Who says avatars can’t sport the latest and greatest fashions? Certainly not Gucci.
For two years, the Italian luxury brand has been working with Genies, an avatar technology company, to outfit its avatars in Gucci fashions. The company was Genies’ first global advertising partner.
Now Gucci is expanding that relationship through Genies’ 3-D Avatar software development kit that will allow users to create their own personalized Genie avatars for the first time.
Gucci will join Giphy, an online GIF database and search engine that is owned by Facebook, as Genies’ inaugural partners for the new software.
With its new 3-D avatar, Genies will produce and distribute digital goods for its celebrity clients while its inaugural partners — and future ones — will use the technology to sell exclusive digital goods to fans and followers who want to dress their avatars in their products.
Under the terms of the deal, Gucci users will be able to dress their avatars in the latest apparel from the brand and the digital goods will be offered for sale. Giphy users will be able to access their avatars as GIFs though its site and distribution network.
“At Gucci, we embrace experimentation,” said Robert Triefus, the brand’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. So it stepped forward as an early partner of Genius, which was founded in 2017 by Akash Nigam, Evan Rosenbaum and Jake Adams. Working with the technology company allowed Gucci fans and employees to “embrace self-expression” by creating digital representations of themselves.
“Empowering self-expression has been our narrative for the past five or six years,” Triefus said.
It’s also been fun, especially for Gucci employees, who were quick to start using the avatars to show their personal style. “We have 20,000 employees and the experience has been a fun way for them to showcase who they are,” he said.
The way it worked is that a Genies user could go to the “Gucci wheel,” which offered a variety of apparel and accessory items from the brand, and select pieces to dress their avatar.
But how has the game translated into sales? Triefus said “fun doesn’t preclude that it’s good for business.” At the very least, the use of avatars has “translated into engagement” for the brand, especially among young people, who might not be able to afford to buy a Gucci wardrobe right now.
“When the physical experience is hard to come by, you can make the digital experience more enjoyable and meaningful,” he said. “Those are the boxes you want to check.”
At Gucci, the brand believes that digital and gaming manifestations of fashion “have a potential for business by expanding your reach. Genies users are not all luxury fashion customers” but they could become shoppers in the future as this experience draws them into the Gucci universe.
Other companies have also embraced this new technology. Ralph Lauren partnered with Snap to create a virtual wardrobe for Bitmoji, an application in which users create avatars of themselves. The applicatin has also worked with Steve Madden, Nike and Adidas. Bitmoji also offers 3-D avatars but they are not considered to be as high quality as those that will offered by Genies and are not yet intended for direct commerce.
Triefus said Gucci believes the future of avatars is “compelling” and Genies is “cutting edge” in its ability to bring avatars to daily life. The figures they create are “highly qualitative” with high-definition features and 3-D sensibility “and we’re very excited to take that creativity that will be deployed through SDK and apply it to other platforms,” he said.
Gucci has been among the fashion leaders in embracing technology and the future. It has used augmented and virtual reality campaigns and it also partnered with Drest, a styling game developed by Lucy Yeomans, formerly of British Harper’s Bazaar and Porter magazine, where pieces from the collection are offered as fashion assets within the game. It is also working with Sneaker Generator, an app where customers can mix and match parts from a number of brands to create their own personalized sneakers.
“We do believe the digital manifestation of fashion has value,” Triefus said.
Since its launch, Genies has attracted $40 million in investment from NEA, Breyer Capital, CAA, and Tull Investment Group. It has also captured the attention of celebrities ranging from Justin Bieber, Cardi B, Rihanna and Shawn Mendes to athletes from the NBA, NFL and MLB.
“Over the past year, our technology has been sharpened by the exacting creative demands of celebrities. This advanced Genies’ march to be the go-to avatar globally,” said Nigam, Genies’ chief executive officer and cofounder. “What was previously a celebrity exclusive experience, is now broadly available for consumers to use as their virtual portable identities. By opening up to the masses, we’ve now created an opportunity for tastemakers to forge new, unique relationships with their audiences through avatar digital goods.”
“Our Avatar Agency has served as the go-to platform for thousands of artists, and with our next-gen, highly expressive and dynamic 3-D Genie, we will further solidify our position as the universal digital identity. On top of traditional 2-D environments like mobile apps and web sites, Genies can now live in AR/VR platforms, games, and in use cases or SDK partner platforms that demand a 360-degree rendering of the digital goods they purchase,” said Izzy Pollak, director of avatar SDK at Genies.