It’s a brave new virtual world out there, and it’s changing by the moment. Even Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, in which humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents in a three-dimensional virtual world, didn’t envision where the Internet superhighway would lead. In the Beauty Metaverse, beauty brands are at the fringe of new unparalleled worlds of branded communities in which their products star. These new beauty worlds are created through innovation and energized through new digital technologies and platforms, consumer-generated content, and populated through consumer advocacy and digital word-of-mouth.
Fully immersive experiences, multi-sensory effects of HD video, photo-realism, special effects, sound and animation are the tools for creating these new beauty worlds. Communication between brands and consumers is also evolving from one-way messages to two-way conversations and digital experiences that turn consumers into a facet of the media through site comments, sharing of content, and Facebook updates to their network of “friends.” So let’s take a journey into this evolving Beauty Metaverse and get a glimpse of this new frontier.
Experiences to Connections
A 360-degree immersive experience, www.armanijeans.com provides users total control of a three-dimensional reality filmed with high-end cameras and special effects that rival the Matrix films. Consumers are invited to enter this Armani world, a world created by photo-realism, music and hyper–movement set in a warehouse where all the characters are dressed, of course, in Armani. Quite frankly, the experience, while engaging, left me feeling a little dizzy.
Fortunately, I was able to easily stop the action and navigate on my own to view the collection. But this is where their world fell short. By not creating more bridges to enable its visitors to become members of the community, fashion brand missed an opportunity to continue the dialog through e-mail, wireless communication and, most importantly, enable a connection to the retail experience.
From the warehouse scene created by Armani, one can venture to the catwalk show at www.johngalliano.com, which brings models and fashion through a black hole vortex right into the user’s laptop with stunning video effects that made me feel as though I was right there on the runway. While I wasn’t necessarily impressed with the fashion style, I was particularly impressed with the photo section and with the ability to stop the action and search within the catwalk photos and zoom up and down the photos in explicit detail. I loved the splash photo navigation effects, and I could not resist viewing the fragrance section. John Galliano captured the many faces of his “Galliano Girl” through photo-realistic effects playing in the background of the fragrance bottle through time-lapsed sequences into the boudoir of the Galliano Girl herself. Unfortunately, that’s where this experience ended as well, and the site did little to make visitors feel more then just a voyeur.
From the photo-realism realm of John Galliano, travel to the world of Harajuku and Gwen Stefani’s fragrance, Harajuku Lovers, at www.hlfragrance.com, 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 www.chanel.com, 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 www.daisymarcjacobs.com 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
As the new Beauty Metaverse evolves, I suspect many brands will evolve their experiences into a completely different kind of Beauty Metaverse created, branded, populated and marketed by consumers themselves, utilizing all the tools at their disposal to create their own version of beauty brands and worlds. After all, it’s really a consumers’ universe, and with all the new technologies and platforms they have at their fingertips, consumers have the controls to do with brands whatever they wish.
I, for one, would like to see the Beauty Metaverse become a place where beauty brands, manufacturers and consumers collaborate on the next big product, and provide consumers the opportunities to become part of the science, technology and new innovations behind the brand stories. All that’s needed is one smart beauty marketer to take the next quantum leap to help the Beauty Metaverse continue to evolve.
David Frederick is a pioneer of the digital age and a leader in leveraging technology to build world-class brands. For nine years, he directed Living Media at Coty, and has helped bring fragrance, skin care and cosmetic brands to life through digital innovation, integrated strategies and word-of-mouth. Today, Frederick runs ALIVE IDEA with his partner Alan Shapiro through every means possible and some yet to be imagined.