Diving Into How Brands Are Using Emerging Tech for Marketing in 2022

Emerging technologies like NFTs, virtual reality, and the metaverse have been the subject of much hype and speculation recently. But savvy brands aren‘t waiting around to see how it all pans out – they‘re diving headfirst into these new technologies to create innovative marketing experiences.

From virtual brand activations to NFT-powered loyalty programs, big names like Nike, Coca-Cola, and Gucci are leveraging cutting-edge tech to engage customers in entirely new ways.

These moves aren‘t just for flashy headlines – they represent a fundamental shift in how brands interact with their audience. As the world moves towards an increasingly virtual future, marketers who embrace emerging tech now will be better positioned to thrive.

Let‘s take a closer look at how 5 top brands are already using NFTs, VR, and more in their marketing campaigns, and what lessons other businesses can take away.

Virtual Pioneers: How Nike and Coca-Cola Are Staking Their Claim in the Metaverse

Two of the world‘s most recognizable brands, Nike and Coca-Cola, are making big bets on virtual spaces as the next frontier for customer engagement.

Nike Builds Nikeland in Roblox

In November 2021, Nike debuted Nikeland, a virtual playspace inside the popular Roblox gaming platform. Nikeland allows users to dress their avatars in Nike-branded virtual clothing and participate in mini-games like dodgeball and tag.

The space is modeled after Nike‘s real-life headquarters, complete with arenas, fields, and running tracks. Players can unlock virtual products by completing challenges. Nike plans to update it with new content and features over time.

To promote the launch, Nike partnered with influencers and professional athletes like LeBron James to stream themselves playing in Nikeland.

Key stats:

  • 6.7 million visitors to Nikeland in the first 6 months
  • Average user spends 22 minutes per session in Nikeland
  • Nikeland-branded T-shirt is Roblox‘s best-selling digital item ever

Coca-Cola Hosts Virtual Concert in Fortnite

Not to be outdone, Coca-Cola hosted its own metaverse activation in April 2022. The company created an island within the hugely popular game Fortnite where players could attend a virtual concert by pop star Aya Nakamura.

Attendees explored a colorful branded world complete with Coke-themed mini-games and photo ops. The concert itself featured an motion-captured avatar of Nakamura performing her hit songs.

For Coca-Cola, the goal was to connect with younger audiences who are increasingly spending their time in virtual worlds. The company plans to learn from the experience to inform future metaverse campaigns.

Key stats:

  • 15 million players visited the Coca-Cola Fortnite island
  • Concert was viewed live by over 250,000 concurrent players
  • Coca-Cola saw a 6% lift in purchase intent among concert attendees

Why It Matters:
Nike and Coca-Cola‘s ventures into the metaverse signal that virtual worlds are becoming an important new space for brands to engage Gen Z and younger Millennials. Half of Roblox‘s users are under 13.

Branded gaming integrations and virtual events allow companies to connect with these audiences on their native turf. They also generate mountains of behavioral data offering unprecedented insights into what resonates with consumers.

Yet succeeding in the metaverse requires a willingness to relinquish some control and allow the community to interact with your brand on their own terms. Nike and Coca-Cola‘s activations worked because they provided value to players and integrated organically into already-popular platforms.

Expect to see more brands launching large-scale campaigns in metaverse platforms in the coming years as companies race to establish a presence and learn the ropes. Global spending on virtual goods surpassed $100 billion in 2021 and is only expected to grow.

NFTs Level Up Loyalty and Access for Adidas and Starbucks

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have exploded in popularity as a means of owning and trading unique digital assets. Major brands like Adidas and Starbucks are now leveraging the technology to reimagine loyalty programs and create new value for customers.

Adidas Originals Into the Metaverse

In December 2021, Adidas launched a line of 30,000 NFTs called Into the Metaverse. Owners of the tokens got exclusive access to real-life and virtual products and experiences, including:

  • Limited-edition physical merchandise
  • Access to virtual wearables for avatars in the metaverse
  • Priority access to future Adidas NFT drops

The NFTs also serve as a membership pass to a digital community of Adidas fans, hinting at how brands could use tokens to build tight-knit customer communities.

In a bold move, Adidas gave owners licensing rights to the intellectual property of their individual NFTs, allowing them to create and sell derivative projects and products. It‘s an experiment in a more decentralized, collaborative model of brand-building.

  • All 30,000 NFTs sold out in a matter of hours
  • Tokens were initially priced at 0.2 ETH, roughly $800 at the time
  • NFTs have generated over $200 million in trading volume on secondary markets

Starbucks Odyssey

Starbucks is no stranger to using emerging tech, having launched a popular mobile payments and rewards app way back in 2011. Now the coffee giant is experimenting with Web3 through its new Starbucks Odyssey experience.

Odyssey is an extension of the existing Starbucks Rewards program that uses NFTs to offer a new way for loyal customers to earn perks and engage with the brand. Members can complete interactive "Journeys" such as quizzes and in-store activities to earn collectible NFT "Journey Stamps".

The Stamps can also be purchased directly on a built-in marketplace without needing a crypto wallet. As users collect more Stamps, they gain points to level up and unlock special experiences like virtual martini-making classes or trips to Starbucks coffee farms.

By gamifying its popular loyalty program with NFTs and digital collectibles, Starbucks aims to appeal to a new generation of digitally savvy consumers and drive deeper engagement with high-value customers. The company plans to build out the experience with new interactive features over time.

Why It Matters:
NFTs and blockchain give brands powerful new tools to incentivize and reward their most loyal customers. Tokens can serve as the building blocks of exclusive communities and experiences that go beyond traditional loyalty programs.

They also open the door to new business models. For example, brands could offer NFTs that provide a recurring revenue stream, such as subscriptions or royalties from resale. Or NFTs could represent fractional ownership of real-world and digital assets.

Perhaps most intriguingly, NFTs allow for permissionless innovation and collaboration. By giving customers rights to use brand IP and assets to create their own projects, as Adidas has done, companies can tap into a wellspring of new ideas and user-generated content.

However, brands must walk a fine line between maintaining control of their image and empowering their community. They will also need to carefully consider how to provide seamless user experiences that don‘t require deep technical know-how to participate.

Gucci and Hyundai Blur the Lines of Reality with Immersive Tech

Immersive technologies like virtual and augmented reality are finally coming into their own as practical marketing tools. Forward-thinking brands are using them to create rich, multisensory experiences that merge the physical and digital worlds.

Gucci Garden

For its 100th anniversary in 2021, luxury fashion house Gucci launched a two-week virtual art installation called Gucci Garden. Part museum exhibit, part mini-game collection, the experience transported visitors into the brand‘s rich history and iconic campaigns.

Within the Roblox platform, users could wander through elaborate virtual rooms inspired by Gucci designs and films. They solved puzzles and riddles to unlock limited-edition avatar items like bags and sunglasses.

The experience reached 20 million unique users and saw over 80,000 hours of total playtime, introducing a new generation to the iconic brand. It was so successful Gucci has since launched several other Web3 initiatives including NFTs and a permanent space in The Sandbox metaverse.

Hyundai Mobility Adventure

To showcase its vision for future mobility solutions, automaker Hyundai created an elaborate VR experience at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show. The Hyundai Mobility Adventure used Oculus Quest 2 headsets to immerse users in a virtual world where they could experience the company‘s latest concepts and technologies.

Visitors could drive a simulation of an autonomous vehicle through a futuristic city or take a virtual ride in an urban air taxi. Interactive elements educated users on how Hyundai plans to integrate robotics and AI into its mobility ecosystem.

The experience was paired with real-life test drives in Hyundai‘s electric vehicles, blurring the lines between the virtual and physical. VR allowed the company to bring far-flung concepts to life in a tangible way and engage consumers viscerally with its brand vision.

Why It Matters:
VR and AR enable brands to tell immersive stories and create interactive experiences that leave a lasting impression. They can transport customers into rich branded worlds not constrained by the limits of physics or budgets.

Immersive tech is especially well-suited for industries like automotive, real estate, and travel, where the ability to explore and experience a product or destination virtually can help drive confidence and conversion.

VR is also a powerful tool for education and training, allowing brands to guide customers through complex topics and processes in engaging ways. Early adopters are using it for everything from virtual product demos to employee onboarding.

As the hardware becomes more widely available and affordable, expect to see more brands integrating immersive experiences into their campaigns and customer journeys. The global AR/VR market is projected to grow from $28 billion in 2021 to over $250 billion by 2028.

The Future of Marketing in a Virtual World

The brands highlighted here are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leveraging emerging technologies for marketing. Around the world and across sectors, companies are finding creative ways to use NFTs, Web3, VR, and more to achieve their goals.

Some other notable examples:

  • Wendy‘s opened a virtual restaurant in Horizon Worlds, complete with a basketball court and exclusive virtual items
  • Heineken launched a "virtual beer" as a cheeky way to encourage responsible real-world drinking
  • Asics released 1,000 NFT sneakers that owners can wear in virtual worlds and redeem for a physical pair
  • Salesforce created an NFT cloud to help brands mint and sell their own tokens

As the technology matures and consumer adoption grows, the bar for entry will only get higher. Brands that establish a presence and hone their virtual chops now will have a significant advantage.

But this brave new frontier is not without risks and challenges. Concerns around privacy, security, and accessibility abound. Environmental impact is a major sticking point for energy-hungry technologies like blockchain. And consumers are increasingly wary of brands seen as cashing in on the hype without providing real value.

The key for marketers is to approach emerging tech thoughtfully and strategically. Don‘t just do NFTs or VR for the sake of it – consider how they can enhance your existing customer experience and brand storytelling. Start small and iterate based on feedback. And above all, prioritize creating genuine value and utility for your audience.

Some guiding principles:

  • Focus on experiences over collectibles. Branded virtual items are great hooks, but the staying power is in the worlds and communities you build around them.
  • Empower your fans. Give them tools and permissions to co-create with your brand and put their own spin on your IP. Their enthusiasm and ingenuity will drive viral buzz.
  • Bridge the virtual and physical. The most impactful experiences blur the boundaries and incorporate multiple touchpoints across channels.
  • Be agile and adaptable. The technology, trends, and social norms will evolve rapidly. You‘ll need to continually experiment, learn, and optimize to stay ahead.

The future of marketing is unfolding before our eyes. Those who embrace the virtual world and make it their own will define the next era of creativity, community, and commerce. Will you be among them?