be able to expand its stable of virtual humans even further. The company may become a more integral player in defining the growing virtual influencer industry as a whole.
imma + IKEA
imma loves spending her time sharing details of her daily life and Japanese culture on social platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, and, of course, working with IKEA.
The intention of IKEA’s partnership with imma is to bring life into a physical in-store installation that explores the concept of “happiness at home”. The said installation went on for three days where imma could be seen through the windows at the IKEA store in Harajuku, Tokyo.
imma’s living room and bedroom were built on the first floor of the store for easy access to catch the attention of those in the store, and those passing the area outside the store.
IKEA created the installation by using LED screens built into the room to show that the space was “curated” by imma. The underlying concept is to portray the room as a real place where imma lives and thrives in. This is different from the typical IKEA room display that we have come to know.
Paired with the in-store activation, fans could browse an online version of imma’s custom-designed bedroom.
"I love my plants! I find that watering them is really therapeutic, and of course, when I show them love, they show me love, by giving me back some fresh air. That’s especially important when living in a place like Harajuku," imma reveals in the feature.
She goes on to say, "My life isn’t just about clothes and fashion… but I do have a lot of clothes! I wanted to have a desk in my bedroom but needed a lot of wardrobe space. So I got a wardrobe with a desk built in."
You can follow imma’s life during the weekend installation in the video below. However, not much happens in the installation, but it gives a great insight of how the rooms look and how imma lives and spends her time in the various rooms.
She partakes in activities such as vacuuming, scrolling through her phone, working out, etc. The basic everyday human activities displayed do a great job of giving the experience the daily life of a real human. In truth, imma seems to be more than just a virtual character—she is a human, and this is her slice of life.
To learn more about imma’s partnership with IKEA, derive further insights on the virtual influencer industry, and get to know where Aww is headed, I set up an interview with imma's creator. To my surprised, I was met by an anonymous figure who goes by "M". Let's dig in.
Would you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m M. I’m the creator of imma. I haven’t been in any public interviews using my true identity yet; the reason I keep my anonymity is because I want people to focus on imma and Aww’s virtual humans instead.
Interesting. What do you think of virtual humans like imma?
It’s hard to answer since every virtual human is a different individual. I can’t simply categorize it. However, as for Aww’s Virtual Humans, I believe they have unlimited possibilities.
What makes imma unique?
Though she's been working more prominently as a virtual model recently, I think what makes her unique is how she's just an ordinary girl. She can be clumsy and goofy sometimes, but she’s also got the strength to stand up at the right moment. From a virtual point of view, I think what makes her unique is none other than her quality—sometimes, she can be mistaken as a real human being.
What was your favorite part about the IKEA partnership?
IKEA and imma share the same concern for the environment, which is how we started talking in the first place. It was an important conversation, both as imma and as Aww. By opening imma's room to the public at the IKEA store in such an iconic location as Harajuku, it was touching for us to witness the real life interaction between imma and people whom she only previously met on social media. Since the concept was to peek into the real life of imma, you couldn't meet her at certain times during the day, depending on the timing.
It was very interesting to witness a different response from the audience, compared to our previous out-of-home advertisements, magazines, and social media posts.
Who, or what, inspires you creatively?
Whenever I create something from scratch, I always get inspired. Sometimes, though, inspiration could come from my feelings. Additionally, it could be media, music, or a random conversation with my creator friends. I think creativity is everywhere. At the same time, sometimes my reflections on society transform into creativity. Also, I am careful to put a Japanese context into everything I create.
What advice do you have for other brands looking to partner with a virtual human?
Whenever there’s a collaboration between brands and imma, we are deeply involved in the creative side to make sure we can bring out imma’s characteristics. We always set a goal in the very beginning, and we always ask ourselves if the partnership is essential to accomplish what we want through imma, and if it will make society better. We always ask ourselves if the partnership is essential, and we recommend other brands and virtual humans do the same.
What’s your main vision for Aww Inc over the next few years?
I can't say too much yet, but I think there will be more opportunities for everyone to interact with all of our virtual humans at Aww. The “real” and “virtual” worlds will intersect more in the future. We believe that, as a result, we will always be able to create the world as we see it in the virtual world. Aww will create a metaverse world dedicated to the virtual, and we will grow into a multiverse creative company as that world continues to exist. Please look out for it!
Thank you, M. See you around...