As the Buzz Around the Metaverse Continues to Heighten, Immersive Brand Experiences Are Emerging

In our digitally-driven economy, many people have two lives, they have one that takes place in the real world and another online, where consumers spend more and more of their time playing, shopping, and working. The metaverse is the idea that technology is finally able to bridge the divide between those worlds. 

Some virtual worlds, like Second Life, have been running almost without interruption for decades. But now that mobile devices powerful enough to render 3D worlds are commonplace and VR headsets are better and more accessible, getting to your virtual world of choice is open to a much larger group of people — and brands are eager to test out just how engaging these virtual worlds can be.

49% of marketers say they expect the metaverse to affect their strategies this year

Here are a few of the promising, early metaverse brand activations:

NFTs from Coca-Cola, Marvel, the NFL, and Nike

For its inaugural metaverse marketing experiment, Coca-Cola partnered with an avatar creation studio and community called Tafi on its first ever NFT, or non-fungible token, for International Friendship Day 2021. 

The non-fungible part of NFTs refers to the fact that they are each unique and cannot be replaced in kind. In a future where the price of digital real estate is as expensive as the stuff made with bricks not bits, buyers of premium spots in the metaverse will want to show off their luxe virtual pad, with digital art and goods. And what better way than to share something verifiably unique.As the Buzz Around the Metaverse Continues to Heighten, Immersive Brand Experiences Are Emerging

Tafi designed Friendship Day virtual wearables for Coca-Cola, which commissioned a line of collectible digital outfits for use in Decentraland, a web browser-based virtual world where plots of land are purchased as NFTs. The wearables were auctioned at OpenSea, the largest online NFT marketplace, with proceeds going to the Special Olympics.

“Coca-Cola is one of the most collectible brands in the world, sharing its rich heritage with consumers through simple moments of joy for decades,” said Selman Careaga, President, Global Coca-Cola Trademark. 

There has been a run of NFT releases lately, including 86,000 unique designs given away by Marvel for early Spider-Man: No Way Home ticket holders, virtual commemorative NFL tickets, and exclusive bonus content from Pulp Fiction offered by Quentin Tarantino.

Nike’s first big foray into the metaverse was the acquisition of the RTFKT, an NFT studio that specializes in virtual collectibles, including NFT footwear. For its younger fans, Nike runs Nikeland in Roblox, which sells Nike collectibles and organizes games like tag and dodgeball.

Balenciaga Fortnite Skins and Wearables 

You can’t talk about metaverse branding right now without mentioning Balenciaga, which made an unexpected and well received leap into Epic Games’ hit Fortnite battle royale gaming world. The high fashion house designed four Fortnite skins (appearance updates for virtual avatars) with Balenciaga-branded backpacks and pickaxes. The event was centered around a branded Balenciaga hub in Fortnite with a virtual store.

Fortnite creator Epic Games has been open about positioning their biggest title as more than just a game, but as a virtual world where they host kaleidoscopic concerts for Ariana Grande and premiere Star Wars films with a visit from a few Star Destroyers.

Private Roblox Islands for Spotify and Gucci

Spotify also recently hung a shingle in a digital space, opening Spotify Island in the virtual world of Roblox, a game that two-thirds of kids aged 9 to 12 play. In its press release, Spotify said it was “creating a place where fans can link up and create new sounds together, hang out in digital spaces, and gain access to exclusive virtual merch.”

This move is reportedly happening as Spotify is investigating a move towards adopting Web3 technologies. Web3, is a still emerging consensus for what the next evolution of the world wide web will look like. If social media was the spark behind Web 2.0, Web3 is powered by the blockchain, the distributed, open ledger that makes cryptocurrencies and NFTs possible.

Spotify clearly expects that in the digital economies of Web3 and the metaverse, both of which will be based on decentralized, blockchain-protected networks, the content of the artists on their platform will be in demand — and they want to continue being the best provider of it, whether offline, on the web, or in a virtual space.

Their new island in Roblox is outfitted with beat-maker stations and hang out areas to mingle with artists. Portals to smaller themed islands are scheduled to open throughout the year. The First portal experience is K-Park, designed to celebrate K-Pop.

As the Buzz Around the Metaverse Continues to Heighten, Immersive Brand Experiences Are Emerging

Gucci used Roblox to introduce its brand to Gen Z with a two-week arti installation recreating an actual area in Florence, Italy. Gucci Garden sold Gucci-branded virtual clothes and accessories that players could try on as they walked through several themed rooms.

Brands of All Sizes and Types Are Testing the Metaverse Waters

The big players with their big budgets are certainly ready to see what the metaverse has in store for them and their customers, but there has also been wide experimentation with metaverse marketing by a number of smaller brands. 

The direct-to-consumer (DTC) space, led by brands like eyeglass seller Warby Parker, mail order mattress company Casper, and suit maker Indochino, is also very interested in whether a virtual environment will ultimately replace their website as their main touchpoint with consumers. The metaverse presents a great number of opportunities for them and all types of brands:

  • Pop-up worlds
  • NFT collectibles (e.g. art, wearables)
  • Branded games
  • Community activities (e.g. quests, contests)
  • Concerts
  • Stores and showrooms

The metaverse, however, isn’t all fun and games. It’s also serious business. Given the sudden rise of remote and hybrid work, the need for truly immersive and easily accessible virtual spaces has become critical. Tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are positioning their clouds and platforms as the foundation for those virtual environments.

Facebook’s rebrand as Meta in late 2021 kicked off a lot of the current interest in the metaverse concept. Consumers, brands, and marketers are noticing the continued growth of virtual worlds like Decentraland and Sandbox and game worlds like Fortnite and Roblox. 

Just a year ago, the metaverse was still a buzzword. Now, 49-percent of marketers surveyed for TINT’s 2022 State of User-Generated Content report say they expect the metaverse to affect their strategies this year. This trend, along with the still developing Web3, is just beginning to take shape, but already forward-looking brands are taking measured steps to prepare for what’s to come by trying out new things today.

 

Hanlon works at the cutting edge of digital marketing, designing and executing compelling brand strategies for adaptive organizations. Talk to us today to learn how we can help prepare your brand for the next generation of digital engagement.