US – After a first instalment in autumn 2022, Dove, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine education team and Women in Games have unveiled the sequel to their Real Virtual Beauty video campaign.
Viewers will recognise an avatar inspired by Argentinian gamer Cinthia, chosen by Dove as one of the inspirations for its diverse range of inclusive gaming avatars. The new clip shows her character represented as a fierce fighter wearing tight armour, enhancing her breasts. As she looks at her reflection after taking it off, she realises her curvacious body does not need to be trapped inside a digital corset.
The campaign, which aims to ‘make virtual beauty real’, is in response to worrying figures from a 2022 Dove study claiming 74% of girls feel under-represented in video games. On top of a series of videos and activations, the Real Virtual Beauty initiative built a curriculum to train game developers to avoid unconscious bias across the stages of avatar and character development.
In Affirmative Avatars, we previously looked at how, as 92% of people agree that ‘customisation is important when creating virtual avatars’, the market for creative and authentic ways to design and dress up online avatars is booming.
Spain – LVMH-owned brand Loewe recently invited customers into its garden with the Loewe Greenhouse, an itinerant Victorian greenhouse that travelled between Madrid, Seville, Malaga and Barcelona in April and May 2023. The pop-up store was inspired by the brand’s Botanical Rainbow line and Loewe Home Scents, both based on combinations of scents found in nature.
Inside the greenhouse, customers experienced Loewe’s perfumes, candles and scented objects surrounded by vegetation. The retail space also featured hangout spots adorned with flowers and plants to elevate the shopping experience.
In Hyperphysical Stores, we looked at similar initiatives from retailers aiming to make bricks-and-mortar stores more engaging and sensorial. Temporary pop-ups have no choice but to cut through the noise with unique experiences that meet clients’ higher retail standards.
US – Sony has raised its accessibility game with the Access Controller, a highly customisable controller designed to enhance the gaming experience for players with disabilities.
The Play Station 5 Access Controller is nothing like a conventional gaming remote control – it comes in a kit that is entirely customisable to meet unique user requirements or preferences. To come up with the optimal configuration options, Sony called on accessibility experts and organisations such as AbleGamers, SpecialEffect and Stack Up. The result is a controller addressing common challenges for many players with limited motor control.
‘We want to empower players to create their own configurations,’ explains So Morimoto, a designer at Sony Interactive Entertainment. ‘I am excited that the design will be completed through collaboration with players rather than presenting them with a single form factor.’ The remote control will look different for a player who struggles to hold a controller for long periods than for someone unable to accurately press small buttons.
Sony’s initiative follows a trend we identified as Divergent Design, with new brands making their offer more inclusive and accessible to all.
UAE – French luxury hyper-sports car manufacturer Bugatti announced in May 2023 it will join forces with UAE real estate developer Binghatti to build the world's first Bugatti Residences in Dubai.
Aiming to create ‘an oasis of timeless Art de Vivre within the bustling city’, the project represents a new business venture for the high-end automotive brand taking its craftsmanship and vision into the lifestyle market.
‘When you open the door of a Bugatti and sit inside, you know instantly that it’s very special; something truly incomparable,’ said Muhammad Binghatti, CEO of Binghatti. 'Only a select few will have the opportunity to experience this, and with Bugatti Residences, we wanted to translate this feeling into a highly exclusive retreat in the heart of the metropolis.'
In Automotive Accommodation, we previously looked at how premium automotive brands are entering the property market, using car-branded condos to diversify their product offerings amid a decline in global car sales.
US – Athletic apparel company Lululemon has tackled dupe culture and cheaper alternatives to its Align Leggings from competitors by hosting its first dupe swap at Westfield Century City Mall in Los Angeles for two days in May 2023.
The rise in interest in dupes, short for duplicates, among Gen Z consumers is all over TikTok, where the hashtag #lululemondupes had more than 152m views at the time of writing while #dupes have attracted over 2.3bn views.
To retain its clients and prevent them from going for alternatives highly inspired by the Align Leggings, Lululemon invited customers to bring in their knock-off trousers to trade in for the original. ‘We’re so confident of our quality not being matched that we thought it would be a really fun exercise to play into the cultural context of dupes,’ Nikki Neuburger, chief brand officer of Lululemon, told WWD. ‘We want people to bring in their pair and try on ours, and we’re confident they will try on the Align pants and love them and leave their dupe behind.’
In Elastic Brands, we previously highlighted how businesses must show how seamlessly they can adapt to all situations, including finding creative ways to tackle competitors and earn customers’ trust at the same time.
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