L’Oréal’s plans for the metaverse and NFTs apparently go beyond mere branding: According to a raft of recent trademark filings that recently came to light, the global beauty company envisions an array of virtual cosmetics and other digital goods marching out from across its portfolio of brands.
Seventeen applications filed between Feb. 8 and Feb. 10 from Kiehl’s, Maybelline, Pureology, Urban Decay, Redken, Matrix and others moved to protect an intriguing lineup of items, from “virtual perfumery” to hair care and styling for avatars and gaming environments. The details varied based on the brand, but throughout, the company laid claim to “providing a metaverse for people to browse, accumulate, buy, sell and trade” virtual products, including hair care and styling preparations, nail polish, skin care and cosmetics.
In each case, the text also specifically referenced NFTs, or blockchain-based digital goods, as well as “retail store services and online store services in relation to virtual goods.…” L’Oréal’s vision for how virtual perfume or virtual skin care is supposed to work remains to be seen, as the company did not immediately respond to a WWD request for comment.
The rush to launch digital goods or related initiatives has numerous companies such as Nike, Walmart and many other brands and businesses seeking protections in the virtual world. In that sense, the beauty giant’s move doesn’t seem unusual, nor do its trademark applications necessarily guarantee future products or services.
However, this particular set of filings seems noteworthy, given how the beauty sector has embraced the virtual world and digital products so far.
Makeup, hair care and skin care brands have primarily viewed the metaverse and NFTs as vehicles for branding, consumer education or extensions of its existing 2D e-commerce business. Because unlike a shoe or article of clothing, the real product in beauty is not a specific tube of lipstick, but how it transforms the look of the consumer — something augmented reality technology showcases well by digitally layering on lip or hair colors for try-ons. Translating beauty to digital collectibles and immersive 3D environments offers a different challenge.
Companies like Procter & Gamble relied on cause-based marketing and consumer education for its BeautySphere virtual world, and Clinique settled on artistic representations of its products and branding for its NFTs last fall. So, too, did L’Oréal, which dipped a toe in NFTs in December with digital artworks focused on female-empowerment.
The latter didn’t disclose results from its previous experiment, but crypto site Coindesk described the project as a “flop” with scant sales of less than 0.5 ETH or roughly $1,550. If this performance prompted L’Oréal to explore new ideas — like selling actual virtual cosmetics or branded looks for game avatars, and then somehow tying that to its real-world retail business — it would make sense to protect this scenario.
Either way, it looks like at least some key players in the sector aren’t content with branding campaigns alone. And that means beauty is not done trying to figure out its place in the new virtual economy.