MetaExprerience for the brands – Nikeland in Roblox

We often argue that the physical and the virtual world merge to a degree where we cannot easily distinguish them. That becomes even more visible in the race for the customer experience. 

Years ago, we observed with interest the turn-around of the trend that the digital world resembles the real one – take for instance the physical store of Burberry in London, 2012, designed as a manifestation of the company’s website to stress the digital-first approach in the customer relations. Not long ago, we witnessed the direction Mark Zuckerberg has chosen for his Facebook. And last week came one of the latest examples from the big brands’ world. 

Nike announced publically its new virtual world Nikeland, designed in the games platform Roblox. A world in the world, it provides an opportunity for the visitors to compete with other players in swimming, athletics and even parkour, using the accelerometers of their smartphones – similar to the recreation of body moves in Nintendo. Of course, they can also dress their avatars in Nike apparel and accessories. And these the visitors will receive as an award for diverse Nikeland activities. 

To intensify the suggestion of universes merger, Nike uses for Nikeland background its world headquarters premises. In this way, the connection to the actual world is present but re-made. At the same time, to celebrate the occasion, the company plans an outstanding virtual event of  Roblox and Nikeland in its New York-based House of Innovations (HOI). 

The leading appeal in Nikeland is ‘Dream it. Make it. Play it.‘ Why the difference to the eternal slogan ‘Just do it’, named one of the top five ad slogans of the 20th century by Advertising Age? An alteration to the changed attitudes seems to be the most relevant answer. At least for a decade, we keep repeating on every possible occasion that the young people, the next generations just want to have fun and take everything as a game. And so is it. The gaming industry is not just a fast-developing business sphere. Its incomes exceed the incomes of the music and film industry, combined. Whether for developing new skills, reality escapes or just for meaningless amusement, a big part of the time of the consumers-to-be and employees-to-be (assuming the employer-employees model continues to exist) is dedicated to the world of games. And this world is virtual. Why then be surprised for Nike to make the reasonable move from determination and courage to their mix with the fun, or to be more specific – with the creative amusement?

Why exactly Roblox? If we leave aside the addictive effect, this platform has – unlike Facebook – a mainly young and even kids audience.  

Melting up elements of most common games and sports, Nike continues to extend the definition of sport and competitive spirit – and thus its own positioning. Starting in the 60ies as a men sport shoe brand, today Nike symbolises the everyday athletic performance – for every age, sex, nationality, sport type, apparel or footwear type, and as we see – in each environment and each universe 🙂 

Will other big brand follow their young customers in the virtual world? It will be easier for the brave, provocative and most of all – the brand with tangible products and easy-translatable service.  But at this stage, it seems inevitable for all brands of the future – so better start thinking on time which approach will be best suitable. 

Here are some guidelines:

  • Think of the virtual world not as your next online shop to nicely decorate but as a new space to gather communities around your brand – it resembles a little the cultural change when moving from a small village in southern France to the heart of Manhattan.
  • What is leading for your brand from a strategic perspective is crucial also in the virtual world. Unless it isn’t. And you decide the time for change has come. Consider the virtual presence strategy as an opportunity to reevaluate your brand positioning, the relevance of your key associations, even your brand mantra.
  • Customer-first approach – and do not dare to miss on the visitor’s good manners, especially when choosing an already existing virtual world. Research the code of conduct, comprehend the game rules. And do like the locals. Find out where you belong in a native way, in order not to stick as a patch, or even worse – as a bug.
  • Assess the potential. There was a short-time hype years ago for brands to position themselves in second life and similar platforms for parallel life. But do not misjudge the situation because of this – not only the time is different, but the people are much more confident, the technologies allow for much more to be done, the search of amusements is the new credo of life. Examine before you decide. Or even better – experiment. For a good reason defining are the possibilities for the visitors to co-create the world where they want to be. Support them – the money always follows the genuine added value – whether as a brand enhancement and strengthening in the physical world of products and fiat money or the virtual fun world, find out the source of the added value your brand provides and you will rule the game.