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How to Extend Real-World Events into Virtualized Experiences

AI & Emerging Technology Consulting AI & Emerging Technology Consulting, Experience, Immersive Brand Storytelling, Impactful Brand Activations, Metaverse, Web3 4 min read
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A virtual Macy's thanksgiving parade with buildings a parade floats

Web3 and metaverse spaces offer exciting opportunities for brands to build incredible, new worlds and ways to interact inside them. But metaverse spaces are not reserved only for flights of fancy; they can also be stages to reimagine real-world events and experiences for global, digital-native audiences.

During the pandemic doldrums, we all saw how difficult it can be to translate the magic of in-person events from the stage to the screen—but increasingly immersive platforms solve these challenges by enabling a sense of presence within. While not a replacement for the experiences that inspire them, these activations can level up their ambition and become strategic, long-term additions to a brand’s digital strategy. Here’s how two brands were able to transform iconic IRL experiences into significant, long-term elements of their digital experience strategy.

Start with community.

 Metaverse spaces serve as environments where people can connect with one another in real time, much like events in the real world. In fact, communal experiences are a hallmark of successful metaverse-related activations and Web3 projects, making community building a key design consideration. This was the case for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which we marched into the realm of Web3 with a virtual recreation of New York’s Fifth Avenue—the IRL route for the parade—and a series of galleries featuring NFTs inspired by the parade’s iconic balloons and other popular projects like Cool Cats, VeeFriends and more.

A virtual downtown new york at the Macy's parade with balloons and buildings

Throughout its history, the parade has brought more and more people together through mass media channels: originally broadcast locally in New York in 1939, today more than 44 million people watch the parade each year. By building an immersive space where people can interact and engage with one another, even more attendees could enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in a totally new way no matter where they are: the event brought in over 90,000 users.

And for some virtual attendees, that’s just the start of the journey. With the ability to buy NFTs from some of the most popular projects, each with their own communities built around them, those who make a purchase are initiated into new entrepreneurial or artistic social circles.

Add value and cohesion through interoperability.

Culture doesn’t happen in a silo, so neither should a brand activation. One of the key promises of metaverse and Web3 technology is interoperability, or the ability of two or more systems to exchange and use information. Interoperability can mean enabling compatibility between different platforms or—perhaps more compelling for virtualizing IRL experiences—seamlessly bringing together both the real and virtual worlds.

For that latter point, look at ComplexLand, a 3D digital platform inspired by ComplexCon—the cultural mecca bringing together the Complex Networks community, the hottest cultural trends and hype-fueled brands. Reimagined in a virtual format, ComplexLand provided a seamless shopping experience so attendees could fill both their physical wardrobes along with their virtual ones. Attendees could even unlock food deliveries by interacting with virtual food trucks parked throughout the world, bringing a little piece of the IRL festival experience to audiences from afar.

A shoe drop happens in ComplexLand
An avatar changing outfits

When it comes to interoperability in the more technical sense, the virtual Thanksgiving Day Parade was designed for attendees to take a little something with them across the metaverse. After purchasing an NFT, visitors could carry them into other worlds thanks to blockchain technology. They also had the chance to vote for which NFT project on display deserved to become a balloon in next year’s IRL show, further bridging together the real and virtual world (Cool Cats ultimately won).

Monk Thoughts We're working closely with the Web3 focused team at Macy's to envision how year on year, a community can be built around Macy's and Web3 partners.
Tim Dillon headshot

Build towards the future.

As metaverse spaces mature and the hype cycle winds down, brands are beginning to look beyond one-and-done activations for ways to build meaningful interactions that fuel long-term value. From setting the foundation for new revenue streams to iterating toward increasingly sophisticated metaverse experiences, reimagining an event can become a springboard for innovation.

You can trace this concept in action through the evolution of ComplexLand, with each annual edition building on those of previous years. Originally launched in 2019, the first ComplexLand was a single-player experience, though the following year added more opportunities for attendees to engage with others: sharing drops, having one-to-one conversations and interacting with branded non-player characters. This year’s version added Web3 capabilities—like minting NFTs—to enable new forms of connection and creative expression. The journey has led ComplexLand to become Complex Networks’ second-largest source of revenue and a key part of its events strategy.

The virtual Thanksgiving Day Parade similarly builds on Macy’s earlier Web3 efforts. Last year, the retailer celebrated the 95th anniversary of the parade by launching a series of 9,500 NFTs based on classic balloons. The addition of the immersive parade route and NFT galleries not only brings the magic of the holiday season to people everywhere; and introduces new audiences to both virtual spaces and NFTs.

Monk Thoughts The program allows Macy's to continue to build deeper engagement with the community and partners while still being cause driven. Whether it’s in a Discord chat or in a virtual gallery, it opens up many new opportunities for collaboration both on-chain and off.
Viktor Bezic headshot

Build in authenticity by seizing the spirit of the event.

Finally, consider the overall purpose of your event or activation. Reinforcing a sense of purpose helps build authenticity into the overall experience. Macys captured the spirit of Thanksgiving with their virtual parade by donating all proceeds from NFT purchases to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting mentoring relationships for youth.

From the abstract world of ComplexLand to a virtual Fifth Avenue, both Complex Networks and Macy’s were able to expand the reach and relevance of their iconic IRL events. At the very least, these reimagined experiences offered moments of surprise to those familiar with their original in-person iterations. But more significantly, they serve as iterative steps that symbolize both brands’ willingness to continue building maturity in Web3 and the metaverse. By folding their core values into features that are inherently unique to the space, both brands authentically set the stage to meet digital-native audiences where they’re at.


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The website has been translated to English with the help of Humans and AI