The ‘metaverse’ has become a marketing buzzword but opinion is divided between the sceptics and those who are really excited about its potential. Some brands are using the metaverse well, says Prof Steven van Belleghem.
How close are we to making the metaverse a valuable part of marketing strategy? Well some brands are already building very creative experiences in the metaverse for their customers, with some projects that show that what happens in the metaverse, does not always stay in the metaverse.
In the weeks following its the acquisition of RTFKT, a non-fungible token (NFT) studio that produces digital collectibles like digital sneakers, Nike opened up applications for five different metaverse-related job roles, so the brand is clearly investing in their “Day After Tomorrow”.
Unlike virtual sneakers launched by Gucci and Buffalo London, each RTFKT Nike product is backed by a non-fungible token (NFTs) so can be owned and resold. What’s more, Nike is not just investing in selling digital versions of its branded sneakers in various metaverse spaces, but it is also building bridges with its physical offering. In 2021, customers could visit Nike’s flagship store ‘House of Innovation’ in New York and engage in interactive and fun activities in a virtual recreation of Smith Rock State Park in Oregon through their mobile phones and other virtual and augmenting tools.
Disney has already been granted a patent for a “virtual-world simulator in a real-world venue” which allows it to enter the metaverse world and make interactive, personalized attractions for theme park visitors.
What is interesting here is that Disney is clearly aiming at creating a blended storytelling experience. The purpose is to offer headset-free augmented reality attractions in its theme parks, by tracking visitors on their mobile phones and generating and projecting personalized 3D effects on various objects in the park. For example, while one family may see Mickey Mouse greeting them by a hot-dog stand, another group could interact with Cinderella. Disney’s version of the metaverse means that shared virtual-world experiences do not require a headset or mobile device.
Christie’s has been building a multipurpose virtual version of its five-story London headquarters in Decentraland – the leading decentralized metaverse. The venue is, not surprisingly, meant to be a showroom and sales venue for digital (NFT) art, but it also functions as a virtual meeting place.
“We see spaces like Decentraland as the next frontier for digital art where artists, collectors and viewers alike can engage with one another from anywhere in the world and showcase art that is fundamentally scarce and unique, but accessible to anyone for viewing,” said Michael Bouhanna, Head of Sales, when the facility opened in June.
Samsung entered the metaverse with the Samsung 837X experience: a digital version of its pop-up New York store, built as “an experiential playground” to showcase new products. What’s important here is the focus on experience, rather than just creating a virtual marketplace.
As well as its Connectivity Theater, Samsung’s 837X features a Customization Stage, an event venue that live-streamed a DJ-hosted dance party held at the real Samsung 837 in New York, and The Sustainability Forest, which highlights a campaign Samsung has launched to plant two million trees with an NFT firm that provides proof of planting. This metaverse project makes an interesting blend of entertainment, storytelling, branding and sales enablement.
It may be more gimmicky, but Wendy’s approach to the metaverse is weirdly effective. About two years ago, Fortnite introduced a limited-time event called Food Fight that enabled players to represent their favourite fictional digital restaurant – Durr Burger (Team Burger) or Pizza Pit (Team Pizza) – and fight each other. Wendy’s decided to join the game as a form of clever advertising. When they ‘discovered’ that the burgers from Durr Burger were stored in the freezer, Wendy’s immediately saw a new opportunity to advertise its own “fresh, never frozen beef”.
So, they created a character that resembles its mascot to destroy all the freezers in Fortnite’s Food Fight mode, instead of killing the other players. Wendy’s then live-streamed their quest on Twitch, inviting hundreds of thousands of players to watch and join them destroying freezers instead of other players. Over the course of nine hours of streaming, 1.5+ million minutes were watched on Twitch. There was an increase of 119% of brand mentions across social media.
The largest beer brewer in the world has now moved into the virtual Ethereum-based horse racing platform Zed Run. The beer brand owner has of course had experience in the horse racing department before, but sponsoring a virtual event with virtual horses is not quite the same.
On Zed Run, players can buy and breed digital horses and take part in races, not unlike the Tamagotchi craze from the ’90s, but a lot more sophisticated. Prices for virtual horses can climb up to more than $150,000, and some people are calling them ‘breathing NFTs’: non-fungible tokens that actually take on a life of their own. People can own the horses themselves, but how they behave on the track is left up to complex algorithms covering a number of factors.
AB InBev’s metaverse vision is that “brands should parallel in the metaverse what they do in reality”. They are reproducing their “real life” endeavours in the parallel universe of the metaverse, while also crossing back to the real world – if you meet a friend at a virtual horse race, you can buy them a beer that is delivered to their home.
Coca-Cola has a long history of selling physical collectibles, so it makes sense that moving into NFTs and the metaverse could provide their customers with “the same iconic and optimistic experiences they’re used to in real life in the digital world”. Last year, Coca-Cola launched an NFT collection – including an iconic metallic red bubble jacket inspired by the company’s old delivery uniforms – that raised no less than $575,000 in an online auction.
Coca-Cola also auctioned four multi-sensory, friendship-inspired NFTs via the OpenSea marketplace on International Friendship Day. This Friendship Box was packed full of four dynamic and rare 1-of-1 NFTs plus more hidden and unlockable surprises. Not only did the winner become the owner of the four NFTs, but also a real-world fridge stocked with Coca-Cola bottles.
Late last year, Hyundai Motor Company launched Hyundai Mobility Adventure, a metaverse space on online entertainment platform Roblox. It featured its most advanced products and future mobility solutions, creating perhaps the first virtual experience on Roblox developed by a global automotive brand.
Inside Hyundai’s virtual space, visitors can meet, play games, role-play and experience Hyundai’s mobility offerings with customized avatars. A player can drive Hyundai Motor vehicles such as NEXO and IONIQ 5, operate robotics, purpose-built vehicles (PBV) and urban air mobility (UAM) transportation devices, and immerse themselves in a wide spectrum of virtual experiences.
Interestingly, Hyundai Mobility Adventure is targeted at young consumers who are more used to exploring the virtual worlds, with an aim to “nurture long-lasting relationships” with these young fans and to familiarize them with Hyundai’s future mobility solutions.
Steven van Belleghem is one of the world’s leading thought-leaders, speakers and authors on customer experience. His latest content, The CX Leader’s Manual to Customer Excellence, can be downloaded for free at www.stevenvanbelleghem.com.