Gaming and the metaverse
The metaverse is here – but what is it and what does it mean for brands?
The metaverse is our collectively shared, ever-evolving, 3D virtual space. It’s often referred to as the next generation of the internet. In many ways, gaming is both the genesis and the current centre. Brands of all stripes are getting serious about their presence in this brave new world.
Fashion and beauty brands are at the forefront. Louis Vuitton’s recent launch of Louis the Game is an interactive journey designed to celebrate 200 years since the birth of its founder. Burberry is introducing NFTs (non-fungible tokens) through a collaboration with Blankos Block Party, and Estée Lauder has ANRcade, which invites users to play different games “to earn youth-generating points.”
Food and beverage brands are no strangers to this world either. For example, Wendy's seamlessly integrated into Fortnite through the game mode Food Fight with a Wendy-styled avatar destroying virtual burger freezers, using the tagline keeping Fortnite fresh. And Red Bull has made significant investment in owning ‘epic moments’ gaming, from esports to fantasy games like League of Legends.
So, what’s behind the movement?
Games are one of the best places to reach critical audiences
If your brand is looking for a fresh audience, gaming is the best place to find it. This is especially true if you are looking to reach younger consumers – Generation Z and, increasingly, Generation Alpha (those born since 2010).
China, India and other markets with surging populations of high net worth and HENRY (high earning, not rich yet) populations are also places where a number of young people spend time in the gaming world.
COVID-related quarantines and lockdowns over the past two years have led people to spend even more time exploring, socialising and shopping in virtual worlds. Animal Crossing’s skyrocketing popularity in 2020 is an example of this. Following the rise, we saw Maison Margiela, Valentino and Marc Jacobs contribute looks for the game’s 30 million players to download and dress up their characters. Brands from H&M to Glossier have also appeared on the platform.
Gaming is quality time spent exploring and dreaming
Beyond the pure quantity of time consumers are spending in-game, brands are largely drawn to the quality of that time. Virtual worlds are a uniquely interactive and compulsively compelling storytelling medium. Print ads, TV and podcast are all passive mediums. Even the power of in-store experiences is hampered by the reality of geography and opening hours.
A video game on the other hand, is a way to explore the inspiration behind the launch of a new line or provide hands-on education about new materials at a much more flexible and exciting pace. Users are highly concentrated and engaged. This suits brands trying to reach consumers in a dreaming mind-state; that is, when customers are open to inspiration and looking to play, learn and explore.
Gaming provides an intuitive medium for educating about products or the brand story with their communities, but also an experimental playground for extensions into lifestyle offerings too. Think of games as the next iteration of user-generated, co-created content which in turn offers brands rich consumer insight for future product extensions.
From a media channel to a sales channel
Beyond awareness and engagement, video games are a massively profitable industry and sales channel. While at first it may seem a strange notion; it is no longer a fringe idea for brands to be selling virtual ‘skins’, clothing, and homewares that exist only in the digital realm. And consumers are spending real money to express themselves virtually.
For example, The Fabricant is a digital fashion house that says: “We waste nothing but data and exploit nothing but our imagination...showing the world that clothing does not need to be physical to exist.” The company has collaborated with the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and adidas to create digital clothing for avatars, which can be used and traded in virtual realities. Another is DressX, a startup which sells a digital-only collection. The pieces can then be uploaded images on social media, as a substitute of sorts for real clothes, which is a wonderful innovation tackling the global threat of mass textile waste.
What are the considerations for brands?
Lead with the brand: the key to entering the metaverse is understanding your gaming DNA before execution. Having a presence on Animal Crossing is great because there are 30 million players. But as with all mediums, you need to know why you’re there – and how to show up in the right ways. It’s essential to understand your brand purpose to then plot where, when and how the brand can stretch to have an authentic presence.
Start small and start now: the metaverse can be overwhelming. Should you create a pop-up presence in a blockbuster game or launch your own fully immersive world? Our recommendation is to start small and start now. Tap into data-driven insights about your customers to launch and test concepts. Think of this as a world to explore right alongside your consumers.
Keep it fun: ultimately, it’s important to remember why people show up in the metaverse.
06 October 2021
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