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Clarks Is Stepping Into the Metaverse. Here’s Why.


An Afrobeats collaboration with Empire Music takes Clarks Originals’ musical heritage into the future - and hints at the footwear brand’s bigger web3 ambitions as James Frapwell and Tara McRae tell LBB’s Laura Swinton

Clarks Is Stepping Into the Metaverse. Here’s Why.

Clarks is a brand that has always been able to walk a mile in the shoes of its audience. Whether its primary school kids in the UK getting their first pairs of patent leather Mary Janes or reggae producers in Jamaica strutting their stuff in their Wallabees, or social media-obsessed gen z snapping up kicks via shoppable livestreams, the brand that was founded in Somerset in 1825 has always been able to evolve with its audience.

And so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this storied footwear brand is now readying itself for a web3 future. Last week,  they took their first strides in the metaverse with a cosmic Afrobeats gig, a collaboration with Empire Music that featured Nigerian megastar, Fireboy DML, with support from Nigerian singer, Nissi and Cape Verdean-American singer-songwriter, June Freedom. The gig took place in Decentraland and was streamed live to Fireboy DML’s YouTube channel, where it’s had, at the time of writing, 731,000 views in four days (and you can watch it here). The experience took viewers to a neon, underwaterscape, a cosmic space station, a sky whale flying through the sunset and a futuristic jungle city and presents a new twist on Clarks’ long term musical heritage.

According to Tara McRae, chief marketing and digital officer at Clarks,  the decision to enter the metaverse comes with a wider commitment to digital transformation at the brand. “At Clarks, digital innovation is extremely important to us. We aim to connect with our consumers wherever they are,” she says. “The metaverse is an additional and innovative space to speak with our audience, in ways that would have never been possible before.”

While the combination of the metaverse with the modern Afrobeats scene might not be immediately obvious, for the brand it proves to be a perfect intersection for Clarks’ aforementioned desire to evolve how it interacts with people digitally, and the way musicians have long connected with the brand.

James Frapwell, global head of marketing at Clarks Originals, Clarks iconic desert boot collection, explains: “Clarks has been intrinsically linked to a multitude of music genres over the decades and we try to connect with each one as authentically as we can. In this instance we became aware that Fireboy DML was a fan of the brand, in fact he wears Wallabees in one of his earliest music videos, and we wanted to find a project that we could work on together. As conversations with his label Empire developed, we all felt it could be exciting to take Afrobeat, one of the world’s most explosive genres into the metaverse. We then worked with Empire to bring in Nissi and June Freedom into the mix to create an incredible line up.”

James describes the collaboration with record label Empire Music as ‘a dream’ and a ‘true collaboration’, and they were involved in every step of the creative development of this unusual experience. “From the initial ideation through to the development of the campaign and the live experience we have worked with the partnerships team at Empire,” says James. ”From there, we have brought in experts in the metaverse space to help make our ideas a reality.”

However, in the spirit of connecting with consumers where they are, it was crucial that this gig would not be limited to the handful of digital frontrunners already immersed in the metaverse. Initially, according to James, this challenge proved to be something of a head scratcher.

“One of the first challenges or questions was how to bring this live experience for free to as many people as possible. We spent a lot of time looking at the various tech and media options to broadcast the show,” says James. “But most of all the challenges have all been exciting ones, to realise a live show where physical limitations are not a factor you have to contend with has been a lot of fun, we can’t wait for people to see the results.”

Tara says this led to the decision to broadcast the gig live from the metaverse to YouTube - thus allowing them to experiment in this emerging area and to learn for the future while creating an accessible experience for where most fans are today.

“When planning this project, we were keen to push boundaries whilst sharing this unique ‘one-off’ virtual concert to a wide audience, so that everyone can enjoy the experience,” she says. “YouTube is a fantastic platform for housing video content, as well as LIVE events. It also enables us to track and measure our reach as well having engagement.”

It’s fair to say that, after having a moment during the peak of the covid-19 pandemic, the metaverse has had a bit of a bumpy landing and has been overtaken by AI, which is currently cresting on the hype cycle. But Tara reckons that the metaverse is something that marketers still ought to prepare for and get their heads around as experience and utility improves.

“We predict the metaverse as becoming a permanent fixture in brands toolkits – the possibilities are endless from live gigs to online games, immersive multimedia experiences, digital showrooms and limited edition NFTs,” says Tara. “We believe it really is a window into the future of fashion and immensely exciting! This is exactly why we are proud to be ahead of the curve and constantly evolving our involvement in the space for our consumer’s pleasure.”

So, this experience is a valuable learning curve for the brand. Tara says that the team will be closely monitoring all sorts of aspects of the project, from views during the performance to press coverage in the lead up, to social media interactions. They’ll be listening closely to audience data and tracking any impact on brand health.

When it comes to Clarks’ digital presence, while they clearly have an eye on the longer term, there’s also a more immediate revolution underway within the brand. “Currently we are going through a tech overhaul within digital commerce,” says Tara. “This will enable consumers to shop at Clarks with greater ease, whilst also allowing us to move faster as a marketing organisation globally in the sharing of content.”

According to Tara, this desire to explore and innovate in new spaces is something that’s as rooted in the shoe brand’s DNA as its connection to the music world, if not more so.

“At Clarks, we are pioneers and innovators. From our very first shoe design, which were slippers from sheepskin off-cuts to our newly launched silhouette, Torhill, innovation and craftsmanship is at the heart of everything that we do,” she says. 

“It doesn’t just stop at product. We are constantly listening to our consumers and reacting to what they are doing, as well as market trends. We continuously champion ourselves as innovators and are always looking at new and exciting environments to test and learn our marketing efforts within.

“New digital spaces are really exciting for us as it means that we can directly speak to our consumers in new ways which haven’t been available before.”

Ultimately, says Tara, this spirit of innovation and experimentation is embedded within the marketing strategy and has taken them into spaces like gaming and new platforms. And you can bet that there is more in the pipeline.

“Part of our marketing strategy is embracing and testing all new mediums that are resonating with consumers such as AI, metaverse, gaming, social media innovation etc. These are all great, innovative spaces for us to be in as a brand and this helps Clarks  stay relevant and keep up with the times,” says Tara. “Watch this space!”
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Categories: Shoes, Clothing and Fashion

LBB Editorial, Tue, 23 May 2023 14:21:42 GMT