Recently, the Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) Beauty After Covid-19 study reported that 57% of consumers feel how they find and interact with new people has changed since the pandemic began. With this in mind, several companies have started to welcome the metaverse into their marketing campaigns and events to broaden opportunities for consumers to connect with their brand and like-minded people. Following news of LGBTQ+ bills in peril across the nation, such as the newly passed “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida restricting LGBTQ+ discussions in schools, many brands are came together to celebrate Pride Month and ensure in-depth and meaningful LGBTQ-focused campaigns.
The latest brands to see a cross between Pride Month celebrations and the metaverse are business management and payment processing platform Vagaro alongside Thrivo, an organization that provides omnichannel capabilities through technology for hair salons. The two companies collaborated to host a Pride party at the first-ever metaverse salon. The collaboration saw the brands co-host a free event, including a virtual dance party on the rooftop of the Thrivo salon, located in Decentraland’s fashion district. The virtual party attendees were able to enjoy live DJ sets and entertainment as they networked with like-minded salon industry peers and celebrated Pride and diversity. Those who attended the event were able to claim and download a free NFT wearable for their avatar to keep and wear within the metaverse.
“At Vagaro, and in the salon industry at its core, encouraging self-expression and embracing our differences is where we find strength and unity,” says Vagaro’s Vice President of Human Resources, Matthew Waggoner. He continues, “Recognizing Pride, especially in this unique way, is important to us.”
To join the celebration, users had to create a MetaMask cryptocurrency wallet to allow them to download NFTs. Once the MetaMask account had been made, users could connect their account to Descentraland services and create an avatar to attend the event.
“We were excited to celebrate Pride in a way that has never really been done before in our industry,” says Vagaro’s Vice President of Marketing, Charity Hudnall. “To be able to commemorate such a significant and worthy cause on a groundbreaking tech platform that can bring people from all over the country together at once is something we’re absolutely honored to be a part of,” Hudnall says.
Vagaro and Thrivo are not the only ones to have celebrated virtually this Pride Month. NYX Professional Makeup hosted a Pride parade, “The Valley of The Belonging,” on June 24 as part of their “Paint Your Own Story” campaign, a month long festival of Pride events. The parade took place on The Sandbox, a decentralized gaming platform, and featured digital avatars from NYX Professional Makeup initiative People of Crypto Lab (POC), a creative platform dedicated to increasing representation in the metaverse for “Black, brown women, people of color, differently-abled and LGBTQIA+ communities.” The collection of 8,430 NFT avatars was inspired by NYX Professional Makeup’s diverse range of real-life makeup shades to push the narrative of the transformative power of makeup while also highlighting that makeup has no gender, encouraging consumers to feel at ease with full self-expression. 100% of the proceeds, up to $50,000, from the People of Crypto Lab NFT drop will be donated to NYX Professional Makeup’s longtime partner the Los Angeles LGBT Center, to whom they have already donated over $150,000 since the release of their ongoing Pride campaign “Strong Allies For All” in 2020.
“We launched our Proud Allies for All campaign in 2020, in an effort to educate our diverse and fierce community on the importance of being an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Yasmin Dastmalchi, General Manager for NYX Professional Makeup. “Today, the LGBTQIA+ community is a driving force in so many ways, and we are evolving our allyship to bring self-expression and diverse representation into the metaverse.”
The “Paint Your Own Story” campaign also featured events in-person in Los Angeles, as NYX Professional Makeup recognizes that consumers enjoy a hybrid of real-life and digital experiences, which the FIT Beauty After Covid-19 study further suggests.
With 60% of consumers admitting they are not interested in buying online-only goods, organizations must continue to provide this mix of offerings, ensuring all customers’ desires have been considered regarding brand inclusion and promotion. With the metaverse predicted to be worth $800 billion by 2024, it makes sense for brands and organizations to be open to the idea of digital and NFT collaborations in celebration of significant events and diversity.
However, as much as the step towards a diverse and accepting metaverse is a positive one, many feel the industry should focus more on issues surrounding diversity in the real world first. With brand collaborations both online and offline during pride month leading to accusations of rainbow capitalism, “where companies purposely market to marginalized groups across one month, then heavily disregard them during other months”, within the metaverse vs real world debate, there is a lot of room for devil’s advocate to be played.
“The metaverse is a perfect opportunity to do better,” Jeff Nelson, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Blavity, an online media company geared toward Black millennial creators, told CNBC. “I am confident, because it’s so early and we’re having these conversations [now]—instead of us having this conversation five years from now, and it’s about, ‘The metaverse isn’t welcoming. How can we fix this?’” he continues. With these opinions at hand, it is worth questioning, should companies celebrate a diversity push within the metaverse, or should they focus on integrating equality every day of the year in the real world, before branching out to virtual worlds?
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