Like most marketers, you probably have the metaverse on your mind. Many have swept into the immersive 3D space to learn how to connect with their consumers, but others still feel apprehensive. They want to know if it’s worth the investment before they test it out.
Then there are companies like Vans and Roblox. Through their partnership, Vans has gone shredding through the metaverse with ease, in particular, the wild new world of Roblox. They have seen massive success showing up as their authentic Vans’ selves and driving record-breaking engagement with existing and new Vans’ fans.
On our first Visionaries of 2023, we hosted Barbara Messing, Chief Marketing & People Experience Officer at Roblox, and Kristin Harrer, Global CMO at Vans, to share about their thriving partnership and why it’s working.
In our conversation, they discussed the value of metaverse, choosing the right partners, knowing your customer, measuring success, and the power of living your brand in new, exciting lanes.
Meet The Visionaries
Before Kristin Harrer and Barbara Messing became CMOs at Vans and Roblox, they had already accumulated a wealth of experience across global iconic brands: Dollar Shave Club, Samsung, Nike, Hotwire, TripAdvisor and Walmart, to name a few. One surprising commonality discovered during our conversation was that neither Kristin nor Barbara intended to be marketers at the beginning of their careers. In fact, they both hold law degrees! Kristin and Barbara have taken a purpose-driven approach to their careers, wanting to have more impact at scale, which has led them to where they are today.
Kristin is a game-changing marketing leader who describes her role at Vans as setting the vision, strategy, global planning, and global execution across the retail and digital brand.
She stated, “My focus is on consumer connectivity, brand heat, and creating demand.” She sees her job as “guiding Vans into the future by coaching and supporting the marketing team to bring our vision into a reality.” She finds her work meaningful because she continues to be a voice for girls and women in sports.
Barbara Messing’s role at Roblox entails running the marketing communications and people experience and managing engagement across all of Roblox’s constituents. Since taking the helm as CMO, her focus has been communicating to the world what Roblox is. She shared, “Roblox has a lot of love and history with millions of people. However, as we evolve and the platform continues to grow, we decided to broaden what Roblox means to people: Roblox is a brand re-imagining how people can come together.”
What Brands Need to Know About Roblox
By Barbara Messing
Roblox is a 3D social platform with 60 million people engaging daily. They hang out, build, create, and chat together – but mostly have fun! Roblox is a range of experiences created by our creator community. Essentially, this platform enables creators to build incredibly immersive 3D experiences. Our users come onto Roblox, create an avatar, and go from experience to experience to create, explore, and have fun with their friends. Roblox is known as a place for kids younger than 13, but now over half of our users are over 13. Our fastest-growing segment is between the ages of 17 and 24, and it’s becoming a vibrant community for all ages.
Why Vans Chose to Invest in Roblox and The Metaverse
By Kristin Harrer
Vans has been around for over 50 years. The magic of the Vans brand is that we have always been ‘on the ground’ in real life with consumers. For example, we did Warped Tour early on, and now we have House of Vans (A creative venue for Vans fans in Chicago, Illinois, and Mexico City, as well as pop-ups around the world.) But when Covid happened, I challenged my team to think about what our consumers were doing and where they were spending their time if they weren’t at House of Vans or the skatepark – this is when the idea of partnering with Roblox was born.
When I joined Vans, rethinking our overarching brand strategy was our priority. Now, Vans is shifting from pure creative expression – the act of creating something – to creative exploration. We want to be a part of creative exploration with people, whether trying on different hats, figuring out who you want to be, or if it’s a long-term journey. That is what Vans gets credit for – being authentic, no matter what. That’s the role we get to play in people’s lives.
Enabling creative exploration, and having fun while doing it, is central to Vans and Roblox. It was a no-brainer for us to work together. We wanted to work with a partner that could bridge the gap between virtual and real-world fashion by making it possible to try different personalities on from a fashion and sports accessibility perspective. That level of inclusivity was something the Roblox platform brought to our partnership.
Do Brands Have a Place on Roblox?
By Barbara Messing
Many brands have a place on Roblox, but the question is how they want to engage with their audience or consumers. Brands will have success on Roblox if they are thinking about who their audience is, how they will authentically engage with them, and the special relationship they have with our fans.
We recently did a survey around metaverse and fashion and released a trend report. 40% of Gen Z would rather have a digital item than a real-world item. Digital fashion is equally important to how Gen Z represents themselves in the real world. This insight shows how important your identity is on a metaverse platform like Roblox.
Roblox allows you to create an avatar to look how you want and express yourself in a way that feels authentic. The benefit of brands being in the metaverse is that you can share your brand and allow people to co-create with you. Brands who are open to that playfulness will do well.
From meditating with Alo Yoga and virtual concerts to NFL’s pre-game show with Sweetie, many fun things are happening on the platform. I advise brands to get on there, check it out, start playing, and see what’s happening.
Not sure where to start? There are three quick ways brands can engage:
- Create avatar items
- Short-term experience/activation
- Persistent experience
How to Measure Success Investing in New Categories
By Kristin Harrer
No one can truly answer this question – but can anyone remember the best 30 second advertisement they’ve seen in a while? Probably not. This doesn’t mean ads are irrelevant, but I do think it means you have to think differently about brand spend.
Do 30 second ads cut through to the consumer you’re trying to serve? Do films cut through? Do partnerships cut through?
For us, it comes down to listening to the consumer’s voice. Who are you trying to serve? Who will your brand be the most relevant with, and where are they spending their time? Our partnership with Roblox sits in the brand-spend part of our portfolio. There are a lot of different ways to measure brand activity. You can anchor it into your brand health tracker or consumer sentiment, bespoke to the platform you’re doing the brand spend on.
When we consider measuring our activity on Roblox, we are proud that in January 2023, Vans World had more than 90 million visits and over 12 million hours played on the Roblox platform. We are also proud of the user experience rating. Since the launch of Vans World on September 1st, 2021, the user experience is at 94%.
Shredding Through the Metaverse: Vans World
By Kristin Harrer
We’ve seen a lot of interaction with our Classic silhouettes on Vans World, specifically the Sk8-Hi shoes, our Slip-On, and our Checkerboard Vans . Our iconic checkerboard print also does really well applied to items other than shoes. In partnership with Roblox, we recently launched checkerboard makeup.
There are so many fun things you can do with iconic IPs for the Vans brand. We try to bring our ‘in real life’ vibe at the House of Vans and events onto the platform. For instance, you can walk around Vans World and Roblox with a pigeon on your shoulder – this is deeply connected to our history, heritage, and founder.
We also do partnerships with other brands within Vans World. We recently partnered with North Face, one of our sister brands. We did a winterized experience with them and launched a limited number of items that were only available for a certain amount of time. It was one of the highest-performing capsules of the year.
I’m optimistic about how Vans is positioned. We are a brand that gets credit for being our authentic selves no matter what. I hope that as we move into the future, 50 years from now, Vans will still be on that journey with people, helping them be who they really are.
By collecting case studies of how brands have succeeded in the metaverse, you can see the value of testing and learning what strategies will work best for your unique brand. The metaverse is expansive and dynamic, and there are numerous ways to engage authentically with your consumers through technology and creativity. It starts with naming your specific goal, determining where your consumers are, and then engaging and creating with them authentically.
For more on how to think about the “Now, Next, New” for your brands, check out our deep dive from our LA Forum as Snap! Get the playbook here.
Visionaries, hosted by Nadine Dietz, airs every week and is brought to you in partnership with The Wall Street Journal. Each week, two new visionaries share their game plan and how that impacts today’s teams, talent, and hybrid work environment.
Barbara Messing Chief Marketing & People Experience Officer at Roblox: As Chief Marketing & People Experience Officer, Barbara Messing leads all aspects of marketing, communications, and employee experience operations at Roblox. She is responsible for overseeing the development of the company’s global brand strategy to drive innovation and continued growth and establish Roblox as one of the most beloved brands in the world among kids and teens. Prior to Roblox, Barbara spent the last two decades serving in a number of leadership roles, including Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Walmart U.S. and TripAdvisor. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Overstock.com and Vacasa. Barbara holds a JD from Stanford Law School and a BA from Northwestern University.
Kristin Harrer, Global CMO at Vans: Kristin Harrer serves as the Global Chief Marketing Officer at Vans where she is responsible for leading the global marketing and creative teams across product, action sports, brand platforms and communications. Harrer brings over 20 years of experience leading marketing teams and leveraging data and insights to drive brand growth and innovation across leading consumer tech, sports and fitness brands. Prior to joining Vans in 2021, Harrer was most recently the CMO of Dollar Shave Club. Harrer has also held leadership roles at Samsung North America. With a deep passion for consumer insights and innovation, she helped launch Nike’s Global Consumer Knowledge division as Head of Insights and led Global Brand Marketing for Nike Women. Harrer started her marketing career with Wieden+Kennedy (Portland). Harrer has also been involved in Adweek’s Executive Mentor Program and was named to Forbes’ ‘CMO Next 2019: 50 Game-Changing Marketing Leaders’. Harrer holds a law degree and MBA from the University of Oregon and a BA from Washington University in Saint Louis where she was also an All-American athlete.
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