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From bunnies to bears: Playboy and Care Bears enter the metaverse

The news: Despite economic uncertainty, a number of nostalgia-driven brands, including Playboy and the Care Bears, are pushing ahead with metaverse and Web3 initiatives.

A metaverse mansion: Playboy is getting ready to unveil a virtual replica of the iconic residence on metaverse platform The Sandbox as it attempts to recreate and reimagine what aspiration and exclusivity looks like within a virtual experience.

  • The initiative comes as the media brand stands in need of reinvention, since Playboy stopped printing issues of its storied publication in March 2020. A&E's documentary series, Secrets of Playboy, has further scrutinized late brand founder Hugh Hefner.
  • Playboy made its first push into Web3 with a spring 2021 NFT collection; it later released a number of bunny NFTs dubbed Rabbitars, which can be used to unlock exclusive activities in the virtual mansion.

Furr-ever: Care Bears Forever, an NFT collection and metaverse experience that reflects the well-known bears and their characteristics, will debut in August to honor the brand’s 40th anniversary. It’s the result of a partnership between Care Bears’ parent Cloudco Entertainment and Recur, which creates and develops NFT experiences.

  • To access the Care Bears Forever gameplay, which includes challenges and NFT rewards that can only be unlocked by working with other players, Recur and Cloudco will release 10,000 profile photographs (PFPs) of the 10 original Care Bears; as part of the gameplay experience, new bears make their debuts.
  • The campaign appears designed to connect with younger audiences who gravitate toward Web3 experiences—while simultaneously honoring the 1980s tone and feel of the Care Bears.

Other nostalgia-driven brands have employed similar practices. Last month, Mattel announced a collaboration with Cryptoys to release Barbie and Hot Wheels-themed NFT collections. At the same time, Barbie and Forever 21 teamed up to release a limited-edition Barbie summer 2022 collection of clothing and dolls, which was made available for purchase on Roblox.

Will they work? Are these initiatives wise, given the current economic uncertainty? After all, powerful firms like Spotify, Meta, and Warner Bros. Discovery are curtailing expansion plans, cutting headcount, or both. And with many doubling down on dependable old channels like email marketing, why are some brands still investing in Web3 experimentation?

Obviously, some of these initiatives were in the planning stages before more recent economic concerns reared their head. But with younger consumers watching less television, investing in the metaverse is seen by brands as an opportunity to maintain awareness and relevancy.

The big takeaway: Nostalgia is in—and turbulence and uncertainty could fuel a desire for more of it. But nostalgic brands need to find new ways of connecting with consumers. While the metaverse isn’t a cure for all of a brand’s ills, it does provide an opportunity to connect with a new consumer base in a meaningful way at a time when legacy communication channels such as print and television are on the decline.