- Italian fashion giant Gucci is the exclusive provider of virtual luxury clothing and accessories to "dress up" emoji in Genies, an emoji-to-emoji chat application recently launched with financial backing from stars including Shawn Mendes, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and Carmelo Anthony, The Hollywood Reporter reported.
- Genies users can create 3D cartoonish avatars with more than 1 million combinations of skin tone, eye color, hair, clothing, jewelry and footwear. As part of Gucci's sponsorship of the app, any chat that mentions Rodeo Drive, luxury, Milan, gold or other fashion-related keywords will trigger an on-screen "shower" of Gucci-branded items.
- Hollywood firms Management 360 and CAA Ventures are among the investors in Genies, which this week announced an additional $10 million of venture financing. The startup has raised $25 million to date, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Gucci's sponsorship and a roster of celebrity backers may help Genies gain greater traction in a very crowded field of chat apps. The partnership also underscores how brands continue to seek out new and rising apps as a way to engage with early adopters. Gucci is particularly popular among millennials and Generation Z, making up about 50% of the fashion giant's total sales, Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of Gucci's parent company Kering, said to CNBC last year. The fashion company attributes some of its popularity among those age groups, which are less likely to see the term "luxury" as a key selling point, to its commitment to social values such as sustainability and environmental impact, Forbes reported. These consumers are also heavy users of chat apps but, younger consumers in particular, are less likely to embrace established social platforms like Facebook Messenger in favor of seeking out newer ones that cater more to their needs.
Genies' emoji-to-emoji chat format is similar to Snapchat's Bitmoji, which was the most downloaded iOS application worldwide last year, followed by Snapchat, according to data cited by Bloomberg. Brands have started to find creative ways to engage Bitmoji's users. Last year, McDonald's integrated a holiday promotion for its McCafé coffee into Bitmoji, enabling users to have their 3-D bitmoji run around a steaming digital cup of the beverage before grabbing it and lumbering off-screen.
Other platforms are also embracing animoji. Earlier this year, ESPN Brazil partnered with electronics giant Samsung to turn the hosts of "SportsCenter" into cartoon versions of themselves to promote the animoji features of the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones. Apple is also pushing animoji for iOS users.