Hypebeasts, Pop Culture, and the Sneakerverse: Know Your Audience

Ryan Mullins and Sasha Wallinger on cultivating beautiful customer-brand relationship

If there’s something we can be certain of after two weeks of exploring the metaverse with Mark Rolston from argodesign and the team from Journee—The Metaverse Company, it’s that it will bring forward more ways of interacting, and create new patterns of behaviour, be it AR-powered technologies creating a layer on top of our reality, or a specially designed 3D world. So this past week we spoke about the potentials of consumer-brand interaction in Web3 with Ryan Mullins, founder of Aglet, a gamified Web3 commerce experience, and Sasha Wallinger, head of Web3 and metaverse strategy at Journey, an innovation & design consultancy.

Both of them see their roles as those of translators who build bridges between the new kinds of experiences and consumers. For Ryan Mullins, this is the definition of interoperability itself.

Sasha compares this marriage between the organization and the audience to a dance, a physical, visceral communication.

The movement from Web2 towards Web3 is one from the consumer being statically presented with information to them interacting with brands, says Ryan Mullins — just like Thomas Johann Lorenz from Journee suggested in his voice note last week.

Picture this:
The before shot: staring into the brand’s Instagram feed.
The after shot: users interact with brands through movement, virtual presence, and gamification.

Aglet uses features of both Web2 and Web3 in order to build a community, and give consumers a chance to interact and “play the brand.” This is especially relevant because the new generation of users learn from social media, like TikTok, and are much more native to gamification. Sasha says working for brands gives her a chance to seep into the mindsets of consumer insights, in order to really understand who these new generation consumers are. “Why does counterculture mean so much to them, and how to interpret that into the lens of a brand?” she asks. She sees a big opportunity in gamification, as it unfurls into playing scenario games in corporate settings, among people who make systems change happen, and can lead to big, impactful behaviour models.

Just like Will Fan, Sasha calls the current stage “Web 2.5”, because she thinks we’re closer to that bridge-building vs. full-on Web3. And the greatest agency informed consumers have at their fingertips in this new space is the power to create realities that are engaging.

“It’s a world of builders and creators,” Sasha says, “Let’s not forget, Web3 is meant to be fun! It can add a different layer of playfulness, and intimacy”. In virtual worlds we are imagining each other, using the suspension of reality, the propelling of creativity, and belief to channel a new way of connecting with one another.

The journey from Web2 to Web3 is less like leaving Web2 behind,” Ryan Mullins says. He sees the near future as having a hybrid space with traits of both, where it’s important to give customers a choice of what tools to use. Aglet welcomes all users, those who want to collect NFTs, and those who just want to experience the Aglet sneakerverse.

Maybe you come in for the NFTs, but you stay for the community, and the game,” he concludes.



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