by Jessica Quillin and Bryce Quillin

This essay originally was published on March 9, 2023, with the email subject line "CT No. 158: A metaverse content strategy glow up."

How many times have you preached the value of content strategy to a client, only for your words to fall on deaf ears, no matter how many data points, case studies, and best practices you bring?

Since the beginning of the transition away from glossy magazines to digital publishing, the fashion industry has been exceptionally averse to discussions of digital content strategy. Initially, industry leaders were too busy grappling with the mess created by being last at the table when it came to web and ecommerce adoption. In particular, luxury—that rarefied part of fashion that almost belies definition except through ideas of scarcity and exclusivity—has been notoriously skeptical of digital due to worries of brand dilution, ceding control over content and products, and an overall fear of tech.

Like any industry that deprioritizes content, the outcome for fashion was an even bigger mess: content production was passed off to junior staff on siloed teams or managed by external agencies, leading to a cacophonic volume of low-quality content with inconsistent brand messaging across channels.

When the pandemic forced brands across reluctant industries to go digital practically overnight, fashion and luxury brands were faced with a choice: embrace e-commerce or get left behind. Post-pandemic, while some fashion and luxury brands have started to refocus their efforts on rebuilding their physical stores, others adopted a different tack and jumped on the latest tech trend: the metaverse.

But executives quickly realized they had no idea how this trend fit together with other digital tactics, such as e-commerce, social media, and programmatic advertising. And they gradually became more open to conversations about the merits of content strategy to help streamline, centralize, and manage content efforts at scale and to create attenuated, targeted brand messaging across channels.

Whatever competencies fashion and luxury brands lacked during the first wave of the internet era, they are compensating for by being the undeniable first movers in the metaverse. Through this strange, almost illogical move, considering luxury’s initial slow adoption of digital, there are many positive lessons for other industries to learn regarding how to plan and be ready for these future technologies.

Understanding the what, why, and how of fashion’s investments in the metaverse from a content strategy perspective provides a rich source of case studies, best practices, and competitive research for business decision makers and strategists alike.

Luxury goods, digital venues

In 2021, a virtual Gucci Dionysus bag created and sold in the online gaming platform Roblox made headlines because it was purchased for 475 Robux, the equivalent of $4,115 — $700 less than the physical version available in stores. The virtual bag, developed for the Gucci Virtual Garden in Roblox, could only be used digitally within the Roblox platform.

The confluence of scarcity, novelty and established branding in an already-popular virtual world made Gucci’s bag the biggest digital-only luxury purchase in this initial NFT and metaverse hype. While the value quotient of digital collectibles remains to be seen, this first generation of digital collectibles expanded the possibilities for luxury content—and content strategies—in the metaverse.

The Gucci Garden Experience on Roblox. (Photo credit: Lifestyle Asia Singapore)
The Gucci Garden Experience on Roblox. (Photo credit: Lifestyle Asia Singapore)

The fashion industry’s fascination with the metaverse did not happen overnight. Luxury brands, in particular, are among the few companies with the budgets to experiment with nascent, constantly-evolving new technologies without losing ground or risking brand dilution.

The multiple horizons of the metaverse for luxury fashion

To take a tiny step back, when we refer to the “metaverse,” we are not viewing it as a monolithic concept owned by a single company, but rather as a decentralized set of immersive, virtual experiences. Or as Cathy Hackl put it, “virtual shared experiences that happen in virtual spaces, but also in the physical world.”

Web3, on the other hand, is a wholly different concept encapsulating a decentralized, token-based set of digital systems built on the blockchain, and is often connected to cryptocurrencies that are focused on ownership, co-creation, and community.

Fashion is approaching the metaverse and immersive environments as the next wave for digital brand experiences. Projects include everything from avatar skins, real-world wearables, and digital collectibles to immersive runway shows, conferences, exhibitions, and social engagements and “phygital” or dual physical-digital activations.

Fashion weeks in virtual worlds

Despite the proclamations of a “metaverse winter” after the late 2022 crypto crash, the world of Web3 and the metaverse are not dead for fashion and luxury — at least they weren’t at recent New York and London Fashion Weeks, which featured a series of metaverse and Web3 activations and events to accompany IRL runway collections.

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