From being able to fly in a carry-on bag to wandering around a custom-built luxury mansion, there was plenty on offer at this year’s Metaverse Fashion Week – if only there were more attendees to appreciate it.
For the second year in a row, Metaverse Fashion Week – which took place last week (March 28-31) – hosted luxury NFT market UNXD and Decentraland, a fascinating platform that offers digital parcels as non-fungible tokens (NFT) and runs on the Ethereum blockchain .
With “Future Heritage” serving as the curated theme of the event, brands were encouraged to showcase the connection between innovation and tradition in virtual and interactive experiences. Over 60 major brands – including Gucci, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY and Dolce and Gabbana – were among this year’s participants.
Decentraland users can traverse the open world territory and interact with embedded games and community-driven experiences using a custom avatar.
By occupying portions of the platform’s virtual real estate, popular fashion brands have launched immersive experiences to promote new collections and creative campaigns—including embedded games, digital fashion shows and parties, panel discussions, integrated video displays, and virtual “try-on” avatar opportunities .
We’ve prepared a summary of three key takeaways from this year’s Virtual Runway presentation – from changes in the technology landscape to reworked approaches to Web3 marketing by brands and advertisers.
1. Brands are responding to the need for more gamification
Since the pandemic, marketers have grasped the benefits of gamified campaigns – especially through the mass reach offered by popular gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Roblox.
Compared to last year’s expo, this year’s event saw more brands offering gaming experiences and virtual gifts. Coach teamed up with an AR fashion platform to offer an immersive search within a reimagined Tabby bag, while DKNY, Diesel, and metaverse firm HAPE released several wearable NFT airdrops for all in attendance.
One example of a brand combining its traditional design concepts with gamification was veteran shoe brand Clarks, which was among the participants at this year’s Metaverse Fashion Week.
In a campaign launched by creative agency Exposure and built by 3D engine Threedium, the brand has launched ‘Clarks Arcade’ – an immersive entertainment center located on a plot of land on Decentraland’s virtual turf.
Visitors to Clarks Arcade were given access to themed arcade games, a gamified theme park modeled after the brand’s headquarters, dance battles between digital avatars and opportunities to win unique digital wearables (offered in the form of NFTs).
Using the experience to promote its 2023 collection, Clarks claims to have taken inspiration from its product features to build its meta-universe activation (including geometric shapes and patterns that represent the shoe brand’s signature key fob featured on each from her shoes).
“Being a part of Metaverse Fashion Week not only allows us to highlight our products, but also gives us the opportunity to immerse our fans in our brand in a way like never before,” said Tara McRae, chief marketing and digital officer at Clarks.
2. There is more pressure for interoperability
Ever since NFTs entered marketers’ parlance, the concept of interoperability—by which a digital asset or system can work seamlessly across platforms—has been discussed in tandem with dialogue about the application of Web3 technology in marketing.
The benefits of interoperable assets include added accessibility for users, easier cross-platform collaboration, and increased ease in how users can securely transfer information from platform to platform.
Advertising industry figures, including Brent Koning, head of global gaming at Dentsu Gaming, noted the ability of NFT technology to build greater brand loyalty.
Other major brands, including Salesforce and Starbucks, have also recently said they are rethinking their approaches to Web3 technology, noting its ability to help them develop effective loyalty schemes (Starbucks has launched its own blockchain-based loyalty program where consumers can “unlock” benefits and experience by owning a unique NFT).
In an effort to further promote the interoperable capabilities of NFT technology, Decentraland is partnering with additional metaverse platforms Spatial and Over for Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 – allowing all digital purchases to be transferable and worn by avatars across all three applications.
3. Interest in the metaverse has changed
In the wake of Facebook’s rebranding of Meta and the ‘metaverse’ being hailed as the latest in advertising technology, last year’s show – which was the first of its kind – was touted by Decentraland as a breakthrough event in the global fashion industry.
However, Metaverse Fashion Week 2023 took place in a very different climate – where major brands have made recent headlines for reducing investment in metaverse-related products, and sentiment around metaverse marketing appears to have shifted among advertisers.
Meta, whose Reality Labs division (responsible for its VR and AR technology) reported a loss of $4.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, recently announced that it will end its NFT work. Since September 2022, the tech giant has undergone two rounds of massive layoffs (resulting in over 20,000 job cuts).
Disney, which has also recently undergone a major restructuring process, has announced that it will close its dedicated metaverse division, cutting approximately 50 jobs.
Interest in the event, both from brands and visitors, also seems to have waned.
Over 70 brands participated in the event in 2022, while just over 60 brands participated in the event this year – approximately a 10% decrease on last year’s number.
Fewer than 50,000 unique users were also reported to have attended – a sharp drop from last year’s 108,000 visitors. As of March 2023, Decentraland’s average active population was reported to be 810 per day.
The metaverse has also recently become the focus of attention from figures in the advertising industry. Speaking at the Data and Marketing Association’s Data 2023 conference, Leila Seit Hassan, head of data science and analytics at Digitas, suggested that the metaverse is “simply not right” for all brands.
Guy Futcher, regional creative director at VCCP, also claims he’s often seen brands jump into the metaverse with “average” ideas.
“Most companies haven’t thought about the bottom line — whether customers want to spend time there,” he said. “Which means they end up creating expensive digital ghost towns.”