Business as Usual? How Major Brands are Leveraging the Metaverse
The metaverse has the potential to reshape the way consumers engage with the internet. By some estimates, business and consumer spending in the metaverse is projected to reach $5 trillion by 2030. Broadly speaking, the metaverse “doesn't really refer to any one specific type of technology, but rather a broad…shift in how we interact with technology.” The metaverse encompasses tech like “virtual reality—characterized by persistent virtual worlds that continue to exist even when you're not playing—as well as augmented reality that combines aspects of the digital and physical worlds.” The metaverse transforms the way you engage with the internet by making your experience more immersive and interactive. As a result, the metaverse has the power to fundamentally reshape consumer behavior, which has a wide range of implications for businesses.
Experts say the metaverse will likely center around five key areas: “gaming, socializing, fitness, commerce and remote learning.” The metaverse is rapidly evolving, so total user estimates vary widely; however, some estimates place the total number of metaverse users at around 400 million. According to a recent McKinsey survey of current metaverse users, 79% “said they have already made a purchase in the metaverse as it exists today, with 47% of those people saying they had made in-game purchases, 37% reporting buying virtual cosmetic items and 33% saying they purchased real-world items that were offered through virtual platforms.” Despite what many skeptics assume, there appears to already be proven consumer demand for products integrated into the metaverse. Below are five major corporations currently experimenting in this new set of technologies:
To date, Chipotle has run two major campaigns in the metaverse. In Oct 2021, Chipotle ran a “Halloween-themed project called Boorito in which users who visited a virtual store received a code for a free real-world burrito.” Chipotle’s virtual store is located in Roblox, a major metaverse virtual platform. The virtual store is modeled on the chain’s original location in Denver, Colorado. In April 2022, Chipotle ran another promotional campaign in which the first “100,000 players who successfully roll a virtual burrito in the game will earn “Burrito Bucks” good for real food at Chipotle restaurants in the real world.” Chris Brandt, CMO at Chipotle, said, “This is a place we want to play. We want to remain a leader here and we’ll continue to experiment without a doubt.”
In November 2021, Nike launched Nikeland, a “purpose-built metaverse space that uses the Roblox platform to allow its fans to meet, socialize, take part in promotions and engage with a whole range of brand experiences.” 7 million users have visited Nikeland since the launch. Visitors have been treated to “celebrity appearances from sports stars, including LeBron James.” Nikeland also gives users the ability to “buy exclusive digital products” for their avatars. These digital items “are not restricted to [Nikeland] and can be worn as their avatars travel to other Roblox environments – essentially turning the visitors into digital brand ambassadors.” Each visitor to Nikeland is awarded a “yard” where users can display their digital Nike merch, which allows them to show off rare items they have purchased.
In May 2022, Gucci officially opened “Gucci Town” on the Roblox platform. Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director, describes this area in the metaverse as a place for users to “express their individuality through virtual clothing, and connect with like-minded individuals.” This launch comes off the heels of a very successful two-week event hosted on Roblox in 2021. “During the event, a bee-embroidered Gucci Dionysus bag — exclusively available for use on Roblox — sold for 350,000 Robux, or roughly $4,115.” For context, the bag’s physical counterpart typically sells for $3,400. Gucci’s new experimental Gucci store in the metaverse “will showcase some of Gucci’s latest products and collaborations.” The sense of exclusivity that Gucci successfully cultivates in the physical world will continue to serve the brand well as they tap into the growing market of digital exclusive apparel.
In 2018, Wendy’s took advantage of a new game mode in Fortnight called Food Fight. In the mode, players could “represent their favorite digital restaurant, Durr Burger (Team Burger) or Pizza Pit (Team Pizza) and fight each other, with the last person standing being declared the winner.” The marketing team at Wendy’s “immediately saw a new opportunity” to promote the chain’s "fresh, never frozen beef" slogan. The team created an avatar “that resembles the brand's mascot, dropped it into Fortnite and started to destroy all the freezers in the game's Food Fight mode instead of killing other players.” The team streamed their stunt on Twitch, one of the largest video gaming streaming networks. In total, the stream was watched for over 1.5 million minutes, which resulted in a 119% increase in brand mentions on social media.
In late 2021, Adidas entered the metaverse with a splash when it launched “a total of 30,000 Adidas Originals NFTs.” The entire collection sold out within minutes, generating the company roughly $22 million USD. From a brand perspective, the NFT launch synergizes with the company’s ethos. “Adidas…effectively leverage[d] the NFT marketplace and the metaverse to promote… individuality and self-expression” which has long been a cornerstone of the brand. The NFT collection was a strategic decision to become an “avid early adopter of the metaverse as a new sphere for interacting with a younger, hipper audience.”
Bill Gates explained the power of the internet to David Letterman on his TV show in 1995. At that time, just 3% of Americans had ever used the internet. That percentage is roughly analogous to the percentage of global metaverse users today. In the 27 years since that interview aired, the internet has fundamentally transformed human society. The metaverse is still very new, and the way consumers interact with the metaverse will continue to evolve. Today, companies primarily leverage the metaverse for marketing purposes; however, as the metaverse continues to mature, companies will identify new and creative ways to leverage these kinds of immersive experiences.
For more on consumer behavior read our article on Generation Z.