Does the real world seem like a terrible place sometimes? Are you simply spending too much time struggling through it these days? The footwear company Timberland has a solution: Come back online, through its immersive digital platform, called TimbsTrails.

Instead of putting on shoes to take a hike on an actual trail, Timberland invites consumers to use TimbsTrails, a gamified digital experience that involves exploring Timberland’s history as a brand, through the course of five chapters that explore different aspects of the company’s history and brand. These chapters include the launch of The Original Yellow Boot in 1973—a boot so iconic that the name The Original Yellow Boot is even trademarked. Following chapters cover its international successes in Tokyo, London, and Italy in the 1980s and 1990s, then its emergence and achievement of a stronghold in “urban” markets in the 1990s. There’s a chapter on sustainability, and another on collaborations.

Users who take the time and effort to collect boot badges can unlock a sixth chapter—we can’t tell you what that one’s about, because we haven’t yet gotten that far in the game. Players can win prizes like gift cards and free boots.

Those prizes and goals are what constitutes the gamification; that term means deploying elements of game playing in other aspects of life, like the “metaverse.” (If you aren’t sure what that word means you’re far from alone. A recent Ipsos poll found only 38 percent of Americans say they know what the metaverse is, and only 16 percent can correctly define it. Become one of the well-informed crew: It’s a digital space where humans can, in some way, engage with a virtual world.)

The purpose of the TimbsTrails platform is to give fans of the brand something new to be engaged with and excited about—in other words, to make sure Timberlands are on their mind no matter which device they’re using, as well as on those rare occasions they aren’t on a device at all. As the company recognizes, “The consumer lives seamlessly in all these environments … in the real world, in the digital world, and in the meta. There’s no distance anymore between these three kinds of realities … so for us, our mission is to be where they are. And to interact and to engage as a brand in these spaces … and to do that journey with them together.”

Timberland isn’t the only brand asking consumers to take a trip with it to the metaverse. RetailWire notes that Nike, Ralph Lauren, and Samsung are among the companies that already have launched gamified digital experiences. Expert observers predict this retail trend will continue to grow and expand massively in coming years. Get on TimbsTrails today, and you can bet your boots a lot of brands will follow the same path.

Discussion Questions

  1. Are gamified digital experiences are a good way for companies to engage consumers? Why or why not?
  2. Why did Timberland launch TimbsTrails?
  3. Which companies do you think are well-suited for gamified digital experiences? Which would you most like to see, create, or play with?

Source: Tom Ryan, “Will Timberland’s Stories Lure Customers into the Metaverse?” RetailWire, February 18, 2022; Steven Asarch, “Exclusive: Timberland Launches Innovative New Digital Experience With Fat Joe,” Complex, January 28, 2022; Stephen Garner, “Timberland Enters the Metaverse with Gamified Digital Experience Celebrating its Original Yellow Boot,” Footwear News, January 31, 2022; Elad Natanson, “Play to Pay: Gamification Is the Future of Retail Apps,” Forbes, June 1, 2021; “38% Report Familiarity with the Metaverse, but Less than One in Five Americans (16%) Can Correctly Define the Term,” Ipsos, January 24, 2022