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The Beauty Metaverse: Virtual Worlds Through Digital Innovation

By: David Frederick
Posted: July 6, 2009, from the July 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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From the photo-realism realm of John Galliano, travel to the world of Harajuku and Gwen Stefani’s fragrance, Harajuku Lovers, at, which connects its brand to Harajuku fans throughout the world through karaoke. In this bizarre world, consumers all over the Web perform karaoke style to their favorite Gwen Stefani songs. If their performance is rated “out of this world,” they are featured in a virtual Harajuku station in a montage of video karaoke scenes. Once users click on the videos, they are transported into the underground worlds of Harajuku girl wannabes and fans of the fragrance to watch them perform. While watching these dark, bizarre and slightly silly performances—most likely created in the wee hours of the morning—the site does finally take it a step further and allow visitors to become part of the experience and comment on the performances, share favorite videos with their friends and explore the lives of hundreds of fans that are part of this Harajuku experience.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the U.K. brand team take this a step further and bring the world of Harajuku to retail. The U.K. Road Show has taken the show on the road for 12 weeks, traveling to U.K. retailers around the country with a real-life karaoke booth where consumers can broadcast their performance from the retail environment to the rest of the world through uploaded video karaoke postings on the Web site. The site also does a great job of listing the retailers, offering free samples and connecting consumers to various online and off-line retail outlets to buy the product.

Back in Time; Growing Forward

From the world of the Harajuku, one can go back in time, transported to Paris A’ Nuit and 31 Rue Cambon at, where the Chanel No. 5 brand continues to utilize the art of storytelling through the Chanel No. 5 Film Series. The short film, Train de Nuit starring Audrey Tautou, takes viewers on a romantic voyage with Tautou and a mystery man. The pair keep missing each other during their fragrance-inspired journey from Paris to Istanbul. The director, Jean Pierre Jeunet, does a nice job of suffusing the colors of the fragrance into the film to transport viewers into the world of this timeless fragrance. Chanel No. 5 fans who want to continue the story are invited to visit behind-the-scenes and view the making of the film, the history of the fragrance and into the life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.

For the culmination of this journey, The Secret Garden at continues to grow and thrive. Visitors to this social network can become part of this secret garden and plant themselves in this brand world as a Daisy avatar to meet thousands of other daisies around the world. All are invited to create self-defining avatars, and add photos and contact information. Mark Jacobs, too, is planted in the garden—just another Daisy in the midst of this virtual, modern neighborhood.

It’s a place where users can make friends with other Daisies and with the brand through online games and other activities that water, pollinate, and feed the garden and enable it to grow. The bigger the Daisy avatars become, the more they flourish in the neighborhood—just as in real life. In this garden, Daisies are encouraged to talk to each other and to the brand, and to share a little about themselves—when they want to and on their terms.

It’s Really a Consumers’ Universe