Walmart’s Cultureverse Gives Black Creators a Voice By Design

It’s tough to change people’s perceptions of a brand, particularly one as established and well-known as Walmart. But that’s been one of the goals of the Walmart web3 project The Cultureverse, Justin Breton, Director of Brand Experiences and Strategic Partnerships at Walmart, shared with attendees at Advertising Week New York last week.

“We wanted it to be both immersive and accessible, so that anyone who wants to dive into the experience and learn about the 50th  anniversary of hip-hop or view virtual commissioned art pieces by Black creators can do so,” said Breton. “We wanted to provide all customers with a way to engage with us in an unexpected way. If someone visits and says ‘Oh s**t, this is Walmart?’ then I’ve done my job.”

Walmart — which has created several metaverse environments recently and continues to add new gamification and commerce elements to those experiences — worked with People of Crypto and Spatial Labs to develop The Cultureverse. The environment includes games and extensive use of 3D and reflects the retailer’s learnings from earlier Walmart metaverse initiatives.

“We live in an attention economy, and fleeting short-form content, like that on TikTok, is on the rise, but these types of experiences are driving the extended time [people spend] with brands,” said Breton. “They’re averaging six to eight minutes within this branded experience, which is a lot.”

Applying Learnings from Earlier Metaverse Forays

Breton credits the success of this latest metaverse environment with Walmart’s heightened focus on community, marked by its collaboration with People of Crypto. “They identified the Cultureverse, with its mix of education and entertainment, as an opportunity” said Breton.

He and his team “learned a lot,” from their experiences with Walmart Land on Roblox, the retailer’s initial metaverse environment. “We got the good, the bad and the ugly,” Breton noted, adding that this initial metaverse outing came in for criticism that he couldn’t help but take personally: “In that first week, I felt like I was in Us Weekly with people criticizing what I was wearing,” he said. And while earlier metaverse initiatives “didn’t have great approval ratings, we’re now at 95% approval, because we course corrected and invited the community to be part of what we’ve built. When you build the community first, they follow.”

What the Cultureverse has not done, at least directly, is increase conversions or drive revenue to Walmart’s core retail business. “As we explain things to our leadership, driving revenue is not always the goal,” said Breton. “We’re educating them about the value of shifting perceptions on brand favorability and loyalty, and this medium is leading to [positive] brand preference and intent to shop, according to studies we’ve done.”

Walmart overall “is doing a fantastic job from a diversity, equity and inclusion perspective, enabling us to communicate with people in ways that feel authentic, not commercial,” said Breton. And to help feed that bottom line, Walmart has a Black & Unlimited page on its website, also devoted to fulfilling the potential of Black brands and creators.

Breton advised other brands considering a metaverse presence to “lean in, test and learn. [The metaverse] represents the future of socialization, commerce and how people will experience things; it will be the intersection of all of it. You have to lean in now to set yourself up for success in the future.”