In this second instalment by Erik Londre we go deep and immerse ourselves into the three biggest brand experiences on Roblox in 2021 and look at what worked, what didn’t, and why?
Immerse don’t impose
The three most talked-about Roblox activations in 2021 might look successful to us grownups on LinkedIn.
But were they really? If we scratch the surface something else emerges.
Do you want names? I’ll give you names. I am, of course, talking about Gucci, Vans and Nike.
The Gucci Garden event was open for about a week and visited by more than 20 million people and in excess of $900,000 worth of virtual Gucci goods.
Vans went for a more long-term approach with a skateboard game called Vans World, which has seen more than 50 million visits at the time of writing.
Nike – by far the biggest of the three brands – was last to enter the fray and received the lowest traction. After two month months Nikeland had just 7.1 million visits.
Roblox has a similar rating system to YouTube. Players rate the experiences with a thumbs up or down. At one point Gucci had only 15% up votes and was the worst-received event on the platform, but did recover to around 30%, but overall the verdict from the majority of players was negative.
Vans on the other hand enjoyed an amazing reception from the audience with 94% up votes. This is better than the most popular Roblox games, which tend to have an 80% – 90% approval rate.
Nike is sitting at a reasonable 84% up votes, which is not bad, but not amazing either.
So why did the audience dislike Gucci, like Nike and love Vans?
If we look at the Roblox platform and the behaviour patterns of its player base I think we might understand.
The platform is vast and diverse with over 40 million game experiences. The most popular ones are often cute role-playing titles that let you take care of pets, decorate your house and hang out with other players.
Then again, almost every type of game genre you can imagine is represented. Classic games like tactical shooters, sandbox, role-playing, tycoon and adventure are all popular. Then there are obscure, unexpected and/or downright amazing subcultures on the platform, like a chaotic rap scene called Robloxcore; communities of kids that want to be doctors playing hyper-realistic medical simulators, as well as really strange ones, like one group that recreates all Michael Jackson concerts from the 80s(!).
In other words, there’s a lot of interesting stuff to be found if you dig a bit deeper than the top 20 games.
But one thing unites them all at its core, Roblox, a platform where winning is not everything, but having fun and socialising is.
Gucci seemed to ignore the above and essentially recreated a physical installation previously done in Florence: a Gucci museum with an exit through the gift shop. Which obviously is a classic entertainment format kids and teenagers have always appreciated, right?
No, the result was a lack of gameplay, storytelling, social interaction and, quite frankly fun, which left most of the community confused and disappointed.
It terms of Nikeland, this was something that landed in the middle. On the one hand the vibrant, open and sports-focused world with various mini-games felt very native to the Roblox platform, but on the other it felt a bit too safe for a cool and premium brand. It felt like Nikeland was for kids, which in fact it was as the project was run by Nike Kids and it’s a Roblox game?
However, the Roblox audience is growing up and now has more users over 13 than under.
So, maybe that’s why we see Vans World being so successful in terms of visits and ratings. Teenagers rarely like things made for kids, but kids often like things made for teenagers.
Vans took an already popular Roblox game genre – skateboard games – and created what’s possibly the best version the platform has seen. Of course, it’s an obvious choice when your brand has a long-established connection with skateboarding, but I still think it’s something we can learn from.
If you – as a brand – are genuinely looking to connect with the audience and not just create a PR story it is important to look for a subculture, or behaviour pattern that already exists on the platform, align yourself with it and deliver real audience value.
To create a successful brand presence inside Roblox, Fortnite, or any other big gaming platform be real, add value and respect the culture. If you do this gamers and inhabitants of virtual platforms will enjoy you and your brand.
Immerse yourself in the culture of your chosen Metaverse platform and run with it. Trying to impose your own values on it will probably not end well.
Look out for part three next week.