Making Sense? The Sensory-Specific Nature of Virtual Influencer Effectiveness

Xinyue Zhou, Xiao Yan, Yuwei Jiang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The current research examines consumers’ responses to sensory endorsements from virtual influencers. The authors reveal that consumers perceive virtual and human influencers to have similar distal sensory (i.e., visual and auditory) capacities. Consumers, however, perceive virtual influencers as having lower proximal sensory (i.e., haptic, olfactory, and gustatory) capacities. Consequently, when endorsements focus on proximal sensory experiences, consumers have lower purchase intention toward products and services endorsed by a virtual (vs. human) influencer. The findings further reveal that imagery difficulty and perceived sensory capacity serially mediate this effect. Importantly, this effect is mitigated when endorsements focus on distal sensory experiences, when sensory information is not explicitly mentioned, and when consumers are informed of new technology that enables virtual influencers to have proximal sensory experiences. These findings offer actionable insights for marketers to effectively utilize virtual influencers in sensory-driven campaigns, providing practical strategies to improve consumer responses to sensory endorsements and enhance marketing effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Marketing
Early online dateSept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024


  • distal and proximal sensory experiences
  • influencer marketing
  • sensory capacities
  • sensory marketing
  • virtual influencers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing


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