ave you heard of "Lu" of Magalu? Would you be surprised to hear that Lu is a 100% computer-generated woman who has 32M+ avid followers across her social media profiles? I certainly was when I first heard about her many years ago.

Lu is the fully-virtual brand spokesperson for leading Brazilian retailer "Magalu", and she (yes, she) has one of the most far-reaching and innovative brand social media presences in the modern world.

Lu standing in a store wearing a blue Magalu vest

Here's the simple premise of why she works... brand mascots aren't necessarily a new thing, right? However, platforms emerge, mediums shift, and interests evolve in time. Many of the beloved brand mascots "of yesterday", however, are stuck in their ways... for some reason, with the onset of social media, they were left behind.

Rather, they were kept in their canned corned delivering surface-level lines like "They're Great!" as a result of social media managers who, too, were stuck in their processes, partnerships, and budgets.

To be fair, I must acknowledge the likes of GEICO, though, who has refused to succumb to the tempting mold and has instead recreated the Gecko time and time again, innovating and creating as new platforms crop up.

A new crop of brands and artists, though, are growing up without any context of these archaic commercial-tier characters. We grew up online, and we find solace in stand-out online personalities. Our friends stand out, our family stands out, video creators stand out, and thoughtful advertisements stand out.

When tasked with developing an innovative online presence for a brand, the modern creator draws inspiration from social media, influencers, game characters, video creators, digital artists, and more.

Lu holding a smartphone with the Magalu logo on the screen

This has led to the birth of a new medium... a re-invention of BOTH the brand mascot and the human influencer in one swoop: branded, virtual influencers. A virtual influencer is any digital character who has a 1st person personality on social media.

Take a character, a brand mascot, a virtual spokesperson—whatever you wish to call it—and give it a life on social media through self-referential content. It's a simulation of a human influencer, and people get immersed.

There's so much to be learned from Lu's overwhelming success across social media, so I sought out the person in charge of the operation to gather insights straight from the source. Today, I had the unique opportunity to peek behind the curtain and speak with the Senior Social Media manager of the team at Magalu in charge of bringing Lu to life: Pedro Alvim.

Let's get to know him and understand his unique POV.

Hi Pedro, thanks for taking the time to chat. To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do at Magazine Luiza?
For me it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to talk with VirtualHumans.org. I’m a real fan! It’s a little bit hard to talk about myself (*laughs*). I’m based in Brazil, and have worked at Magalu for the last 10 years. Magalu is the biggest retail tech platform in our country and has almost 1,500 stores as well as a strong omnichannel operation, with more than 34 million monthly active users and more than 10 billion dollars revenue in the last year.

I lead the team responsible for building the largest retail and marketplace brand on social media globally through making “Lu from Magalu”, Magalu’s CGI brand ambassador, into the first virtual influencer in Brazil as also the most followed in the world, with over 32 million followers. I graduated in Advertising and post-graduated in Content and Digital Influence, with 13+ years of experience in digital, content and social media, leading creative and strategic teams, but also acting as speaker, mentor and teacher, training creators and marketing executives in our industry.

I was elected as the Professional of the Year by Ecommerce Brasil, one of the 10 mind shifters marketing professionals in the country by RD Station and listed as one of the 100 people who marked the internet in our country by Locaweb. And I love virtual humans and social media. I’ve been studying a lot about it in the last decade.

Lu posing in the sun for a campaign with Adidas

That's a perfect intro. Did you have an interest in virtual influencers before you started this position? Or was Lu the first one you met?
Actually, when I started working with the character, she was not a virtual influencer. She was our virtual assistant, helping our customers on our website. When we had the insight to evolve Lu into a virtual influencer inside a brand, we didn’t have any other benchmarking case.

So, in that moment, I started to research some cases around the world and discovered some independent characters building this kind of strategy on social media. And it was fascinating. I fell in love with Lil Miquela, Shudu, Noonoouri, Hatsune Miku and others. But, building a virtual influencer inside a brand has different challenges than building one independently.

I know that pain personally! How has Lu’s social media presence changed since you joined the team?
Lu represents Magalu. And our social media strategy follows the brand’s growth throughout the years. I believe that my most valuable contribution to this project was not about the number of followers, reach or engagement. It was to build a strong team, with diversity and representativeness, allied to our culture and values, with autonomy to participate in real time conversations and don’t be afraid to make mistakes (and learn with them).

Social media is about testing and learning all the time about people’s behavior, and being brave to make quick decisions. For me, there is so much more than algorithms or numbers to become relevant on social media. Lu is relevant and our industry recognizes her. Lu’s case won a Golden Lion award in Cannes Lion Festival this year. It was huge and very important for the project.

@magalu Hey...você já completou o álbum? Eu tô super animada com a copa esse ano. Agora o HEXA vem!!🏆⚽️ #FigurinhasDaCopa #CopaDoMundo #DicasDaLu ♬ som original - Lu do Magalu

Fascinating. What’s your vision for Lu, for the future?
Lu’s next steps are a secret. But I can tell you that our virtual influencer is gonna be bigger and will expand her presence.

We previously explored Brazil’s impact on the virtual influencer industry. Why do you think virtual influencers like Lu are so popular in Brazil?
Lu was a pioneer and shaped the way that Brazilians deal with virtual influencers. What I understood in the last years working with Lu is that the community wants to join the storytelling about her. They know she represents a brand and could bring them opportunities to buy something in sales. Although, this is not the main point.

I really saw that they enjoyed participating in Lu’s life. Most of the virtual characters in Brazil are from a brand, because it needs huge investments. But there is an important topic about it: the fact you create or have a character doesn’t mean you have an influencer, with an engaged community. Influence is built, not created.

Lu featured on the digital cover of Vouge Brazil

How do you see the virtual influencer industry changing or evolving over the next few years?
I saw a huge impact after 2020, because of the pandemic situation. In Brazil, lots of brands started to invest in their own virtual characters trying to create ‘virtual influencers’ like Lu. And this year, creators and celebrities started to invest in the virtual version of themselves. Some subjects, such as Web3, are going to push this change in our industry and help to bring new virtual humans into our life. Is not a trend only in Brazil, but worldwide.

What advice do you have for other people managing or launching a virtual influencer right now?
Building influence is complex and not easy. The focus must be on storytelling, diversity and bravery. We need characters that represent ourselves and our beliefs, and don’t be silenced about what happens in our real world.

Are there any upcoming events or projects with Lu that you can tell us about?
No spoilers. Follow Lu on social media (@magazineluiza or @magalu).

@magalu Gente, hoje acordei com 7 milhões de motivos para estar feliz. Muito obrigada! 😍🎒💅💋 #Look #Moda #Travel #Hexa #SkinCare #Magalu ♬ som original - Lu do Magalu

As a long-time leader of an innovative virtual character, what does the word “metaverse” mean to you?
For me, metaverse is a word that means we should continue learning about the new generations behaviors, and consider doing that in a decentralized world.

Do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?

First one is: We have the opportunity to build a new world, let's do it in a better way.

Second is: Having a CGI character doesn't mean you have a virtual influencer.

Thank you for sharing your experiences, Pedro!

Thank you!

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