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Licensing Trends: Major Brands Are Betting On The Metaverse

By Alicia Rosa

Brand Central Trends and Creative Services

The Metaverse and the Thrill of the Hunt

Virtual worlds are everything to consumers right now, especially for Gen Z and Gen Alpha. The pandemic forced brands to innovate their digital strategies and create more immersive experiences where people can interact with each other and their favorite brands. Beyond the virtual world, in-store shopping is continuing to shift as consumers grapple with supply chain issues and product shortages. New trends are popping up in both spaces as consumers and retailers adjust to these changes. Here are the things we’ll be keeping an eye on as we head into 2022.

The Metaverse

It seems that every major brand is “entering the metaverse” this year, creating virtual experiences on platforms like Roblox or launching NFT collections that only exist online. From Chipotle to Vans, brands are using the metaverse as more than just a marketing stunt—they’re driving real sales from virtual items. Gucci’s Roblox experience is the best example of this; it received over 20 million in-game visits and garnered hundreds of thousands of sales of their virtual accessories, which ranged from $1.50 and $11.25 in equivalent Robux. After the experience ended, one virtual bag was even re-sold for over $4,000, highlighting the demand for high-quality, well-designed virtual accessories.

Toy brands are getting particularly creative in the virtual space, creating “phygital” experiences that blur the line between the metaverse and the real world. Pairing an NFT with a physical product creates a more holistic approach to this space, and gives consumers a tangible keepsake that aligns well with a virtual experience. Toy company Hexbug recently launched a campaign for their Junkbots brand that included an expanded toy line, a digital series on YouTube, and a Junkbots Roblox game. The new toys also included hidden codes that unlocked Roblox-exclusive merch for your virtual avatars, fully immersing kids in the “Junkbots metaverse.”

Consumers and the Supply Chain

Supply chain issues have had consumers worried for months, translating into earlier holiday shopping and less Black Friday shopping this year. According to Oracle Retail, 52% of Americans planned on shopping earlier this year and 38% are turning to different brands based on product availability. As a result, this year experts found that in-store and online Black Friday shopping was up from last year, but still hasn’t rebounded to pre-COVID 2019 levels.

Shopping habits picked up during the pandemic have played a huge role in the decline of Black Friday shopping. Consumers are still heavily relying on curbside pickup—20% of online Black Friday orders were made with curbside services according to Adobe Analytics. People are also still mainly shopping on mobile browsers and using buy-now-pay-later services like Klarna, AfterPay, Affirm, and more. This has led to shoppers buying earlier to take advantage of pre-holiday deals. Consumers are also still enamored with DTC brands and shopping small right now, leading to fewer purchases at mainstream retailers.

Thrill of the Hunt

Product shortages have encouraged shoppers to do more “hunting” for the items they want—going to multiple retail locations to find the perfect fidget toy or the sold-out product that went viral on TikTok. Young consumers are especially willing to hunt, as seen in the thousands of “Squishmallow Hunting” videos on TikTok that see people visit tons of different stores just to find one specific Squishmallow.

This trend in shopping behavior opens up an opportunity for brands to consider alternative retail channels for their products in order to encourage a hunting experience and create more excitement among consumers. Whether it’s a drugstore or an airport vending machine, consumers want the opportunity to find and buy their latest product obsession anywhere.

We Bring You Up to the Speed of Now

We’re Brand Central Insights, a custom trend intelligence service from licensing agency Brand Central. Each month we’ll be rounding up the hottest trends across food, fashion, home, influencers, and more to show you what we’ve been loving.

Want even more trends in the meantime? Contact us to learn more about Brand Central Insights and for a sample report! Email Alicia at or visit today for more information.

The Metaverse Is Growing Faster Than Expected: Is Your Company Ready?