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Fashion in Web3: Building a brand out of this world

There were several stand-out moments from Fashion Week’s Spring/Summer 2023 outing. From Coperni’s spray painted dress to Balenciaga’s ‘down to earth’ mud runway. But there was one trend that was pervasive across the four week fashion extravaganza: Web3. 

Web3 - along with its associated entities including NFTs, blockchain and the metaverse - is clearly having a fashion moment. Brands like Nike and Boohoo through to Gucci and Burberry are channelling cash and resources into Web3 projects as they aim to gain first mover advantage in this burgeoning sphere.

In a nutshell, the New York Times defines Web3 as a new kind of internet service built using decentralised blockchains. In theory, Web3 will replace centralised, corporate platforms like Meta and Instagram with open protocols and decentralised, community-run networks. If Web1 made everyone researchers and Web2 gave people the opportunity to become publishers, Web3 is about bolstering the creative economy where everyone can actively own and monetise their activity.

So why has this caught the eye of fashion brands large and small? Morgan Stanley recently estimated that metaverse gaming and NFTs could constitute almost 10 percent of the luxury goods market by 2030, accounting for €50 billion in revenue. In 2021 alone, VC firms poured more than $27 billion into crypto-related projects - more than the 10 previous years combined. As Web1 and Web2 revolutionised commerce, Web3 has the potential to foster even more brand loyalty, tap into the growing number of ‘coming of age’ consumers and provide alternative revenue and marketing streams for fashion brands.

But with Web3 in its early stages, it also brings with it a lot of unanswered questions and potential consumer confusion. While brands who are fully immersed in crypto, Discord and gaming are in a better position to navigate Web3 developments, fashion brands, whose customers aren’t necessarily as up to speed with crypto developments, need additional support, particularly when it comes to communicating the offering with consumers. 

We’ve done the research and broken down the top myths to help your brand communicate the value of Web3 with confidence. 

Myth #1: Web3 is a PR gimmick to target Gen Z.

Investopedia estimates that at least 1 in 4 Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X actively invest in Crypto. And while Gen Z may be more familiar with token-gated perks, those who are Web3 curious go beyond young consumers. 

At the heart of fashion’s recent Web3 launches - whether that’s Prada Crypted or Gucci Vault in The Sandbox - is loyalty, community and brand experience. Tailoring your Web3 strategy to your customer personas and adapting how you communicate your tactics will ensure you target your different audiences effectively. 

Take Burberry’s partnership with Blankos Block Party, a multiplayer universe for gamers owned and built by its users, to create a bespoke social space for players to collect Burberry NFTs. With characters including MinnyB, a Burberry monogrammed unicorn, and SharkyB, a shark complete with Burberry branded arm bands, this is nicely geared towards a Gen Z gaming audience to introduce Burberry into their psyche. 

However, not all Web3 approaches have to adopt these game focussed tactics. Simplifying strategies while still keeping rewards high is an effective way to encourage more Web3 shy customers to dip their toe into the universe. For example, offering proof of attendance protocols (POAPs) - blockchain-based tokens with a unique image and smart contract - instead of event lanyards or physical tickets is a more accessible incentive for newcomers to get involved. The high street brand, Mango, gifted POAPs at a recent store opening which included access to an exclusive digitable wearable on Decentraland.

As with Web2 strategies, knowing which platforms your different customer segments use, how they like to engage with your brand and how they consume information are all key when considering a successful multi-generational Web3 strategy that keeps brand investment high. Incorporating fashion and retail trades, as well as consumer publications, in any comms strategy, and tailoring messaging accordingly will be key   

Myth #2: There’s a set Web3 playbook for success

With Web3 in its infancy, there’s no “one size fits all” approach to getting it right. But luxury brands are taking this seriously - Gucci recently hired Robert Triefus to head up the house’s metaverse and Vault ventures while Farfetch just announced its 12-week accelerator programme for eight fashion Web3 start-ups including the Web3 ecommerce plug-in, Mintouge, and altr, a startup dedicated to bringing archival fashion to the metaverse. And there is success to be had - Nike gained $185.3 million in additional revenue through its various Web3 strategies.

Brands who partner with companies deeply embedded in the Web3 universe are in a better position for success. Nike’s success can be largely attributed to its acquisition of digital native startup Rtfkt, while Gucci has partnered with 10KFT, a popular virtual universe that mints NFTs, to create Gucci Grail NFTs exclusively available via this unique universe.

The challenge for brands will be tying these various platforms and universes together into a more coherent Web3 strategy. Adidas has done this well by joining forces with the NFT collection Board Ape Yacht Club and various influencers to weave together limited-edition NFT drops that grant access to physical products. An integrated approach which bridges the gap between digital assets and physical collectibles to create more immersive experiences will generate a more cohesive strategy that ties in with other marketing and communication tactics.

Myth #3: There’s no way for smaller brands to compete with luxury powerhouses

Undoubtedly, luxury fashion houses can dedicate more cash to Web3 projects and have more financial security if certain projects don’t work. But arguably, their spray and pray approaches cause customer confusion and have the potential to dilute their overall message.

Vada Jewellery is an example of a smaller independent brand adopting Web3 tactics to bolster its community building by partnering with Try Your Best, a blockchain platform that invites fans of a brand to earn NFTs and brand coins in exchange for acts of loyalty. Through the TYB community, customers can purchase a Vada collectible which in turn grants them access to a limited-edition pair of glasses, the opportunity to vote on what should be included in future collections and the chance to unlock exclusive products. 

Taking the time to delve back into your customer insights, market intelligence and competitor analysis enables smaller brands to build a more coherent strategy that retains your brand’s core values. 

Myth #4: My customers will never get Web3

Think of branded Web3 tokens like a free goody bag for customers attending an in person event. Web3 tactics don’t need to be overly complicated or deeply rooted in the gaming community, they just need to be communicated clearly to your audience. And you need to be prepared to take the time to educate customers. 

MAVION, a global fashion and NFT marketplace, has partnered with different brands to help host introduction events for the Web3 curious. Hosting regular how-to webinars for existing customers to take them through the basics such as setting up a crypto wallet and making the first NFT purchase also work well. Rethinking the language brands use when communicating Web3 initiatives with customers can also make consumers feel more comfortable interacting with Web3. 

While mass adoption of Web3 may still be some way off, it’s clear from the resources luxury brands are allocating to their various Web3 projects that it’s not going away any time soon. Rather than just a gimmick to entice younger consumers, when adopted authentically and in tandem with broader community building initiatives and communication strategies, Web3 can be an additional tool in a brand’s arsenal to effectively engage and strengthen its customer base. 



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