Gucci made a splash in May when a virtual Gucci bag sold in the video game ecosystem Roblox for $4,115, more than the tangible purse, which retails for $3,400. It’s easy to see why the luxury brand is doubling down on Roblox experiences.
Roblox’s vp of brand partnerships, Christina Wootton, told Glossy that Gucci launched in December 2020 two player-generated virtual items, which were available in the Roblox Avatar Marketplace. Gucci quickly saw the demand for collaborative fan experiences, Wootton said. Gucci’s spokespeople didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“There’s great creative talent to tap into,” she said. According to Wootton, there are more than 8 million active creators on Roblox. In Q1 2021, the platform had 42.1 million daily active users spanning 180 countries, and the number of users over the age of 13 increased 111%, to make up 49% of the current user base. At the end of 2020, 44% of Roblox’s player base was female.
Creator economy investor Li Jin of Atelier Ventures told Glossy that Roblox offers a platform for “the passion economy for kids,” often as young as 8 years old.
“Brands and advertisers are always looking to meet consumers where they’re spending their time. And for a lot of young people, that’s Roblox. What’s cool about the platform is that they can create much more immersive brand experiences than what had been possible via other formats,” Jin said.
That’s why the next Gucci collaboration went beyond selling virtual items. From May 17-31 2021, Roblox hosted a unique space called the Gucci Garden, coinciding with an IRL exhibition in Florence, Italy to celebrate Gucci’s 100th birthday. Wootton said the virtual exhibition created “personalized textures and patterns that each visitor’s mannequin absorbed as they moved through the different rooms in a randomized order, emerging at the end of their unique journey as one-of-a-kind works of art.” She declined to specify how many players visited the Gucci Garden or subsequently bought Gucci gear.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Gucci CMO Robert Triefus said Roblox was able to scale its offering in 100 days in a way that would have taken a traditional company decades. Triefus also said that Gucci is looking to ramp up non-fungible token (NFT) offerings by partnering with the blockchain-savvy avatar studio Genies, a collaboration the brand announced in late 2020. It’s clear the luxury brand is looking to set itself apart by appealing to youth through video games and playable collectibles.
Thanks in part to this strategy, Kering reported in Q1 2021 earnings that Gucci’s revenue was up more than 20% year-over-year. Overall, Kering’s revenue had surpassed pre-pandemic levels. Gucci’s virtual swag push isn’t limited to Roblox; It encompasses video games like Sims 4, Animal Crossing and Pokemon Go. Yet what makes Roblox unique is the role players have in the platform’s economy.
Roblox players often make their own Gucci-inspired garb and can swap virtual fashion in peer-to-peer marketplaces. By highlighting independent creatives and retailers, as Gucci did with the two initial Roblox product launches in 2020, the brand leveraged an established creator economy dynamic across social platforms. For example, one of those virtual Gucci pieces in 2020 was made by 19-year-old @cSapphire, who also creates Youtube tutorials showing how she customizes Roblox fashion designs.
“Brands still play a very important role in the creator economy, in terms of monetization,” Jin said.
All things considered, digital fashion appears to be raking in real dollars. And while it wouldn’t be feasible for a luxury brand like Gucci to give teenagers reign to make physically distributed products, Roblox offers more interactive opportunities.
“This [Gucci] collaboration showcased how brands can push the boundaries of creativity in the metaverse and offer virtual experiences that are not possible to create in real life, rather than simply replicating spaces and experiences from the physical world,” Wootton said.