Virtual Singer - Real Fans: Hatsune Miku! (初音ミク)
In March 2010, there was the news that 10.000 tickets of Hatsune Miku concert were sold out. Interesting part was not the tickets being sold out but the concert itself; Hatsune Miku was not a "real person" at all. As expected, Japanese fans of Hatsune Miku filled the concert hall and singed the songs together with their pop idol.
Hatsune Miku (初音ミク) is a vocaloid (vocal + android) developed by Crypton Future Media and her voice is sampled by the Japanese vocal Saki Fujita. It is basically a music software and all you have to do is to give her the music & lyrics and she will sing for you. But beyond being a music software, Hatsune Miku managed to become a pop idol and the sound of future. (Hatsune means first sound and Miku means future in Japanese.)
Some might think that Japanese people are different in terms of "being fan of something" but behind Hatsune Miku is a great marketing strategy to be stressed. Crypton cooperated with different companies & media to promote its product which was not known before.
From the beginning on, they treated Hatsune Miku as a real person with her personal character, lifestyle and fan pages rather than a fictional character of a software. They cooperated with magazines to promote their star and magazines gave news about the character regularly.
Crypton sponsored three different teams in Super GT races and covered their race cars for 3 consecutive years.
Crypton also covered one of the trams with Snow Miku during the 2011 and 2012 Sapporo Snow Festival which is one of the popular events in Japan. It is also worth noting that they customized Miku specifically for this event.
Beyond these traditional marketing efforts, Crypton Future Media cooperated with different companies such as Toyota and Google to promote Hatsune together with their respective products.
As "official vehicle" of Hatsune Miku, Toyota used Hatsune for the main message of its communication: "Big dreams in a compact package". Since Hatsune is the symbol as the exciting sound of future, it was well fit into the message of "moving forward" to big dreams. Below you can find one of the Toyota commercials with Hatsune Miku:
Crypton cooperated with Google Japan, as well. For the main message "Everyone is creator; Web is what you make of it", Hatsune is the main star of the Chrome commercial. It is obvious that without the engagement and creativity of people, Hatsune Miku could not be a star just with the marketing efforts of Crypton. To put in other words, Hatsune Miku was developed and promoted by Crypton but the pop idol Hatsune Miku is created by people. You can find many videos, blogs, fan sites and other content about her created by fans. Below is the Google Chrome commercial with Hatsune Miku:
Truly, web is what we make of it, now fans/users decide interactively what is good/fun/bad or interesting instead of watching/reading passively and accepting what is given as star or idol. It might even mean to choose a virtual singer as pop idol.
In addition, Hatsune Miku is a great example of today's digital tools to create something the way you want and then share. For instance, the song "Romeo & Cinderella" created by a Hatsune Miku fan has been watched 5.800.000 times on YouTube. Moreover, Crypton made a website called piapro.jp for people to upload and share the content created with their software, thus making a platform to further promote their product. If the tools are available, there is no limit for creativity in digital world.
Crypton managed to promote its music software product with Hatsune Miku successfully. Although the software was developed years before Hatsune, it could not catch the attention of people until her.
It might be a litte scary to see singing fans for a virtual singer, but to be honest, I think Hatsune Miku is way better than many of today's artifical stars. At least, she has no problems with being her voice digitally corrected.
For those of you who wants to see how a virtual singer sings to a real crowd, here is a part of the Tokyo concert of Hatsune Miku with the song "The World is Mine":
For more reading about her, here are the sources: