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Skin Deep: Beauty Brands in the Metaverse

I’m Kelly Vero, creative badass, future-gazer, game developer and general metaverse nerd. I’ve been making games for a long, long time but I’ve always had an eye on the future, where I now work, to not only get you all excited about the metaverse but also to select the latest beauty products from the world of web3. Are you today years old? Yes, virtual try-ons for skincare exist and you’re getting a free sample - right here!

digital art in gallery

Drowning in Myself

We're all a bit like Narcissus. When we enter onto any gaming platform, or into any metaverse. If someone asks us to create a version of ourselves or an avatar with which we can use inside a game, we go full Greek mythology: hunter mode, and rejecting all romantic advances, we fall in love with our own reflection in a pool of water and stare at it for the remainder of our lives.

The problem with this, of course, is that we spend so much time building these incredible avatars of ourselves that we forget what the hell we're supposed to be doing inside the metaverse and oftentimes, if it's a gamified experience, then we should be participating in some form of contest or experience. However, if it is just pure exploration mode, we will spend so much time making ourselves look amazing that a lot of the cool stuff simply passes by.

When we talk about cool stuff in the metaverse and start with ourselves as avatars, we have to take into account that the amount of brands - especially beauty brands that are entering this space - are looking at creating a total metaverse experience for individuals who don’t have that literacy, or for metaverse aficionados who aren’t fluent in beauty.

The metaverse is an opportunity, so don’t waste it by trying to create like for like. Instead make the awareness drive the imagination of your consumers. That’s what Avakin Life did. And they were there before anybody else.

A Metafirst

O Boticário, a beauty brand based in Brazil, and Avakin Life, embarked on a wonderful experience using their brand and building a store inside the most popular gamified metaverse.

A funky and cool campaign, this brand has registered more than 9 million visits to its in-game club and store in the month of March 2021. The initiative was a first in the metaverse providing players with an experience that has since been repeated by everybody from Charlotte Tilbury to YSL.

In the Avakin Life universe, participants can choose from various items, and they can decorate their apartments. I even have an office there that you can book for meetings and players can virtually visit real or fantasy locations from party yachts to the island of Malta.

Among the activities offered during the O Boticário initiative, was a fashion contest where players could participate in a beauty contest with the brand's products - that had already received more than 150,000 entries at the time of launch.

A beauty contest in a virtual world? I’m not done.

In the competition, avatars with the best looks received points, and rewards could be used in the brand store. Finally, to end the brand “season”, there was a pool party which was fully personalised and open to all Avakin Life users.

Even at the end of the contest and still powered by O Boticário; this special menu with the brand's items was available within the game and could be accessed from any scene in the game until the end of 2021.

But what did this mean for a brand accessing the virtuality of beauty in a heavily services marketplace? In relationship to the partnership that they already had in place with YouTube, and their augmented reality technology, they were able to publicise the launch of the 'Make B lipstick line' during the pandemic, which in addition to store closures prevented the physical testing of products.

So overall, this solved an incredible problem and something that was really lacking in the beauty space during the pandemic and beyond for a very, very long time.

Imagine being unable to try anything before you buy it, in a world where we're so used to going into retail outlets. Today, I can’t imagine anything more sensible than doing everything metaverse first, can you?

Isn't it refreshing that a gamified metaverse platform such as Avakin Life bucked the trend of the pandemic as an obstacle to access and instead placed the ability to be able to try-before-you-buy in the hands of the player? Directly? Whether it's connecting through or being immersed inside the game's experience itself.

O Boticário shows us that we have a free opportunity to go as far down the rabbit hole as we want to go in terms of beauty. And one of the great things about O Boticário was that when you select some of those purchases, you can have them delivered to your house. That's brilliant.

Butter is Good For You

Like everyone, I'm an absolutely huge BTS fan.

I love everything that there is to love about Jungkook, and even V. I also like the other ones whose names I can't remember.

But if you haven't lived in Netmarble’s BTS Universe or you haven't watched Butter, you haven't really lived in the minds of your audiences. And that's exactly what the value proposition is for beauty inside the metaverse, at the perfect time where everything's a brand. To extend beyond transmedia from the real to the hyperreal and then back again, there has to be an effective cycle of e-commerce from brand awareness to actual reception and feedback. The loop is always closed by Southeast Asia. Whether it's Korea, China, Japan, or any of the other countries in the APAC region. They feed their IPs beautifully by using resources, such as the metaverse, NFTs and tokenomics to retain buyers and consumers.

Not only the metaverse, it's also esports which is now getting excited about beauty. After all, we're not just wearing sneakers and doing virtual trials; we're not just buying glasses and flogging virtual wares to see whether it's something that suits us.

From Counterstrike to PUBG, the coverage of beauty products through the obvious vehicle of skins is exponential in the places where traditional product propositions seem to merge with the new.

When we're looking at opportunities from AR (augmented reality) try-ons to simulated worlds it’s in everything from Snap Inc to Clinique that we can find our kind of people. And if those people just so happen to be in BTS, or they happen to be Wang Yibo, advertising Shu Uemura; then this is a big win for brands worldwide.

Instagram is Fugly

Back to Butter, and as a video concept (a one hour teaser) it was viewed by 18m people worldwide. A piece of melting butter says so much about expectation management in IP and branding doesn’t it? Which just goes to show that a small clip of video can create so much hype that everybody rushes towards whatever it is that these guys as a band are influencing this time.

The ugliness of the metaverse, in terms of beauty, is that we all want to be something that we're definitely not; and we use beauty and beauty products to be able to either create that for us, or we catfish our way through it. Or indeed as I just suggested, we fall on to the hype train big time and never really seemingly get off. I for one, am an incredibly guilty party here, as I'm somebody who is constantly sucked into the latest k-products coming out of Korea.

But, even I know that this is not providing us with a real vision of who we should be.

When Narcissus rejected all romantic advances, he fell in love with his own reflection. And in this day and age, we could be rejecting our social opportunities to effectively stay safe within either our own little clique, or alone as ourselves and our metaversal narcissism.

A lot of people believe that the metaverse and social media may pose a great deal of rise in narcissistic personality disorder as a psychiatric condition. It's marked by grandiosity, excessive need for attention and admiration and an inability to empathise.

Wow, that sounds like every single Instagram influencer.

So how do we view this beyond the ugliness of future tech?

Dip a Toe into the Water

Beyond Greek mythology and cautionary tales but not necessarily through counterexamples; opportunities that lie outside of beauty or where beauty provides a springboard into other things there is a way to turn that frown upside down.

Tik Tok is now a world leader in all things one-minute makeup and beauty tips. That's cool. How do we bring that experience into the metaverse in a way that suits our personal limitations? If indeed we have any after we've been on Tik Tok, or Instagram?

Well, there's lots of different ways that connect to beauty outside of the usual make-me-look-like-a-20-year-old avatar creations or filters.

Participating in events that allow us to explore, but not necessarily go through that entire sales funnel is a good way for us to be able to figure out whether something is for us. Almost like a try-before-you-buy scenario. That almost never ever happens at a make-up counter where margins are fairly tight and hygiene is premium.

For the people who want to restrain themselves a little bit and really only want to potentially dip their toe into the water, rather than stare at their own reflection in a pool forever, might get excited about the possibility of a proof of appearance protocol utility (POAP for short). These POAPs can be found in Decentraland, their most famous being the Estée Lauder POAP.

Estée Lauder partnered with Decentraland for an exclusive beauty brand partnership to invite users to step inside the iconic Advanced Night Repair’s famous little brown bottle. Visitors to the concession in Decentraland could unlock that exclusive POAP for glowing radiance(!) and gain a wearable NFT for their avatar.

I know quite a few people who did this and they're still wearing/using their POAP today.

So if I appear in a Charlotte Tilbury experience or a YSL experience, I can receive a little gift and that little gift might be a dusting of glitter, a little bit of face paint, or a little touch of something zhuzh.

I can keep the POAP forever: proving that I have been to Charlotte Tilbury, YSL, NARS or the Lottie London experience - and perhaps it might just open the door to IRL discounts, loyalties or anything fresh to close that brand loop.

Additionally, as this brand loop movement grows, we are also starting to see that some of the household brand names are starting to file for trademark applications relating to the metaverse, particularly to NFTs.

Folks like L'Oreal, Estée Lauder (who we’ve already mentioned), and of course the usual suspects of Gucci and NARS have signed up. That Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty and Fenty beauty brands have filed trademarks for everything from virtual perfume, cosmetics and styling for avatars, presents the next generation of brand awareness.

When Lottie London produced their first ever collection of NFT's last year their response was incredible. The NFT sold out within 24 hours - they've hosted events in the Vegas City district of Decentraland with celebrity nail artist Chaun Legend.

For many beauty brands, Decentraland presents a super opportunity to be able to get live feedback. Their DAU (daily active user numbers) are good enough to create small focus groups, and again, close that feedback loop into something that's more sales related.

Your Focus Needs More Focus

Games and gaming is completely underestimated by developers and brands where more and more women find themselves unserved by both. Female gamers account for a bigger audience than we might think. 80% of female internet users aged 16 to 44 play video games. And thanks to beauty, female gamers are the key driver in the uptick of beauty products available globally inside games and gamified metaverse platforms.

Another survey discovered that in 2021, 53% of beauty fans played or downloaded a free to play game. It's no wonder that Charlotte Tilbury took a calculated risk on sponsoring the Girl Gamer festival.

Personally, I don't really agree with titling or categorising people in this kind of way. But what I do really, really enjoy is the opportunity that we can get so much closer to a different demographic using the medium of gaming, web3 and the metaverse to make that happen for beauty.

Dermalogica and La Prairie are beginning to test the waters, and Clinique has been streets ahead in creating digital first opportunities through metaverse beauty try-ons and NFTs rather than just waiting for customers to line up at counters from Fenwick of Bond Street to Selfridges.

We know that these digital touch points are not a replacement for something that is wholly personal and yet, the metaverse offers sophisticated experiences. It makes us think a little bit more about ourselves. As developers and brands we should make adjustments for older generations like me now, but plan for native service delivery in the future of how Gen Alpha connects with beauty products.

Just Do You

But will they also see this as an opportunity to natively connect with BTS and Wang Yibo?

Definitely, and how they will do that is entirely up to them. But for us, Gen Xs, Xennials and the Zoomers the ways are multitudinal.

This freedom of expression in the things that we enjoy day-to-day, and the limitlessness in terms of how we can express ourselves using the metaverse, we can be who we want to be, again, with being who you want to be. There is definitely a danger that you're not only not being true to yourself, but you're not being true to the people around you too, sorry to be a Debbie Downer. I think that the metaverse provides places where you can be anything you want to be/however you want to look without any restraints or restrictions you might encounter in real life. But remember that you have to focus on what happens after the metaverse, persistent though it is.

If beauty has been built on commodification, it's now building immersive experiences and education. We're no longer talking about beauty being just skin deep. We're now looking at the opportunities of what beauty can teach us about ourselves from a psychological and certainly a philosophical perspective.


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