Will Timberland’s stories lure customers into the metaverse?

Source: TIMBSTRAILS video promo – Timberland
Feb 18, 2022

Timberland announced its first venture into the metaverse virtual world as it released a gamified digital experience called TimbsTrails. The online experience celebrates the stories, art, music and people that created the culture around the Original Yellow Boot.

Players collect boot badges as they roam through five maze-like virtual chapters:

  • New England Origins: Tour Timberland’s original 1973 factory. Learn about the founding Swartz family, boot construction and waterproofing technologies, and explore the New Hampshire countryside that served as inspiration. 
  • Tokyo/London/Italy: Explore Timberland’s key international moments, including meeting an Italian “Paninaro” from the 1980s, attending a rave party on the London Underground from the 1990s and chatting with a girl from Japan’s Harajuku fashion district from the 1990s.
  • Hip Hop Heritage: Travel to New York City in the 1990s to hear from rapper Fat Joe about hip-hop culture, and then take in Los Angeles’ bling fashion in the 2000s.
  • Green Dream: Experience a lush green world through stories of responsible sourcing, tree planting and sustainable design.
  • Collab City: Explore Timberland’s collaborations with Bee Line, The North Face and Spongebob.

Players completing all five chapters are eligible to win prizes, including gift cards and Timberland’s new GreenStride boot. The experience will eventually be brought to stores.

In making an entry into the metaverse in recent months, consumer brands have largely focused on introducing NFTs (non-fungible tokens) to sell virtual goods or offer exclusive access. Promised gamification possibilities, such as avatars that can feel, taste or smell product, have not yet arrived.

Some recent virtual gamification efforts include:

  • Nikeland on Roblox that lets players make friends, play games such as dodgeball and soccer, and customize their avatars at a virtual showroom.
  • Ralph Lauren Winter Escape on Roblox, where players can ice skate with friends, drink hot chocolate and toast marshmallows around a firepit, go on a holiday treasure hunt to unlock exclusive accessories, and try on and purchase clothing to customize their avatars at “Polo Shops.”
  • Samsung 837X, a virtual version of its 837 Manhattan flagship store on Decentraland, includes “mystical quests leading to exclusive NFTs and a live mixed reality dance party, while showcasing Samsung’s brand and the experiences our products unlock.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:  What do you think of Timberland’s TimbsTrails experience? Do you see virtual gamification taking another leap forward in the years ahead as a marketing tool or are we already seeing its limitations?

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"With Nike, I can understand a little more because it has a strong brand and a natural fit with games but, for other brands, this is a reach."

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15 Comments on "Will Timberland’s stories lure customers into the metaverse?"

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Katie Thomas

I think the headline question says it all – “luring” consumers. What’s in it for the consumer to engage in the metaverse? Do they really care this much about a brand’s back story? With Nike, I can understand a little more because it has a strong brand and a natural fit with games but, for other brands, this is a reach.

Gene Detroyer

I thought I was just an old guy who didn’t understand this stuff. Thank you Katie, I feel much better.

Ryan Mathews

Katie, I think it’s also critical to remember that — at least at this point — there is no “metaverse” for consumers to engage with. This is just Grand Theft Auto for shoes. I think virtual gamification has definite appeal and is an attractive engagement tool for a segment of consumers — gamers — many of whom may be part of Timberland’s plausibly addressable market. And this approach has worked well (depending on how you define “worked”) for brands as diverse as Nike and BMW. As always, the Devil is in the concept, the quality of the game, the interface, the appeal to a very sophisticated consumer market.

I respectfully think the headline is a tad misleading. A game site does not a metaverse make.That said, I think your critique is spot on on. If you are going to use a game as a lure, it ought to be a great game in terms of both content and execution.

Ken Morris

Gamification works and Timberland has the street cred to pull this off. They have survived flash-in-the-pan popularity by making a quality product and this move will only increase their popularity.

What seems smartest about this might be their multiple environments — not all of them in the woods. Not everyone lives within walking distance of nature. Yes, gamification and AR/VR will become part of most large retailers’ efforts to engage customers with their brand. I’m sure they’ll include points for in-store appearances and purchases, too. By the way, if SpongeBob is wearing their boots, they must be waterproof!

Bob Phibbs

Any story about the metaverse gets picked up – like RetailWire picked this one up. Scott Galloway, who I consider fairly, reliable has said, “The full metaverse lies in a distant future in which distinct virtual worlds coalesce into a single integrated online world that is in turn integrated with the physical world.” It’s OK to try things but I still don’t see a need from anyone but techies looking to dive deeper into digital. If anything, I would think people who buy hiking boots would want more of an REI experience than a gamer.

Gene Detroyer

Is the metaverse leading us to experience our entire lives in front of computers? Does the metaverse allow us to translate what is on the screen to our own accomplishments? If I win at dodgeball or soccer in the metaverse, did I really win anything? Does the metaverse let us: ice skate with friends, ice skate without any friends, drink hot chocolate or make hot chocolate? Or toast marshmallows around a fire pit — without lighting a match?

Ryan Mathews

Gene, as I just noted in my response to Katie … there is no metaverse. There is the Internet and there are clunky interface tools like Occulus. Amazing to me that what Meta did for political and competitive reasons is accepted at full face value by folks that ought to know better. At best this is Web3. As to your question, I don’t think there is any need to worry about people spending their entire lives in front of computers, at least until better interfaces are created and VR/AR/MR experience is radically improved. As to “winning,” some people have been making money (as in real money) off of Second Life since it premiered on June 23, 2003. Yes, as in 20 years ago. Amazing it took us this long to catch up. At least we have one thing to thank Zuckerberg for, I guess.

Liza Amlani

Timberland’s TimbsTrails is relevant and this is exactly where brands will meet their customers.

Meeting the customer where they are is critical in retailing today. Connecting commerce with all engagement touchpoints is clearly what brands should be doing – insights through gamification is another way to capture what the customer is doing, what delights them, and it’s another platform to test new merchandising and marketing strategies.

Dion Kenney
11 months 8 days ago

I love to see creative applications of technology to add value and improve customer experience. Timberland definitely has the name to make this happen, assuming they create an experience that augments their customers’ affinity for the products. I anticipate that gamification will be a big aspect of shopping, branding, and differentiation.

Paula Rosenblum

I think we have to face that most of us on this blog are completely not in the metaverse demographic. Our opinions honestly just don’t count. I never say that, but this time I will. Bring in a big bunch of college age, high school age, and 20+ year olds and ask them.

If I’m honest, it makes no sense to me. I LIKE it here on Earth. I enjoy VR, but I don’t want to live there. But I think it’s healthy that it makes no sense to me. My parents didn’t remotely understand rock and roll.

Brandon Rael

Nike has rapidly become one of the leaders in engaging and entertaining customers in the metaverse. There are no strategies or approaches retailers and brands have to put in place to lure customers into the metaverse. If they are there, and a majority of the younger Gen Z segment is, then it’s a matter of Timberland and other brands meeting the customers where they are.

Content creation and creativity is the “new black” in engaging with customers in the metaverse. Authenticity and creativity have worked magic across TikTok and, to a certain extent, Instagram. If done properly and now in the metaverse, any brand engagement could help build lifelong customer loyalty.

Melissa Minkow

There’s not enough of a payoff for consumers, and too much of a payoff for Timberland here. Consumers have to spend a lot of time in there to get access to an exclusive product. If the reward came sooner and required less time investment, I think shoppers would be lured. Taking the brand storytelling approach isn’t the route I would go with the metaverse.

Oliver Guy

I love the concept of being able to travel not just in space but time as well. I had never thought of this before but what Timberland is offering becomes very interesting. A concept that can be copied but individual brands can put their own spin on things as Timberland is already doing.

Jeff Sward

I am going to interpret this as more of a marketing effort than a move into gaming. That’s with the caveat that I am long past the point of understanding anything about gaming. I think Timberland is a great storyteller and I think the metaverse is going to the place for some very cool stories. It was about three years ago that I visited a Timberland store on 5th Ave in NYC. It was all about nature and conservancy and, oh, by the way, we have some boots and shirts you can buy. That sounds like a story that could be told in the metaverse. It also sounds like an oxymoron — going to the metaverse to enjoy nature.

Anil Patel

I think that the TimbsTrails experience will be a good way for Timberland to strengthen its product relevance to its young audience. Customers often search for product stories that inspire them to build a deeper relationship with the brand. By fine-tuning engagement for the metaverse users, Timberland can provide a different perspective to the product story and draw more customers.

Speaking of virtual gamification, it gives brands a great potential to foster a new way of communicating and delivering exceptional and superior experiences. They would here need to ensure that they reach the right audience by leveraging this platform and creating brand stories to increase demand. Just like diamonds, which were not popular till 1947. Until DeBeers, a British mining company launched an ad featuring Hollywood celebrities with the phrase “A diamond is everlasting.” It was after that the buyers began buying diamonds for weddings.

"With Nike, I can understand a little more because it has a strong brand and a natural fit with games but, for other brands, this is a reach."

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