ComplexCon is a tentpole event for Complex Networks that attracts nearly 60,000 rabid streetwear fans each year, so when COVID shut down the in-person festival in 2020, cancelling altogether wasn’t an option. But the resulting pivot to digital needed to go far beyond Zoom calls and flash sales to appeal to the event’s young, discerning target. Enter: ComplexLand, a free, first-of-its-kind virtual event held last December that sat at the intersection of gaming, commerce and entertainment. The experience was a resounding success for the network and its sponsors, attracting 700,000 attendees and earning 9.5 million attendee interactions.
To capitalize on that momentum this year, Complex delivered ComplexLand 2.0. Held June 16-18, the second iteration of the original event featured several enhancements, including access to more exclusive products, avatar and social sharing upgrades, gamification, more vibrant visuals and multiplayer functionality. The highlight for attendees was the ability to snag limited-edition apparel, footwear and collectibles from nearly 70 participating brands, but there were also fireside chats and masterclasses led by celebrities like Saweetie and Jim Jones, an NFT museum and surprise product drops—all offered within a gamified 3D platform (Jam3, Los Angeles, handled).
Check out Coverage from ComplexCon 2019:
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To participate in ComplexLand 2.0, available on mobile and desktop, attendees first chose an avatar and outfitted it with generic apparel. While traversing the digital landscape, they could collect hidden coins that could then be cashed in to upgrade their outfit with premium, name-brand clothing from sponsor Farfetch (attendees could also buy the avatar ensembles IRL by navigating to Farfetch’s digital ComplexLand booth). A leaderboard kept track of top coin collectors.
To share their look on social, attendees chose a camera angle, posed their avatar and clicked a button that prompted a link to the image, which could then be downloaded and shared. The new feature helped amplify Farfetch’s sponsorship by showcasing its apparel not just within the confines of the ComplexLand platform, but all across social media.
“When you were unlocking those avatar outfits, we wanted to make it so that it was something as special as the clothing and the branded assortment from Farfetch, so we played off of very familiar IP,” says Neil Wright, head of collaborations and experiential at Complex Networks. “So one of them looked like Akira’s outfit from the famous anime cartoon. And one of them looked like the “Kill Bill” outfit that Uma Thurman wore. They were these subtle nods to hit, classic IP that were fun and unique for the environment, and something that would encourage you to get these unlocks.”
Throughout the event, users had the option to emote their feelings through a dashboard of different emoji reactions—when a reaction was selected, their avatar animated accordingly. Attendees could navigate the multiplayer experience alongside random users on the same server, or opt to activate Private Party mode, which allowed them to create a private session with up to 50 friends. Private Party was also integrated into Complex’s partner engagement strategy, serving as a one-on-one customer service tool for clients.
To immerse themselves in the environment, attendees moved their avatar through the dynamic space and clicked on various digital installations (a map feature allowed them to jump in and out of the event’s dedicated zones for faster navigation). Most installations represented a brand and, when clicked on, popped up a screen that allowed attendees to easily browse and buy apparel. Among the variety of participating sponsors were top streetwear brands, including Carrots and Atmos.
There was also digital art to explore, a theater sponsored by FX that served as a content hub, sponsor activations and surprise product drops. To participate in a drop, attendees had to read a notification on the platform, find the drop on the event map and arrive at just the right time. They could check Instagram for drop-related clues, as well as a range of special giveaways and raffles taking place in ComplexLand 2.0.
“We’ve learned from ComplexCon that shopping is something that is very, very important,” says Wright. “At ComplexCon, we’ve created the most ideal shopping mall for our attendee. It has all their favorite brands and retailers, kind of curated in this perfect environment for them… So with ComplexLand, having a unique assortment is paramount, but then also making it very easy for people to find [products] and shop, and taking out a lot of the friction that you sometimes get with online shopping, but in a fun, unique environment that has never been seen before.”
See the environment in action:
When it comes to selecting sponsors for its events, credibility is paramount for Complex Networks. For ComplexLand 2.0, experiences offered by brand partners needed to genuinely resonate with the audience, even if the brand wasn’t endemic to the streetwear space. Delivering an activation that didn’t jive with the community and its values wasn’t an option.
“We’re always very open to helping them craft an activation that feels really authentic and organic while checking the box on [sponsors’] KPIs and what they want to do from a branding standpoint,” says Wright. “But everything is put through a filter of, does it add value? Is it authentic to our audience? Because like the last thing we want is an outlier activation that just doesn’t feel right. With ComplexCon or ComplexLand, credibility is always top of mind for everything we do.”
For Wright, non-endemic sponsor Vistaprint was a brand that proved it was worth its salt at ComplexLand 2.0. The company’s graphic design service, 99designs, developed an interactive neighborhood to activate the brand’s sponsorship. The setup encompassed five small businesses that were hand-selected to participate in the experience. The companies worked with designers from 99designs to create custom, exclusive merch, with each receiving a combined $25,000 financial donation from Vistaprint and Complex Networks to help grow their business. The participants also had access to a mentoring committee that offered advice on the merchandise each of them dropped during the event.
In terms of measuring reach, Complex offered its sponsors upgraded measurement opportunities for ComplexLand 2.0, including a detailed map illustrating attendee awareness, behaviors, conversions and loyalty. User engagements could be tracked by experience, zone, interaction and personal choice. “We work really closely with our brand partners and we want to make sure that they’ve had a successful event—and that’s usually great transactions,” says Wright.
Details are still being ironed out, but ComplexCon will make an in-person comeback Nov. 6-7 in Long beach, CA. That doesn’t, however, signal the end of the ComplexLand platform. Wright says ComplexLand 3.0 is already in the works (though the event will not be part of a hybrid ComplexCon strategy).
“Increasing the things to do within the environment was really important for 2.0, and that’s where the coin collection and some of the gamification came into play,” says Wright. “And I think as we move forward, continuing to hone that in and refine that and make sure that that’s a more elaborate part of ComplexLand is something that will be fun to try to figure out for the audience and what really resonates with them.”