Case study: Cheetos + Genies Media Network celebrity avatar marketing campaign for Halloween

Cheetos is working with avatar marketing company Genies for a creative Halloween campaign with various celebrities. Managing Director at Genies speaks to ClickZ about the campaign.

Date published
October 23, 2019 Categories

Genies is an app that lets users create personalized avatars using dozens of different traits which form millions of different combinations. For the past three years, Genies has been focused on developing the design, personality and use case of the Genie in a variety of messaging and social media apps such as Instagram, Kik, and Snapchat.

Genies App Icon

The Genies app can detect various prompts related to actions, things, places, and emotions in a user’s text, then suggest avatar actions based on this. Users can send or post the animation via a tap. In 2017, Genies launched their consumer app, which enables users to create digital clones of themselves that change expressions, moods, outfits, accessories, and scenes based on current events.

ClickZ recently spoke with Allison Sturges, Managing Director of the Avatar Agency at Genies, to discuss the app as well as the unofficial launch of the Genies Media Network, which is a way for brands to connect with celebrities via their Avatar Agency.

We launched the Media Network as a way for brands to reach their audiences,” says Sturges. “It’s a totally new way to market to Gen Z and millennials. Brands can partner with talent from the Avatar Agency and integrate with our consumer app. Consumers see their favorite celebrities endorsing their brands through their Genies.”

The Genies Media network consists of two parts—the Avatar Agency and the consumer app. The Avatar agency is a roster of celebrity avatars that Genies represents. The agency works with brands such as Gucci and Cheetos, connecting them with celebrities via their avatars. The celebrities then promote a product or brand via their avatars on social media.

In addition to connecting brands to talent, the Media Network integrates with the Genies consumer app through wheels and actions (defined below). Since the launch of the consumer app, over two million Genies have been created. Users, on average spend 15-20 minutes customizing their avatars and around 75 seconds interacting with the branded wheels.

Per the Genies website: “Our roster is comprised of tastemakers and people of high notoriety within their respective industries.” Celebrity avatars include J. Lo, Rihanna, Pink, and many more.

Examples of celebrity Genies available in the Avatar Agency

Virtual celebrities in a virtual world

After Genies launched the consumer app, they noticed that celebrities were using it across social media and this led them to develop their Avatar Agency which works with celebrities to create custom Genies in their likeness.

“The Avatar Agency is reserved for top tier individuals who are brought into the agency where we help them build digital brands through their Genie. Celebrities can also use the Avatar Agency to take on partnerships with various companies through their Genie,” explains Sturges.

Sturges pointed out that many of the celebrities in their Avatar Agency are difficult for brands to access even through their own talent agencies. Thus, the Genies avatars make these high-profile celebrities much more accessible than they otherwise would be. Celebrities can accept or decline brand partnerships based on their own comfort level.

When consumers see a brand represented on a celebrity Genie, they can use the Genies app to interact with the branded content themselves (by dressing their own personalized avatar in a brand’s clothing, for example). It becomes a much more personalized way to engage with the brand. Consumers can also discover the content themselves within the app.

Cheetos meets Genies meets Gen Z

Sturges announced that Cheetos is partnering with Genies to launch a promotion for their Halloween campaign.

“Cheetos is tapping into our Media Network so they can partner with talent from the Avatar Agency,” she explained. “Various celebrities will be posting their Genies in Cheetos-branded, Halloween-themed content.”

Cheetos-branded wheel, at left beside a Genies Avatar wearing a Cheetos-themed costume

Social media users who follow the celebrities associated with this campaign will become aware of the Cheetos content within the app. They can then use the branded “wheel” which will contain Cheetos-themed costumes (e.g., Chester the Cheetah). There will also be an entirely exclusive category branded for Cheetos’ Halloween themed actions.

“Wheels” are how users can customize their Genie. There is a wheel for all features of the Genie (e.g., hair, eyes, skin color, etc.) as well as wheels for clothing and accessories. So, for example, Genies created a branded New Balance wheel which enables users to dress their Genie in New Balance clothing and shoes.

For Cheetos, the Genies wheel consists of costumes and accessories with a Halloween theme and Cheetos branding.

Cheetos branded wheel and outfits within the Genies App

“Actions” are short animations of Genies which are connected to various themes, actions or emotions (e.g., facial expressions, dance moves, blowing a kiss, etc.)

Example of a Cheetos-branded action

When users select the Cheetos button, as shown above, they can choose from a selection of Cheetos-branded actions to send as SMS messages. This is how the action looks like within a user’s messaging app:

A selection of Cheetos-branded actions as they appear within a user’s messaging app

As of now, the key performance indicators for avatar campaigns are impressions. When Genies works with a brand like Cheetos, they help them determine what kind of impressions they want to target. The impressions come from the talent in the Avatar Agency as well as the consumer app itself.

“In the future we’re going to tie product wheels to purchases, enabling users to buy the product itself,” explains Sturges.

Genies sends a campaign wrap-up report to the brand at the end of every promotion, breaking down where the impressions are coming from, who the talent is, and any brand interactions within the Genies app.

Genies is pioneering virtual influencer marketing which gives brands a way to secure celebrity endorsements via social media without directly working with the celebrity.

“We’re the only company doing avatar marketing,” says Sturges. “There are other avatar companies out there, but none of them are being used by the amount of celebrities that are currently organically using Genies or partnering with brands and doing it in a personalized way.”

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