From community engagement to brand narratives - a case study of the process, the challenges and key learnings of entering the virtual worlds (metaverse) of generation Z and Alpha with millions of gamers. The Danish fashion brand HerobyAhlgreen and the metaverse infrastructure start-up Virtuall tell their story of entering Zepeto and Roblox.
How can a small sustainable fashion brand enter a space and engage with communities of Gen Z and Alpha where currently only the large brands are making a name for themselves?
Virtual worlds as a channel to reach younger generations
The world is observing a buzzing activity in the “Metaverse” space and many big brands are discovering a new channel for building community and differentiated customer experience through digital means, the more renowned ones are D&G and LVMH to mention two. Nike and their RTFKT are already connecting their physical products to digital “crypto kicks,” which are purchasable and used in digital experiences by their followers. This activity has raised an immense curiosity for other brands to follow, but not everyone has the financial or organizational capability to take the leap into virtual opportunity.
Rikke Ahlgreen, founder of HerobyAhlgreen, already saw her kids engaging with Roblox on a daily basis. With her clothing items targeting teenagers as well as adults, looking into virtual worlds just seemed to be the logical next step. At that stage Rikke’s insights from a long career in the fashion industry already confirmed that traditional social media is a complex channel for brands to reach younger generations: Generation Z and Alpha are notoriously apt at spotting advertisements, having been brought up with intrusive advertising. Influencers are a popular channel, but it’s difficult to determine a trackable Return on Investment.
Image: Copyright HerobyAhlgreen
A new approach to branding and community was required. This was the time when the start-up Virtuall approached Rikke in April and started a dialog to explore the possibilities of building a brand community in games. It was a joint excitement; who wouldn’t want to be a HERO in games and in the real world?
The metaverse infrastructure start-up Virtuall sees it as its mission to turn fashion into virtual experiences. With their platform they allow all brands to take advantage of and build communities in any virtual world by bringing down the cost and time barriers of 3D design and gamification. Enabling a low threshold for exploring the metaverse.
With Virtuall’s capabilities in 3D design and cross-world compatibility, they launched Hero by Ahlgreen as a brand in the two virtual worlds, Roblox and Zepeto. These two worlds represent a user count of around 500 Million. Vans and Nike have already discovered the opportunity of using Roblox as a new avenue for community building and branding, and are already building immersive experiences for their audience. While Roblox is dominated by a younger (9-14 years old) generation, primarily male, Zepeto reaches a demographic of mostly female users in the age groups of (12-24 years old).
Images: Copyright Zepeto, Harper Collins
Together these two games / virtual worlds would mean a massive exposure of HerobyAhlgreen as a brand. The collaboration with Virtuall would tie the real-life brand values and products to the digital experience. This cross-pollination between traditional social media and in-game communities could ultimately drive sales both in the digital and real world.
Challenges along the way
There were, of course, challenges! The team was soon confronted with in-game fashion design questions. Would real-world designs resonate with users in the games?
- Design: Virtuall researched the best balance between real and digital designs, joint with brand appearance. In that they found a good balance, adding brand logos in the designs to enhance the game's fashion and brand exposure. Together, Virtuall and HerobyAhlgreen experimented with the designs to create the best representation of them in the virtual world. However, avatar systems in Roblox and Zepeto are different; hence the digital designs appear differently on them. This is where the platform experience and partner capabilities become vital to the brand's success.
- Community engagement: Virtuall explored how the newly converted clothing items could be used for community content. The very playful content formats of Zepeto and Roblox were not in full alignment with the narrative that HerobyAhlgreen had been using in their marketing strategy before. Virtual and HerobyAhlgreen had to carefully assess which content format would be disruptive and which within the acceptable limits.
Results and take-aways
Images: Copyright Virtuall ApS
The close collaboration between HerobyAhlgreen and Virtuall ultimately led to the success of the proof of concept. HerobyAhlgreen, due to Virtuall’s platform, was able to explore the virtual worlds of generation Z and Alpha without the high financial or organizational capability needed. The step-by-step exploration of the new space helped Hero to formulate their own strategy for connecting the traditional social media channels and virtual world communities in the future.
Based on HerobyAhlgreens and Virtuall’s experience fashion brands that want to explore the space are advised to:
- Create a brand narrative that resonates with virtual world communities: HerobyAhlgreen was able to transfer the narrative from the traditional social media channels to the virtual worlds of Zepeto. The Hero in the physical life turned into a Hero in the virtual life : A Hero is not something you become, but something you decide to be! I am a fan of communities with like minded heroic individuals. My symbol is the Globe - Roblox unites all of us under one world, let’s show what we can do! Exploring games and worlds in style!”
- Utilize the creative content tools that virtual world communities offer: HerobyAhlgreen used the virtual clothing items to redefine the formats that were already existing in their traditional social media channels. Content wasn’t copied 1to1 but rather adjusted to the creative standards of the virtual worlds. In this case the video of dancing girls displayed on Facebook turned into a video of two Roblox avatars imitating similar moves in a virtual skatepark.