We don’t need beauty in the Metaverse, yet

In early June, I talked about 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 in 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 “cement Clinique’s commitment to building a better and more inclusive world of digital beauty focused on accessibility to address the lack of representation in the Metaverse.”

A matching image featured a heterogeneous group: colored avatars, including one 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 don’t happen again in the real world,” reads the field.

When the campaign went live, employees on LinkedIn posted a real-life image of Clinique’s team in the metaverse. A virtual rendering showed over 40 Clinique employees working at the corporate level cheering, smiling and raising their arms in triumph; almost all of them appear to be white and skilled.

The image was not shared with the media nor intended to be seen by Clinique’s clients. But it’s a good example of a legacy beauty label missing its mark on what some believe is the next big thing. “Metaverse Like Us” could have had an impact if it had been created by a company that embodied the message it was delivering.

Instead, it’s simply a brand that sticks to a problem (diversity and inclusion) and the platform of the moment (an NFT campaign). It’s a proven way to grab the headlines and offers an answer to the brand manager when their bosses inevitably ask, “What are we doing for the metaverse?”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Clinique said the campaign led to the “second weekly increase in followers on Instagram (in the past 2 years) and a 400% increase in page time compared to the site average” and that it has received positive feedback from 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. “It was done thoughtfully in consultation with many experts in various fields and with internal and external communities to ensure that the content was authentic.”

I don’t mean to exclude 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 satisfy customers where they consume beauty content, giving these projects a sense of existence because brands think they have to. have some sort of presence in the metaverse. We won’t talk about these things much beyond the initial advertising blast. Return on investment in beauty is already questionable, and showing up in the metaverse for no reason feels like a misunderstanding about the purpose of a beauty company.

Much of the same could be said about fashion’s NFT experiments. But it’s easier to imagine a world where those brands build real businesses by selling virtual clothing or other products that tie into 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 come up with a truly exciting future for this technology in their industry.

So while it’s understandable why beauty wants to play in a space that’s been dominated by fashion, it also feels like someone’s younger brother is following him to a party.

There are many places online where beauty has an edge over fashion – take TikTok and YouTube, for example. But when it comes to web3, fashion has been faster in finding the first ways to play in space. It is easy to understand how the drops of exclusive and limited clothing and accessories translate into the virtual world. The brands that have talked the most about their web3 projects, from Nike to Gucci to Balenciaga, fit perfectly into the visual representation and hype of fashion. Power is power.

Without the logos and distinctive features of apparel and accessories, it’s unclear how skincare, makeup, and fragrances will establish a presence and purpose in web3. A limited edition pink lipstick or NFT serum that makes your avatar’s skin glow can come from any brand; you may proudly sport a Chanel logo on your bag, but not on your avatar’s lips.

Some beauty brands have created highly visual products, such as Dieux’s eye masks, which could translate into the metaverse. They can also sell merchandise: Glossier’s pink hoodie, which had a waiting list of thousands, would likely be an NFT if Timothée Chalamet wore it in 2021 instead of 2019.

But is there a place for skin care brands, which mainly sell products that can’t even be seen in photos or videos? For makeup, augmented reality and virtual testing tools offered by Sephora or NYX will translate into web3? It seems unlikely that a customer would go to the metaverse for a virtual trial instead of using a retailer’s app or similar tool in-store.

When it comes to products, will brands sell virtual versions of their existing products? Will avatars be able to wear digital versions of real lipstick shades? How do you tell a virtual shade sold by Nars from Charlotte Tilbury’s?

There is also FOMO. Despite these challenges, many of these companies, especially those with the financial means to do so, are just trying because it’s the “new thing” and they don’t want to be left behind.

For now, the beauty industry is mostly left out of marketing: bestseller-based NFTs, shop windows, advertising. It’s not that exciting and it won’t change the way these companies interact with their customers. With much of the cryptocurrency world melting right now, it might make more sense for brands to wait and see what emerges from the rubble rather than getting burned by rushing into one-off tacky projects.