Quantum Brief

Inside Unilever's grand plans to move in to the metaverse

Futuristic food shopping, inclusive marathons and marriages in the metaverse, safe spaces for girl gamers, and more. Unilever extends its purpose-driven brands philosophy into new virtual spaces.

By  Storyboard 18Jul 29, 2022 6:26 PM
Inside Unilever's grand plans to move in to the metaverse
Closeup City Hall of Love in Decentraland is a completely inclusive environment where users can mint an NFT marriage certificate, immortalise their love on the blockchain, and celebrate with friends and family.

The FMCG juggernaut Unilever said that its brands are beginning to explore the metaverse – a virtual realm where real-world limits don’t apply, but real-world representation absolutely must.

When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced his metaverse plans and even changed his company name to Meta to reflect his bigger ambitions, he said: “You’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine. Get together with friends and family. Work, learn, play, shop, create – as well as completely new experiences that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today.”

So far people's experiences of metaverses have ranged from awesome to awful, with most falling in the underwhelming category. There's also a rising concern among privacy advocates and users around privacy, security and safety as the metaverse emerges from a buzzword to become a reality.

Brands and marketers across the board, however, are planting their flags firmly in the metaverse.

Here's how Unilever, one of the world's biggest companies, is approaching the metaverse. The company said that it is still early days for Web3 and the metaverse, but it's already taking strategic steps into these virtual spaces.

What is it doing: In the past year, some Unilever brands have begun to explore the metaverse through partnerships, gaming and experiences. Extending its purpose-driven brands philosophy, the company is working to ensure it plays "a part in making this evolving arena representative, inclusive and safe for everyone who uses it."

But how? The company said in a statement, "Robust governance around issues such as data privacy, safety, equity, diversity & inclusion, sustainability and ethics needs to be established and we’re using our scale and global profile to help set some future-fit foundations for our business and beyond."

Unilever has an in-house Web3 Collective, a cross-functional group of subject-matter experts representing areas such as marketing, finance, legal, media, procurement, licensing and more. Supported by people across brands, categories and markets, and agency partners, that are helping Unilever navigate this new world.

Emily O’Brien, one of the Programme Directors of Web3 Collective, said, “We’re currently on the cusp of a seismic shift: the biggest change to the digital landscape, and culture, since the dawn of social media in the early 2000s with Web2."

She said that consumers are already immersing themselves in these spaces and spending more of their time with virtual experiences that enable them to explore their passions, participate in cultural events, and engage with like-minded communities.

“This is a great opportunity for brands, but they must offer genuine utility to consumers and not just jump on the bandwagon,” she added. “We’ve set up the Web3 Collective to tackle the risks and concerns surrounding Web3 and the metaverse that we want to mitigate and solve. As Unilever we have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to influence the industry and lead from the front."

The Work: Unilever's attempt to put purpose into practice in the metaverse

1) Degree Metathon - Rexona hosted the world’s first metaverse marathon

Deodorant brand Rexona, also known as Degree and Sure, is on a mission to give everyone the confidence to move more. In 2021, the brand announced the world’s first adaptive deodorant designed for people with disabilities.

Rexona partnered with metaverse platform Decentraland to host the Degree Metathon. The route took in 26.2 miles of the platform’s scenery, complete with accessible architecture to reflect a more inclusive landscape.

The first-ever adaptive wearables were introduced, including wheelchairs and running blades, to offer greater representation for people with disabilities and enable participants to create avatars representative of their unique identities.

2) Getting Closeup and personal in Decentraland

The oral care brand has long championed love of all kinds and in March 2022, it launched the Closeup City Hall of Love in Decentraland.

It’s a completely inclusive environment where users can mint an NFT marriage certificate, immortalise their love on the blockchain, and celebrate with friends and family.

3) Magnum’s museum in the metaverse

In June 2022, Magnum invited delegates at the MET AMS metaverse festival in Amsterdam to visit a virtual exhibition. Hosted in Decentraland, the Magnum Pleasure Museum showcased original artwork from Magnum’s collaborations with painters, designers and sculptors.

Guests enjoyed the gallery, and had the chance to order a Magnum from a vending machine in the metaverse – getting a glimpse of how ice creams might be ordered in the future. Simulating an evolution of an existing partnership between Unilever and Deliveroo, the ice cream was then delivered to them at the end of their experience, bringing the virtual world into reality – and giving users a taste of ultra-futuristic food shopping.

4) Sunsilk’s safe space for girl gamers on Roblox

Unilever’s first foray into the virtual world of Roblox, Sunsilk City, is a space where girls can feel included, engage with a real-life role model, and learn about Sunsilk’s range of training programmes for real-world skills. There’s also a range of mini games, where users can design creative hairstyles for their avatars and even blast away negativity with a magic hairdryer.

Web3 Collective's O'Brien said, “Things are changing fast but one thing we’re certain about is that the new virtual landscape must be more equitable than the internet – and indeed the physical world – is today. It must be more representative and more inclusive for everyone – from the avatars we can build to attitudes we embody and experiences we enjoy. And it must be sustainable. From our work in this space so far, it’s clear that just as purpose connects with people in the real world, it matters in the metaverse too.”

First Published on Jul 19, 2022 10:09 AM