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Procter & Gamble is placing a big bet on the metaverse to support its suite of brands

May 25, 2022, 10:35 PM UTC

It may be surprising that a 180-year-old maker of consumer products for the physical world is spending significant time and resources on the metaverse. But as leaders from Procter & Gamble explain, the main purpose of their exploration is to find new ways to interact with prospective customers and add value for them and retail partners.

At the Fortune Brainstorm Design conference on Tuesday, Phil Duncan, chief design officer at Procter & Gamble, said “any time that there’s a place where consumers are gravitating toward,” P&G is looking “to grow our businesses and, obviously, win the hearts and minds of consumers.”

“We’re stepping into this environment to learn and understand how engagement really matters with consumers and ultimately create value,” he later added.

The consumer goods giant is one of many Fortune 500 companies making its mark in the metaverse, an online world where companies and people can maintain avatars, spaces, and other virtual presences. One project P&G has used the metaverse for is to replicate the experience of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a premier industry event, during the pandemic. The company made a similar push to put brand activations and experiences from its 2020 Tokyo Olympics sponsorship into the metaverse.

“The pandemic situation made it a bit more real for us to put it in practice and have a big, open mind to try them,” said Ioana Matei, head of emerging/immersive technologies at Procter & Gamble. Duncan credited Matei as his “reverse mentor” for this project, due to his lack of experience in this arena in other design initiatives he’s led.

P&G has gone deeper from there, using professional gaming platforms to develop and launch games and other virtual experiences. One features a refreshed version of the Cavity Creeps, a cartoon for its Crest brand that was popular in the 1970s. Another includes online, interactive versions of historic innovators, such as the founders of Gillette. The company also has promoted its sustainability efforts and launched a new platform focused on responsible beauty.

Because of the multi-faceted nature of these projects, Matai said her team possesses a wide range of skills and backgrounds, from game designers to filmmakers and other kinds of storytellers. “This is a new space, so no one is really an expert,” she explained.

P&G said it has seen engagement on these platforms, in the form of average time spent during a visit, increase year-over-year to over 20 minutes per session. 

“As we went from year one to year two of executing this, people stay even longer. So that was a bit of a shock to us,” Duncan said. “It just provided really rich engagements that went well beyond us pitching the product proposition.”

The eventual value to the business, however, is still not certain, and Duncan even admits that some of the engagement numbers might inflate the appearance of the actual brand value of these initiatives.

“The value-building aspect of this [has] a lot of noise, a lot of talk about it right now,” Duncan said. “But again, we see this as another transformative platform that’s going to really change the way consumers engage with brands eventually.”

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