Virtual Cringe: The 10 Lamest Brand Stunts in the Metaverse

Virtual Cringe: The 10 Lamest Brand Stunts in the Metaverse

We spent so much time asking if we could brand in VR, we never stopped to ask if we should.

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A Gucci store in Roblox
Screenshot: Gucci

For a minute, the Metaverse was very exciting to any big company with a marketing budget. Ever since Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage to announce he was building a virtual world where you could go to meetings dressed as a cool digital robot, the brands have been trying to get in on a piece of the action with PR stunts, some of them so lame it’s astonishing.

The momentum died down, a bit, though some of your friends from corporate America still got in a few Metaverse advertising ploys during the 2022 Christmas season.

Here, we’ve collected the most tiring examples from the Metaverse Department of Marketing. If Zuckerberg is successful in his VR vision, you can expect a whole lot more of this in the future.

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The Chipotle Metaverse Burrito Rolling Contest

The Chipotle Metaverse Burrito Rolling Contest

A screenshot of the Chipotle Burrito Builder in Roblox
Screenshot: Chipotle

Chipotle may not strike you as a tech pioneer, but it’s launched a number of experiments onto tech platforms where it may or may not be welcome (Chipotle is one of the few companies on BeReal, for example). But of all Chipotle’s taco bro PR exploits, none will get your eyes rolling harder than the Burrito Rolling Contest™ it held on the children’s gaming platform Roblox.

You don’t have to take my word for it. “Chipotle Burrito Builder on Roblox a new simulation experience that will challenge players to roll burritos in the Metaverse to earn Burrito Bucks, the brand’s in-experience currency on Roblox, starting on April 7, National Burrito Day,” the company wrote in a press release last year. Every part of the sentence makes my head spin.

The first 1,000 burrito rollers earned enough Burrito Bucks to trade them in for an actual burrito in the real world. No word on whether virtual guac costs extra, though.

But that’s not all, Chipotle launched “the first ever burrito inspired by Roblox fans.” Read that genius stroke of ad speak again. Unfortunately, the Roblox burrito was only available for a limited time, so you probably missed your chance.

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A Virtual Grocery Store Where You Can Buy... Pretzels

A Virtual Grocery Store Where You Can Buy... Pretzels

A photo of Albertsons pretzels
Photo: Albertsons

Last year, Albertsons boldly went where no grocery conglomerate had ever gone before, announcing the first Metaverse experience where you could get actual food delivered to your real house from VR.

There’s one catch: the only thing you could buy was pretzels. Or peanut butter cups and soda. Fortunately, those are the three food groups so you probably won’t need anything else.

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A Taco Bell Metaverse Wedding. Seriously.

A Taco Bell Metaverse Wedding. Seriously.

A promotional graphic for the Taco Bell Metaverse Wedding extravaganza
Screenshot: Yum! Brands Inc.

I have to come clean: I don’t actually think this one is lame. This is one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard about. It could be the greatest day of my life.

We all want to get married at a Taco Bell. Obviously. For the past few years, you’ve been able to make that a reality at the beautiful Taco Bell Cantina in Las Vegas. (This is not a joke.) But some of us want more. Some of us dream. Some of us (me) want to get married at a Taco Bell in the Metaverse.

For one lucky couple, that dream will become a reality. Taco Bell announced it’s bringing Mexican inspired nuptials to the Metaverse, with a contest for an all expenses paid VR wedding for the winning love birds’ friends, family, and a live-streamed audience of Taco Bell fans. I, for one, can’t wait to celebrate their crunch-wrapped love.

For any Taco Bell PR reps reading this, my email is tgermain@gizmodo.com. I would love to attend.

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Nothing Like an Ice-Cold Pretend Beer

Nothing Like an Ice-Cold Pretend Beer

A screenshot of the Miller Lite Metaverse bar.
Cheers
Screenshot: Miller Brewing Company

There’s nothing better than an ice-cold digital beer after a long day of video games. Next time your avatar needs to unwind, head on down to the Miller Lite VR bar where you can pretend to get your hands on a frosty glass of low calorie pilsner—but ONLY if you’re 21 or older. These pixelated brews are for grown-ups.

The Metaverse, where everybody knows your username.

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A VR Gucci Bag That Costs More Than a Real Gucci Bag

A VR Gucci Bag That Costs More Than a Real Gucci Bag

A Gucci store on Roblox
Screenshot: Gucci

If you think about it, there’s an interesting parallel between NFTs and designer handbags. Their value is inflated due to manufactured scarcity. But when you combine the two, you’ve got an opportunity for something really expensive.

Last year, the house of Gucci introduced Gucci Town to Roblox, a platform for children, where the average age of a user is 16. Gucci town is a thrilling virtual experience where, you guessed it, you were able to buy some VR handbags. One of them, the “Gucci Dionysus Bag With Bee,” was reportedly re-sold for 350,000 Robux, the game’s virtual currency.

At the current exchange rate, 350,000 Robux is worth about $3,111 American dollars—but only if you buy the Robux in bulk. You can buy a real-life Gucci Dionysus Bag With Bee from a reseller for $2,110 right now, but you won’t be able to show it off to the other Children playing Roblox, so not worth it.

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Applebee’s Metaverse Monday

Applebee’s Metaverse Monday

What does any of this have to do with Monday?
What does any of this have to do with Monday?
Screenshot: Applebee’s International

Here’s a pedantic message for the brands: the Metaverse and NFTs are not the same thing. That didn’t stop Applebee’s from calling the launch of its NFT collection “Metaverse Monday.” (And, as well get to, other brands seem to have come to the same confusion.) A collection of NFTs really has nothing to do with the Metaverse, or Mondays for that matter. I can’t find any explanation of how this this stunt related to Monday, aside from the fact that the first day of the week and “Metaverse” both start with “M.”

But who can blame the restaurant chain from cashing in on the VR trend with a little loose language? Building an actual Metaverse experience is expensive. Minting NFTs is not.

Applebee’s said the NFT collection is “based on our iconic menu items,” like steak and cheeseburgers, I guess? Yum.

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The “House of Flavor” McCormick Experience

The “House of Flavor” McCormick Experience

A screeenshot of McCormick's virtual building in the Metaverse
Screenshot: McCormick & Company, Inc.

Does your VR headset taste a little bland? Why not spice it up with a little McCormick brand digital seasoning? (Please don’t lick your headset).

You’re familiar with McCormick’s more offerings in the physical world from your grocer’s spice aisle. But just in time for Christmas 2022, McCormick made an exciting announcement to coincide with its annual Flavor Forecast, where the company dishes on upcoming culinary trends. You guessed it: spices in the Metaverse.

The company called it the “House of Flavor by McCormick.” I’ll let the spicy corporation speak for itself:

In conjunction with this year’s Flavor Forecast, McCormick will be venturing into Decentraland, a blockchain-powered area of the Metaverse, to launch “House of Flavor by McCormick” on December 13th. This immersive live virtual destination will allow fans to experience flavor in a world without taste allowing users to explore McCormick’s flavor of the year, discover Vietnamese Cajun dishes, earn one of three unique wearables (terms apply; while supplies last), and interact with content featuring some of the chefs who inspired this year’s Flavor of the Year.

I can only imagine how exciting those “unique wearables” are.

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Finally, a Metaverse Bank

Finally, a Metaverse Bank

A photo of a Chase Bank
Imagine this but in VR
Photo: Nicole Glass Photography (Shutterstock)

Some people think banks aren’t sexy. Those poor ignorant fools obviously don’t bank with Chase. In 2022, Chase took to the VR platform Decentraland to bring the world the very first Metaverse bank (at least the company said it was the first, I have to imagine some enterprising kid already has ATMs on Roblox).

Sadly, you can’t do any actual banking there, at least not yet. For now, it’s just a lounge where you can... look at a digital portait of Chase CEO Jamie Dimon? Hopefully that’s enough to tide you over until you can finally open a Metaverse checcking account.

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The Wranglerverse

The Wranglerverse

A Wrangler NFT
Image: Wrangler

Unfortunately, Wrangler’s entry into the world of VR never materialized. Last year, the jeans brand unveiled an NFT project with musician Leon Bridges, which notably launched just when NFT prices were heading into the toilet. A few lucky fans had an opportunity to get their hands on a NFT version of a denim suit designed for Bridges, pictured above. (You can call the man a sell out, but if Big Jeans comes knocking, you better believe I’ll be making some NFTs too.)

To coincide with this exciting announcement, the company said it would would host a “Wranglerverse” event in September. But September came and went without any word about the promised digital jeans experience. The word “Wranglerverse” has been scrubbed from the company’s website. Sadly for all the Wrangler heads out there, it seems the plan was scrapped. I can’t imagine why.

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Expensive Minimalist VR Furniture For 5th Graders

Expensive Minimalist VR Furniture For 5th Graders

Roblox players enjoyed West Elm pool chairs furniture in the Metaverse
Give the kids what they want
Image: West Elm

If you want a $7,000 book case, you can head to your local West Elm store. But for too long, children who wanted expensive furniture in VR video games had nowhere to go.

Last Fall, West Elm opened its own virtual world on Roblox, which again, is a gaming platform for kids.

“We’re excited to expand our company into the Metaverse and connect West Elm with the millions of daily Roblox users around the world,” said Laura Alber, CEO of West Elm’s parent company Williams-Sonoma, in a press release. Laura, I’m excited to.

At West Elm Home Design on Roblox, you can get sleek but understated furniture for your virtual home, as well as T-Shirts and other goodies for your avatar. I’m crying mid-century tears as I write this.

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Marriott Also Thinks NFTs and the Metaverse Are the Same Thing

Marriott Also Thinks NFTs and the Metaverse Are the Same Thing

The Marriott logo over three blurred images of the company's NFT collection.
The blurry images behind the logo are a “preview” of the hotelier’s NFTs. They’re even more exciting than this looks.
Image: Marriott International

This one is doubly lame, because despite Marriott’s breathless announcement about a foray into the Metaverse, their PR stunt had nothing to do with the Metaverse whatsoever. They launched NFTs.

“We are excited to bring our extraordinary portfolio of hotel brands and endless experiences into this growing platform,” said Brian Povinelli, senior vice president of brand loyalty and portfolio marketing for Marriott International, in a press release.

NFTs tend not to be the most exciting art pieces, but the hotel chain took non-fungible mediocrity to a whole other level. Just look at these things. Or buy them, up to you.

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Sigh, Lowes NFTs

Sigh, Lowes NFTs

The logo for Lowe's Open Builder
Image: Lowe’s

If you thought Chase Bank or West Elm were the most boring company that could possibly get in on this not exactly exciting trend, think again. Lowe’s just entered the chat, baby.

Lowe’s created over 500 “free 3D digital assets” for the company’s Metaverse hub, which you can apparently use to “create a new world of possibility” in VR. There’s no way it could get better than that right? Well guess what, Lowe’s also rolled out 1,000 “wearable” NFTs for users to dress up their avatars in Decentraland. At least you can actually use these NFTs in the Metaverse. Be still, my home improvement heart.

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