In early June, I received a pitch on Clinique’s latest web3 initiative, “Metaverse Like Us”, an NFT campaign created in “direct response to the lack of diversity, inclusion and accessibility that exists on web3”, according to an email sent by a public relations firm. The brand has partnered with makeup artists and content creators in an effort to “solidify Clinique’s commitment to building a better, more inclusive digital beauty world focused on accessibility to address the lack of representation in the metaverse”.
A corresponding image featured a diverse group: avatars of color, one of whom was disabled and another with vitiligo, a skin condition that causes parts of the skin to lose pigment. “Change starts with us, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated in the real world,” the pitch reads.
When the campaign launched, LinkedIn employees posted an image of the actual Clinique team to the metaverse. A virtual render showed more than 40 Clinique employees working at the corporate level cheering, smiling and raising their arms triumphantly; nearly all appear to be white and able-bodied.
The image was not shared with the media or intended for viewing by Clinique customers. But it’s a good example of a legacy cutie mark missing the mark on what some think is the next big thing. “Metaverse Like Us” could have had an impact had it been created by a company that embodied the message it was spreading.
Instead, it’s just a brand clinging to an issue (diversity and inclusion) and a platform of the moment (an NFT campaign). It’s a proven way to grab headlines and give the brand manager an answer when their bosses inevitably ask, “What are we doing about the metaverse?”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Clinique said the campaign led to the “second highest weekly gain in followers on Instagram (over the past 2 years) and a 400% increase in time spent on Instagram.” page compared to the site average”, and that it had received positive comments. members of the communities represented by the NFTs.
“The Daz 3D Non Fungible People NFT Collection was produced to promote greater representation in the metaverse,” the spokesperson said. “This was done thoughtfully in consultation with many experts in various fields and with internal and external communities to ensure the content was authentic.”
I don’t want to single out Clinique here. Nars, Estée Lauder, Charlotte Tilbury, and others have launched various metaverse initiatives. While inclusivity may not have been their goal, these efforts have one thing in common: each in their own way fails to meet customers where they consume beauty content, giving these projects a sense of community. exist because brands think they need to have some sort of presence in the metaverse. We’re not going to talk about these things much beyond this first round of publicity. The ROI of beauty is already debatable, and appearing in the metaverse for no reason feels like a misunderstanding of the purpose of a beauty company.
You could say a lot of the same things about fashion’s NFT experiences. But it’s easier to imagine a world where these brands create real businesses selling virtual clothing or other products related to the clothes people wear. It’s harder to imagine people applying an Advanced Night Repair NFT serum to enhance their avatar’s skin, and no beauty brand has imagined a truly compelling future for this technology in their industry.
So while it’s understandable that the beauty wants to play in a fashion-dominated space, it also feels like someone’s younger brother is following them to a party.
There are plenty of places online where beauty has an edge over fashion — take TikTok and YouTube, for example. But when it comes to Web3, fashion has been quicker to find early ways to play in space. It’s easy to see how exclusive and limited apparel and accessory drops translate to the virtual world. The brands that have been talking about their Web3 projects the most, from Nike to Gucci to Balenciaga, fit right into the hype-y visual representation of fashion. Influence is influence.
Without the logos and distinctive features of apparel and accessories, it’s hard to know how skincare, makeup and fragrance will establish a presence and purpose on the Web3. A limited-edition pink lipstick or NFT serum that makes your avatar’s skin glow can be from any brand; you could proudly sport a Chanel logo on your bag, but not on your avatar’s lips.
Some beauty brands have created highly visual products, like under-the-gods-eye masks, that could translate into the metaverse. They can also sell merchandise — Glossier’s pink hoodie, which had a multi-thousand-dollar waitlist, would likely be an NFT if Timothée Chalamet wore it in 2021 instead of 2019.
But is there a place for skincare brands, which mostly sell products that can’t even be seen in photos or video? For make-up, will the augmented reality and virtual fitting tools offered by Sephora or NYX translate into web3? It seems unlikely that a customer would head to the metaverse for a virtual try-on instead of using a retailer’s app or similar in-store tool.
When it comes to products, will brands sell virtual versions of their existing products? Will avatars be able to wear digital versions of actual lipstick shades? How to discern a virtual tint sold by Nars of Charlotte Tilbury’s?
There is also FOMO. Despite these challenges, many of these companies, especially those with the financial means to do so, simply try it because it’s the “new thing” and they don’t want to be left behind.
For now, the beauty industry mainly finds itself with marketing: NFTs based on bestsellers, virtual storefronts, advertising. It’s just not that exciting and it’s not going to transform the way these companies interact with their customers. With much of the crypto world melting down right now, it might make more sense for brands to wait and see what emerges from the rubble rather than burn themselves out rushing into cheesy one-off projects.