Editor’s note: E.B. Moss has a habit of finding the people who are operating at that moment just before the wave crests and the rest of us are wondering why we missed it. In this interview from the archives, E.B. cornered the global CEO of Adidas originals to show us how the pros are getting it done in the Metaverse. Hope you enjoy this as much as we have.
I’ve watched myriad webinars on all things Web3. But when the DPAA — the trade association for Digital Out Of Home — held its annual Global Summit this past October on using OOH in their omnichannel mix, the capacity crowd got an unexpected masterclass on marketing in the metaverse. Erika Wykes-Sneyd, Global CMO, Adidas Originals, Collaborations and Basketball, came prepared with videos, animations and illustrations on how Adidas is creating and extending their community from online and out of home to, yes, the blockchain.
by E.B. Moss
The jam-packed day-long event featured top brand CMOs, agency CEOs and expert vendors eager to hear and share how adding OOH in their mix adds consumers connections. But while none of the A-list line up of brand marketers were lacking in informative (and still timely) presentations, the Adidas CMO hit the goal line and kept running. From stressing that Web3 must already be part of a brand’s omnichannel strategy to explaining how generational shifts impact that strategy, she stressed that companies must listen, learn and lead both virtually…and literally.
She began with caveats about how GenZ is an important constituent of this brave new world. They are, Wykes-Snyed advised, “coming up with updated values, changing the paradigms of how we’re going to consume, how we’re going to create, and how we’re going to collaborate in the future.”
Why is that important? Digital activism is core to GenZ values: “sustainability, equity, diversity, and inclusion are table stakes for this generation” and “they’re looking for businesses to stand up and stand with their values and create opportunities for what they care about.” That means “the age of influence and influencer marketing is something that they no longer have trust in and can see right through.” So, marketers must leverage all of this information in their omnichannel marketing, because “what’s coming next with this new wave of a metaverse includes everything from AR and VR, to cryptocurrency and NFTs and so on. …Thisis where influence and inspiration is moving,” she stressed.
The Metaverse as the Ultimate Out of Home Tactic
The Metaverse is pop culture. It’s now Web3 vs. Web2 and brands must understand how to drive community, brand heat and, as a result, business. Here’s where the Wykes-Sneyd master class comes in: While metaverse feels like catch-all phrase, “there’s one specific thing that’s paving the new way for an open metaverse,” Wykes-Sneyd advises, “…and it’s what sits on the blockchain, called non fungible tokens (NFTs) and that simply means ‘proof of ownership.’” This is where the rubber hits the road for all brands.
“Anything can be an NFT,” she said. “… Insurance companies are using NFTs, it can be houses, sneakers… I can connect my stake of ownership in this watch [to] my digital wallet. So…if you purchased a Rolex watch it’ll come with an NFT so anytime you take it to an authorized dealer to have work done, …it will be permanently tracked to that physical item.”
That’s Part 1 of going phygital. Part 2 is how the all-digital world works with real brand marketing.
The pandemic not only honed the ability of a brand like Adidas to create 3-D apparel and footwear when physical samples were hard to get, but honed consumer habits of navigating virtual worlds and gaming environments. This perfect storm also drove many consumers “off of old social platforms, like Facebook, and to new platforms like Discord, where people can live chat with each other in real time about topics related to NFT culture,” Wykes-Sneyd said. Adidas itself moved community management to Discord “where we service 50-60K daily active users – it’s a direct dialogue with the community… and we deprioritized Facebook.”
Overall, “consumer growth is exploding in the metaverse,” she notes, and “the virtual wearables market alone is going to be $147 Billion soon.” Given the pop culture frenzy of it, she believes everyone in the fashion luxury space is looking to get into the game …and anyone who’s a celebrity will have a digital wallet and profile pictures. So, if you want to be connected to this younger generation….”
It’s AR Over “#Ad” for GenZ
Speaking of that younger generation, with GenZ spending so much time in that blurred area of virtual space, Wykes-Sneyd says that just a nod to sponsored messaging via a hashtag (#ad) won’t stand with them. Marketers have to find ways to be culturally credible, native and organic with them: “it’s going to be the rise of micro communities and that’s where smart brand marketers are going to be showing up next.” That is, in part, why Adidas actually rushed to beat their competitors to the space.
Their strategy was to “enter the open metaverse to drive these new values and more deeply connect the Adidas brand with this new generation through community.” we wanted to do it in a credible way that drove them to talk positively and advocate about our brand, which is what we call brand heat.” For now, that heat is not a hard and fast activation, but a link to membership with the brand: “If you’re the holder of an NFT token, like the Adidas NFT, you now co-own a stake in the success of this project and there’s monetary value to that.” To connect the dots in what Wykes-Sneyd calls “phase 2” of their meta-embrace, they are corralling the community to participate more deeply.
One example is being part of a piece of artwork created by some 30,000 fans, each of whom took a stake and contributed an image. And, every time it’s used or sold, she explained, “in perpetuity, everyone that participated in this program is going to get a royalty check that’s going to go right into their digital wallet. You can imagine they’d be stoked and thrilled to see this piece of artwork be utilized again, and it’s a great way to also create advertising and conversation,” such as in out of home content, allowing that art to be part of their omnichannel strategy across platforms.
“What a way to take an opportunity with technology like this, and instead of us doing the marketing campaign as a push it’s all about the community. And now there’s a living breathing thing that we co-created with them and living out there.”
Keyword: Community – Online and Off
Attendees of the DPAA Global Summit were lucky enough to get a step by step walk-through of Adidas record-setting entry into the metaverse. But the lesson also underscored the imperative of conveying community across all planes. “You’re going to start to see our brand show up in the real world…. We’re moving back into experiential marketing, moving into community events, hosting spaces, trying to give bigger platforms to creators that don’t necessarily have them at those spaces that separate the haves from the have nots, so don’t be surprised when you see us at Art Basel!”
Phase Three For You and Me
The thing that money can’t buy, though, as described by Wykes-Sneyd and “the ultimate out of home for us, is the second everybody started to put Adidas on their profile pictures”. That begins to inform her description of Phase 3: Identity. Brands and consumers each have to determine how they’re going to show up, what they want to be, what kind of traits they want to convey, and especially, germane to Adidas, what are you going to wear? “People,” she said, “are looking to find ways to connect with the greatness that they feel, which they cannot be in everyday life, and the metaverse and these online communities help them to find that. So that’s something that we’re unpacking ourselves for how we can help and support creators and really unlock their true identity that don’t get to experience in everyday life.”
And that is how you build a brand. IRL or anywhere.
By the time you absorb this lesson you’ll be ready for the next DPAA Global Summit, scheduled for October 2024, again at Chelsea Piers in New York City.