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Qai Qai: Building an intellectual property online

Although an animated character launched on social media might not appear to have a “relevant” impact on the world, Serena Williams’ daughter’s adorable and charismatic doll-turned-internet sensation has proven quite the opposite.

Meet Qai Qai. With a collective fanbase of over 3.3 million followers across her social media platforms, Qai Qai has more reach than most influencers. She rose to fame primarily on TikTok, where she posts videos of her daily antics, interacts with fans, and entertains her audience with the trendiest dance moves.

Qai Qai’s ability to garner and maintain an invested and passionate fan base is proof of social media’s ability to transcend conventional communications and impact large audiences in nontraditional ways. Timeless animated characters from beloved movies, such as Toy Story’s Woody and Buzz Lightyear, hold such a prominent place in the hearts of people around the world — arguably more so than most real-life celebrities. But instead of meeting her on the big screen, audiences are falling in love with Qai Qai on their timelines, as though she is a modern-day Pixar character, exemplifying the power of an Intellectual Property developed and distributed via social media.

The difference between Qai Qai and traditional animations lies in the fact that while Woody cannot directly communicate with his fans, Qai Qai can. She is constantly replying to fans’ comments, responding to fans’ videos, and delivering fans’ content requests. This deepens the connection followers feel to Qai Qai, resulting in a more loyal fan base and long-term, engaging relationships.

Additionally, social media has been notorious for breeding negativity and fostering a toxic environment. While other social media influencers can feed into this toxicity by increasing feelings of jealousy through skewed body image or constant displaying of other’s “perfect” lives, Qai Qai cultivates a positive space on users’ feeds. Each post from Qai Qai brings fans a burst of serotonin without them having to seek it out in traditional media, since her posts appear on the platforms people are spending the most time on to begin with.

Qai Qai has proven the power and reach an animated character can attain on social media platforms. The doll’s animation team has demonstrated the ability to develop IP on social media, connect with millions of consumers, build brands, and truly stay relevant with trends. In an increasingly digital world, characters like Qai Qai will only continue to thrive and perhaps even become the primary mode of communication for brands and corporations.

As we head into 2022, I believe this emerging form of IP generation will continue to redefine how we think about storytelling, what it means to have a connection to a character, and where we fall in love with the next 100-year franchise.