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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

airasia’s first VTuber, Aozora Kurumi, to cease activities on August 7

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Aozora Kurumi, the first virtual YouTuber (VTuber) under airasias’s VTuber arm Project Kavvaii, is set to retire from her online activities on 7 August this year. It should be recalled that the VTuber just recently came back from a one-month hiatus.

In a statement released by Project Kavvaii, her content within her YouTube channel and social media channels will remain a part of the airasia ecosystem.

“Although this announcement comes so soon after Kurumi’s return from her hiatus, she wishes to spend her remaining month with all of her friends and fans with joy and happy tears. The team respects her decision and expresses its gratitude for her amazing work. We wish her all the best in her future endeavours,” the agency stated.

They have also recognised her achievements during her year-long role as a VTuber for the agency, noting her growth as a content creator and building connections with members of the VTuber community.

Kurumi is the first VTuber under Project Kavvaii, where she first debuted on May 8, 2021. In an interview made by MARKETECH APAC to Rudy Khaw, chief brand officer at airasia, he noted VTubers like Kurumi are just as impactful as normal influencers.

“[There is] the ability to engage with a fan base [or] followers through similar interests and also because it is also so driven by personality, which is the core of what attracts a following,” he stated.

Project Kavvaii first announced auditions in March 2021, and a second wave in November 2021. At the moment, the agency also has its Lunetide generation, consisting of talents Airi Gwynevere and Mikazuki Mai.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Of VTubers and influencer marketing: The case of airasia’s Aozora Kurumi

If there is one facet of marketing that is seeing more growth than ever, it would be influencer marketing. The latest data from Statista notes that the market has reached US$13.8b in market size as of 2021, compared to just US$6.5b in 2019. This is all thanks to the rise of the content creator economy, primarily banking on interactions and purchasing powers from their fanbases.

It is no wonder why various forms of influencer marketing have popped up, ranging from real-life influencers like gamers and beauty gurus to virtual ones such as Rozy and Rae. But there is one facet that is considered the middle ground between human and virtual influencers–these so-called virtual YouTubers or ‘VTubers’.

What started out as a niche industry in Japan, VTubing, in general, gained popularity in 2019 as various agencies and brands ramped up in debuting new VTubers into the scene. It is no wonder why global brands such as Crunchyroll, Netflix, MSI, and Suntory have their own VTubers, primarily used to engage with their online fanbase and create new avenues for brands to engage with.

This is the case for the multinational company airasia, which announced the launch of their VTuber project called ‘Project Kavvaii’ in March 2021. Months later, they debuted their first-ever talent Aozora Kurumi in May 2021. Since then, Kurumi has completed over 150 streams and amassed more than 22,000 subscribers and over 1.2 million views on YouTube.

As she recently celebrated her one-year anniversary, MARKETECH APAC’s The Inner State spoke with Rudy Khaw, group chief brand officer at airasia Super App, to learn more about what they have learned dealing with VTubers and how their existence plays out in the influencer marketing scene.

How airasia has worked with influencers in general

Being a multinational company, airasia believes in the importance of representing diversity across their platforms, more specifically in how they tap into influencers to promote their brand. One of those examples was their latest launch of the ‘Red Radio’ in a bid to promote Asian artists on air, and their record label ‘RedRecords’ which has signed artists such as Jannine Weigel and Airliftz.

Khaw found out that with influencers, there wasn’t anything they could really own. It should be noted that there is a difference between a virtual influencer and a VTuber. While a virtual influencer is a computer-generated ‘persona’ that uses AI to shape its personality, a VTuber has a real person behind a digitally-drawn avatar, rigged by a face-tracking software to move the model.

“We also saw some limitations with virtual influencers as it didn’t feel genuine enough for two-way engagement,” he stated.

Khaw was referring to airasia’s previous venture into virtual influencers with the launch of their virtual influencer called Miss AVA. Said influencer was modelled after their chatbot named AirAsia Virtual Allstar (AVA).

He then noted that with their venture to VTubers, they have seen an opportunity to connect with a new online avenue across their followers online.

“When we explored the VTuber space, what we loved most about it is the genuine interaction and community-building opportunity it offers,” he added.

This reflects Project Kavvaii initial vision for their VTuber endeavour, which aligns airasia’s transition from an airline company to a lifestyle brand with the airasia super app, including a focus on the importance of content creators such as VTubers. In addition, the project aims to fast-track airasia’s growth by leveraging its digital capabilities, such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition.

On Aozora Kurumi’s impact as a VTuber and influencer

With Aozora Kurumi officially celebrating her one year anniversary, Khaw stressed out Kurumi’s importance in the online scene, as it allowed them to tap into a new demographic that could potentially be new customers.

“Kurumi’s following has grown healthily over the past few months and it’s definitely created a new set of audience for us. More recently, Kurumi has been exploring pre-recorded content, which is the beginning of more offline content to come,” he stated.

Aside from the typical type of content Kurumi streams such as gaming and karaoke ones, she is also involved in several brand activations for airasia, including a large giveaway stream, done in celebration of airasia’s 20th anniversary.

When asked how is VTubing just as impactful as normal influencers, Khaw said, “[There is] the ability to engage with a fan base [or] followers through similar interests and also because it is also so driven by personality, which is the core of what attracts a following.”

He also stated that while Project Kavvaii is a fairly new initiative that is unlike any of their previous endeavours, Kurumi’s presence brings value to their airasia Super App.

“Project Kavvaii is a part of airasia Super App; the value that Kurumi or the Vtuber space, in general, brings to the Super App is content. It opens up doors for us to explore more content opportunities in the future and develop our ideas to engage consumers beyond the transactional space.”

Brand advice to entities tapping into the VTuber space

When asked about what brands should keep in their mind in launching their own VTubers, Khaw said that they always put the talent first, not the brand, in order to create much more genuine traction for both the brand and the talent from their new audience.

“Don’t go into it like you would with influencers or other typical advertising projects. It’s a different space altogether and it’s really about fostering a community. It’s also important to remember that it’s not always about putting your brand out there from the get-go or all the time. The fan base will gather and latch onto your brand organically, don’t force it,” he stated.

Khaw’s advice mirrors his previous statement upon Kurumi’s debut, where he stated that they foresee the project to be a game-changer in the future of streaming content in the ASEAN region. 

“As a digital company, the constant change in the way people consume online content drives us to explore cross-industry innovations with Project Kavvaii to stay relevant and ahead of trends. We hope to see Aozora Kurumi taking the content world by storm very soon,” he said.

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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

airasia’s Project Kavvaii enters second year with new VTuber debuts

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Project Kavvaii, the virtual YouTuber (VTuber) endeavour of airasia, has announced the debut of two new VTubers namely Airi Gwynevere and Mikazuki Mai. Together, Gwynevere and Mai form the agency’s ‘Lunetide’ generation.

The new VTuber debut comes after Project Kavvaii announced a second round of VTuber auditions in November 2021. In addition, the debut also follows the success of its first-ever VTuber Aozora Kurumi, who debuted on 8 May 2021. At the moment, Kurumi has completed over 150 streams and amassed more than 22,000 subscribers and over 1.2 million views on YouTube.

Speaking about the new talents, Rudy Khaw, group chief brand officer at airasia Super App, said, “We are very happy with how our first virtual idol, Aozora Kurumi has taken off one year into airasia Super App’s content streaming journey. Our long term goal is to have Project Kavvaii develop into a virtual talent arm that provides entertainment and engagement opportunities for fans, brands and communities.”

He added, “We remain steadfast in our stand that people consume online content differently today, and we want to push the envelope of innovation to stay relevant with online communities and market trends.”

Gwynevere’s debut will be held on 23 April, while Mai’s debut will be held on 24 April on their respective YouTube channels.

Project Kavvaii was launched in March 2021 by airasia to discover and develop virtual idols in Southeast Asia. In an interview with MARKETECH APAC for its airasia and pixiv fan art initiative, Izal Azlee, senior manager for content strategy at airasia, noted that there has been a positive relationship that they have observed between fans and the brand themselves, viewed on the gradual reception of these communities to the brand in focus.

“For brands, we would say learn about the community first to see what it’s all about and understand what this would mean, not just to the brand but to the community. It isn’t a walk in the park, so there’s a lot of learning. From our experience the best way to excel here is to listen to the community and VTubers,” Azlee told MARKETECH APAC.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

airasia, Pixiv’s fan art contest a celebration of virtual idol Aozora Kurumi’s journey

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Multinational low-cost airline and superapp airasia, with the aid of their recent VTuber agency Project Kavvaii, and online art community Pixiv have joined forces in officially kicking off a fan art contest dedicated to Project Kavvaii’s first-ever VTuber Aozora Kurumi.

Said contest kicked off last 9 September and will conclude by 24 October this year.

The fan art contest was previously announced by airasia during Aozora Kurumi’s media announcement last May of this year, which was also her debut month, in which she was introduced last 8 May.

Top winners of the said contest will receive a variety of prizes from airasia and Pixiv, including Wacom drawing tablets; hotel accommodations for use in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, as well as CabinZero backpacks. The other consecutive winners will receive 20,000 BIG points from airasia, which is from BIGLIFE, airasia’s loyalty management subsidiary.

Speaking to MARKETECH APAC, Izal Azlee, senior manager for content strategy at airasia, said the four months that they have shared with their first-ever virtual idol was at first unexpected, but they have totally loved it, adding the reason of how together and tight knit the community is, from fellow VTubers in the online community, to other VTuber agencies, as well all the way to the fans and viewers themselves.

“Doing what we do in airasia, we are in total awe of the community. We as a company have always aimed to embrace the various communities across the region and we are just getting started with the VTubing community. And the best part about this whole thing is how much we (the talent and agency) are learning a lot of things together on this journey. The fact that it’s collaborative makes it all that more exciting,” Azlee stated.

For the team at Project Kavvaii, the contest is not about making it resonate with the brand but rather showing their gratitude and appreciation to Kurumi’s fanbase that have welcomed not only their talent but them as an agency as well four months ago.

“We just want to show our appreciation and hopefully we can continue on this journey for a long long time. Ultimately, our bigger goal is to bring the creativity in the region into the spotlight. This is one of the small ways we can achieve that,” Azlee added.

Such positive relationship of fans and the brand themselves, according to Azlee, is best observed when looking at the gradual reception of these communities to the brand in focus.

“For brands, we would say learn about the community first to see what it’s all about and understand what this would mean, not just to the brand but to the community. It isn’t a walk in the park, so there’s a lot of learning. From our experience the best way to excel here is to listen to the community and VTubers,” he concluded.

Aozora Kurumi, who speaks multiple languages namely English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, Korean as well as some Bahasa Malaysia and Japanese, now currently holds 11.8k subscribers on her official YouTube channel as of this writing, and has made multiple collaborations within the VTuber space, with the larger majority concentrated in the Southeast Asian region like Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

airasia unveils new ‘Project Kavvaii’ program, seeks the next big ‘virtual idol’

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Airline airasia has launched a new program called ‘Project Kavvaii’, which aims to discover and develop the next big virtual idol – a streaming content creator in the SEA region who uses a digital avatar.

The new program seeks to provide potential talent with full resources to be the best virtual idol in the region and represent ASEAN on the world stage through charting a career trajectory, searching for potential clients, providing marketing support, tracking monetary channels from their streams, and supporting the business side of streaming.

The open audition will commence today 10 March until 28 March 2021 in ASEAN and the rest of Asia. Participants must submit a 5-minute video to introduce themselves. 

The winner of Project Kavvaii will get full access to a support team, receive a complete streaming setup, and secure a one-year contract with airasia as a paid content creator.

Rudy Khaw, the chief brand officer of airasia Group, said that the company has transformed from an airline to a lifestyle brand with the airasia super app, and now, they continue to innovate and be a game-changer as a virtual talent producer, believing that this is an opportune time to fast-track airasia’s growth leveraging on their digital capabilities, such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition.

“Certainly, the success of a virtual idol is about talent, not just the technology behind it. So we are looking for those who are multi-talented, creative, and have a larger-than-life personality to connect with virtual idol fans across ASEAN and beyond! This is your chance to be a full-fledged virtual idol and a part of a creative team that will shape the future of streaming content in the region,” said Khaw

airasia’s first virtual idol was created by a renowned illustrator artist in the virtual idol community, Yueko, and the character will be rigged and animated by industry veteran Iron Vertex to fit the personality of the virtual idol. Project Kavvaii’s first virtual idol is expected to start streaming in the second quarter of 2021.