Marketing in the metaverse has been one of the biggest trends of 2022—and for good reason. YPulse’s Metaverse trend report shows it’s crucial for brands to be in the virtual worlds Gen Z, Millennials, and even Gen Alpha are living their lives in to reach them. Nearly three quarters (73%) of young people agree they like when brands interact with their virtual world(s), and the majority of them also agree brands need to interact with virtual worlds to stay relevant.
Metaverse games like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft are in Gen Z and Gen Alpha’s top five favorite games of 2022, making them ideal spaces to build affinity. Plenty of brands have recognized this, and those who are using it to their advantage have built up huge numbers (meaning millions) of young users in their virtual activations. And because there’s not just one way for them to do it, every brand has the opportunity to make a unique metaverse brand experience young players will love. These six brands have made especially successful use of the metaverse in 2022:
Gucci Town shows the metaverse can build luxury affinity
Last year, Gucci hosted the virtual event Gucci Garden, where users could buy accessories like virtual Gucci purses, which some dropped thousands to own. Now, they’re able to visit Gucci Town, where a plaza in the shape of the luxe logo is surrounded by Mini Game Heights, an arena with Gucci themed competitions; Creative Corner, a place players can be artistic; and Power-Up Place, a cafe where players can interact with their friends and others in the community. Of course, the town also includes a Gucci Shop where they can buy special edition Gucci clothes and accessories for their avatars. As visitors interact with the experiences in Gucci Town, they earn GG Gems, an in-game currency they can use to purchase more products and power-ups. This isn’t the only way they’ve gone virtual, either: they’ve also launched into The Sandbox with Gucci Vault, which they describe as a retail experience that functions as “a time machine, an archive, a library, a laboratory, and a meeting place”—and it sells vintage Gucci (including archival pieces customized by Alessandro Michele) as well as pieces from up-and-coming designers. Ultimately, their intention is for every player to experience and have access to the luxury brand, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Forever 21 is leading the way for phygital success
Forever 21 created fashion accessories that were so successful in their virtual Shop City that they were soon followed with IRL items to let gamers twin with their avatars. For Forever 21, “Roblox has become a key driver of social media buzz and potential revenue.” Their virtual black beanie marked “Forever” in the game for 50 cents took off, and after an estimation to sell 1.5M of them this year, they made a real-life version. Managed by Virtual Brands Group, the retailer’s Roblox engagement is “driven by YPulse data that what young consumers do in the metaverse will dictate their interests in the physical world.” YPulse data shows one third of virtual world gamers say their virtual world style impacts their real-world style, so the idea of “twinning” with a virtual avatar has become extremely popular, driving matching virtual and in-store products. These “phygital” items are on the rise going into 2023, and we expect to see more brands following in Forever 21’s footsteps soon.
American Eagle is mixing metaverse and in-store experiences
In March, American Eagle created an “AE Members Always Club” on Roblox to promote their spring campaign and show young people they “are always welcome” when it comes to interacting with the brand. Users could create avatars on the gaming platform’s digital world Livetopia, collect game items, and dress their avatars in American Eagle’s spring collection. The brand is also partnered with Snapchat to allow consumers to try on clothes using augmented reality. According to the brand, their “Roblox presence has seen 30 million unique visitors so far, which Roblox said exceeds visitor numbers of other retail brands in the space.” So in September, the retailer upped their metaverse budget for back-to-school season. They incorporated unique phygital shopping experiences in-store by giving shoppers in select locations “the opportunity to use Meta Quest 2 headsets to get an immersive, 360-degree video experience that takes them behind the scenes of the brand’s back-to-school ad campaign.”
Sephoria connects to real brand loyalty points
Sephora hosted their second Sephoria metaverse event in September and drew 16K users globally (compared to 5K their first time). While the event has been ongoing for years as an in-person extravaganza, last year the brand switched over to hosting it in a virtual “house party.” Annual metaverse events like this are continuing to grow in popularity; 23% of young people have participated in a virtual brand event, and 46% are interested in doing so.
This year had even more games than before, per player demand, which is obviously important given 25% of virtual world gamers have participated in a game a brand sponsored, and 43% more are interested in doing so. The event also offered the chance to win NFTs and earn tokens they could exchange for real world Beauty Insider points. YPulse data shows young consumers are interested in brand loyalty programs that offer them special deals and free items, which they can now earn with their video game rewards. And the event proves metaverse experiences don’t have to be activations in already existing games, as it was successfully hosted on their own site.
Chipotle is showing the metaverse isn’t just for retail brands
While so many metaverse experiences center around shopping for digital merch, Chipotle has made games that give users the chance to win free food IRL—and what could be more appealing? Again blending gaming with real-life purchases, Chipotle’s Burrito Builder experience in Roblox let fans win branded currency that could be exchanged for entree codes. Players tried their hand at virtually rolling burritos, and the first 100,000 players to do so successfully won Burrito Bucks to earn an entree code they could redeem via Chipotle’s digital platforms. Not only was Chipotle’s Burrito Builder the first virtual world experience where players won branded currency, it showed how the brand is merging the real and virtual worlds in a way that’s valuable to players.
And following that activation, Chipotle’s annual “Boorito” Halloween went live on Roblox—and Roblox only. They became the first restaurant to open a virtual location on the platform and gave away $1 million worth of free burritos. Once they grabbed their IRL freebie codes, players could navigate through the Chipotle Burrito Maze to collect ingredients while avoiding monsters to find the day’s Chipotle-themed virtual items for their avatar.
Invasalign is building customer confidence in Roblox
Since their launch in August, Invisalign’s Roblox activation has reached over 2M visitors. The fact that avatars in the metaverse typically have straight teeth didn’t stop Invisalign from creating an interactive hub in Roblox’s roleplaying world Livetopia. Their virtual dentist office features an exam room and two mini games, Movie Night and The Big Game. In Movie Night, players “must channel the aligners in the theatre in order to eat all of the snack options displayed,” which include foods usually not recommended to eat with braces on. Invisalign says the games encourage players to flex “Invasalign confidence,” the kind that comes with straight teeth, and without traditional braces.
Young Gen Z (13-17-years-old) are the most likely to be Roblox players (47%), so while these young Gen Z generally aren’t the ones making purchasing decisions when it comes to orthodontics, the brand recognizes that “they do have influence over becoming users of Invisalign.” YPulse data shows 30% of Gen Z virtual world gamers say their life in the virtual world has influenced the brands they like in real life. And we know that children are influencing what their Millennial parents buy for them, so creating a relationship with these young consumers really can lead to purchasing.