10 brands that have built awesome experiences in the metaverse

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I’ve been doing quite some research on the metaverse over the past few weeks. Recently, I published this piece about “What marketing in the metaverse will look like”, presenting all the different use cases I had come across. Today, I want to share a selection of very different brands – from art auction houses to car manufactures, brewing companies and luxury goods – that have built very creative experiences in the metaverse for their customers. It’s also pretty interesting to see that a lot of brands are creating hybrid projects, making a bridge between real life products, services and events and the VR/AR ones. In other words: what happens in the metaverse, does not always stay in the metaverse.

These are the brands I’ll be discussing:

  1. Nike
  2. Disney
  3. Christie’s
  4. Samsung
  5. Wendy’s
  6. AB InBev
  7. Selfridges
  8. Coca Cola
  9. Hyundai
  10. Gucci

End of January, Nike launched 5 different job-applications for metaverse-related roles. The news came a few weeks after it announced the acquisition of RTFKT, a non-fungible token studio that produces digital collectibles like digital sneakers. And prior to that, it had filed several new trademarks that indicate its intent to sell virtual Nike-branded sneakers and apparel. Its clear that Nike is heavily investing time and resources in the Day After Tomorrow that the metaverse promises to be.

The difference with other virtual sneakers like those by Gucci and Buffalo London is that the latter are not truly owned by the buyer and thus cannot be sold on. Each RTFKT Nike product is backed by a non-fungible token (NFTs) and can therefore be owned and resold. It’s fascinating to see that it is not just investing in selling digital versions of its branded sneakers apparel in various metaverse spaces, but it is also building bridges with their physical offering. In the first half of 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.

One of my favorite companies in the world, Disney has been approved for a “virtual-world simulator in a real-world venue” patent allowing it to enter the metaverse world and make interactive, personalized attractions for theme park visitors.

What is special here, is that Disney is clearly aiming at creating a blended storytelling experience. The purpose is to offer headset-free augmented reality (AR) 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 Princess Belle and Cinderella.

Another unique characteristic of the Disney version of the metaverse is that the shared virtual-world experiences does not require a headset or mobile device, which “can be costly and inconvenient to wear” and (in the case of AR devices) require “burdensome sanitation procedures” during the era of COVID-19.

Christie’s has been building a multipurpose virtual version of its five-story London headquarters in Decentraland. Special about that is that Decentraland is the leading decentralized metaverse, which makes this project a solid part of the Web3 trend. Christie’s virtual venue is located in the Voltaire Art District in Decentraland, a larger neighbourhood that will be populated by arts showcases. The venue is not surprisingly meant to be a showcase and a 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,” Michael Bouhanna, head of Sales at Sotheby’s announcedwhen 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 to showcase the products and other offerings it debuted at the CES show in Las Vegas. The company calls it “an experiential playground” meant to explore the Samsung technology. What’s important here is that Samsung has not just built a virtual version of a salesroom or a marketplace, but an experience. The Samsung store in Decentraland will also be open for a limited time, though it has plans to launch more 837X stores across other platforms.

Samsung’s 837X has three basic components. The core is the Connectivity Theater, a showcase for what it presented on the CES stage and other Samsung technology. Part two is a Customization Stage, an event venue that live-streamed a DJ-hosted dance party held at the real Samsung 837 in New York City. The Sustainability Forest is the last component, which highlights a campaign Samsung has launched to plant 2 million trees with an NFT firm that provides proof of planting. But there is also a portal to a land with millions of trees and a game.

Their metaverse project is an interesting blend of entertainment, storytelling, branding and sales enablement. Curious to see what their next moves will be.

Wendy’s approach to the metaverse is a lot more gimmicky, but still weirdly effective. About two years ago, Fortnite introduced a new 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. The last person standing would be declared the winner. 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 VR character that resembles its mascot which started 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 and Wendy’s even won several awards, including eight Cannes Lions.

AB InBev, the largest beer brewer in the world, has moved into the virtual Ethereum based game horse racing platform Zed Run. Even though sponsoring a virtual event with virtual horses is not quite the same, the beer brand owner has had experience in the horse racing department before. Stella Artois has been the official sponsor of famous racecourses like Ascot. And Budweiser is known for campaigns with its Clydesdales horses and stables.

So how does it work? On Zed Run, players can buy and breed digital horses and take part in races. The approach reminds of the Tamagotchi, the digital pet from the ’90s, but is a lot more sophisticated. Prices for virtual horses on the platform can climb up to more than $150.000. These virtual horses on Zed Run are what some call ‘breathing NFTs’: non-fungible tokens that actually take on a life of their own. Fascinating is that people can own the horses themselves, but how they behave on the track is left up to algorithms based on characteristics such as their bloodlines and how removed a horse is from its ancestors.

Interesting in AB InBev’s metaverse vision is its global head of technology and innovation, Lindsey McInerney’s belief that “brands should parallel in the metaverse what they do in reality”. Basically, they are reproducing their “real life” endeavors in the parallel universe of the metaverse.

AB InBev, too, is blending the metaverse with the ‘real’ world. If metaverse visitors meet a friend during the virtual horse races, they can buy him or her a beer which can be delivered to their actual homes. They also sell a virtual t-shirt to commemorate the event, of which a real version will be delivered to the buyer’s home.

To celebrate 25 years of Pokémon, UK high-end retailer Selfridges joined forces with designer Charli Cohen, and immersive storytelling production house Yahoo RYOT Lab. Charli Cohen  is the creator of NEXTWEAR, sustainable clothing with digital counterparts that can be experienced in-game, in augmented reality, virtual reality, and across the metaverse.

Together they built Electric/City – an immersive “virtual city inspired by the fashion capitals of the world” – where customers can explore the 3D space and shop exclusive physical as well as  digital garments. The Charli Cohen Electric/City collection presented 4 digital garments to wear via a body-tracking augmented-reality Snapchat lens or a customizable digital AR avatar to more than 300 other virtual platforms.

But the project flowed beyond the boundaries of the metaverse too. Selfridges also had an in-store launch promo where customers could register for a digital wallet to enter physical easter egg hunts and win physical prizes or Charli Cohen digital collectables.

According to Oana Vlad, Sr Director Coca-Cola Global Strategy, moving into NFTs and the metaverse is meant to provide customers with “the same iconic and optimistic experiences they’re used to in real life in the digital world.” This approach makes a lot of sense for a brand, which has a long history of producing and selling physical collectibles in the real world. A limited edition Norman Rockwell set of four Coca-Cola prints costs $400 on the company’s website, while a classic German Trink plastic cooler costs $550. A Steuben Crystal 125th Anniversary bottle, a 1970 Chevrolet Hauler set, and a $25 “First Hundred Years Collector’s Book” are also available.

And so, last year, Coca-Cola launched a non-fungible token (NFT) collection – among which that iconic metallic red bubble jacket garment, inspired by the company’s previous 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 4 dynamic and rare 1-of-1 NFTs plus more hidden and unlockable surprises that are revealed when opened. Not only did the winner become the owner of the 4 NFTs, but (s)he also received a real-world physical fridge stocked with Coca-Cola bottles and additional surprises.

End of last year, Hyundai Motor Company launched Hyundai Mobility Adventure, a metaverse space on online entertainment platform Roblox featuring its most advanced products and future mobility solutions. It was said to be the first virtual experience content on Roblox developed by a global automotive brand.

Visitors of Hyundai’s virtual space can meet, communicate, play games, role-play with one another and experience Hyundai Motor’s mobility offerings in the form of customized avatars. For example, a player can drive Hyundai Motor vehicles such as NEXO and IONIQ 5, and operate robotics, purpose built vehicles (PBV) and urban air mobility (UAM) transportation devices. They can develop their own avatars, upgrade their personal parking garage and participate in various social activities, immersing themselves in a wide spectrum of virtual experiences available in the metaverse.

Hyundai Mobility Adventure is targeted at young consumers who are more used to exploring the virtual worlds beyond physical experiences. The aim is to “nurture long-lasting relationships” with these young fans and to familiarize them with Hyundai Motor’s new vehicles and future mobility solutions.

In March 2021, luxury brand Gucci launched a digital pair of sneakers called The Gucci Virtual 25 to be worn in augmented reality (AR) or used in partnered apps like Roblox and VRChat.” The sneakers are surprisingly affordable for a product of a luxury brand, selling for $12.99 on the platforms which makes one think if they want to use a different brand positioning in the metaverse than in IRL?

A few months later, it also opened the Gucci Garden on Roblox, a two-week virtual experience to complement a real-world installation called the Gucci Garden Archetypes, which took place in Florence, Italy. Visitors were able to experience the vision and inclusive philosophy of the brand’s creative director Alessandro Michele by means of 15 past advertising campaigns by Gucci. The garden also featured The Collector’s Room which allowed people to collect limited Gucci items – like virtual bags – in the metaverse. Prices went pretty high, here, with one Gucci Dionysus Bag With Bee re-selling for $4,115 (or 350,000 Robux, the platform’s in-game currency), which is more than a physical bag’s $3,400 retail value.

So, that’s it for now. What are your favorite metaverse marketing and CX projects? Let me know over my social media!

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