Discord, the internet communication portal that got its start in the gaming world, is letting brands into its private server playground.
As Discord begins working with brands like Jack In The Box, Chipotle and AllSaints, it invited members of the ad world to its first agency day at the end of July to help them better understand how to use the platform to reach Discord's core base of Gen Zers.
Computer servers are the bedrock of Discord, where groups set up private spaces to chat, direct message, share images and emojis, and livestream. Discord, founded in 2015, is like Slack, Twitch and Reddit rolled into one. Mostly started as a place for gamers to coalesce, it has become a beacon for almost any interest set, and now brands.
Discord is a sign of the new internet that is taking shape, one where consumers control communities and fandoms. It fits right in with the rise of Web 3.0, which is characterized by non-fungible tokens, cryptocurrencies and virtual gaming metaverses like Roblox and Minecraft. So, it makes sense that Discord would start to let the brands into the playground.
At the end of July, Discord Chief Marketing Officer Tesa Aragones held an “agency day” with members of the advertising community to introduce marketers to the service. Fast-food chains, candymakers, entertainment brands and others are starting to operate public communities. Chipotle, Skittles, AllSaints and Jack In The Box have servers. NBCUniversal is on Discord for the Olympics. The day also highlighted Rolling Stone magazine, the sneaker trading company StockX, Nice Kicks, The Hundreds, and other brands and publishers.
“The goal of our first-ever Discord Agency Day was to connect with creative and advertising agencies and demonstrate how our service can offer clients a space for their communities to find belonging,” a Discord spokesperson said in an email. “We educated attendees on how to use Discord and provided creative solutions to ensure their clients utilize our service in a way that is authentic to them and their audience.”
Building a 'mini-neighborhood'
There were close to 20 agencies represented at the event, including AKQA, WPP, Deutsch, Laundry Service, Mediacom, VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson.
“The best part of agency day was just kind of looking at all the different uses brands have done,” says Moshe Isaacian, a creative strategist at the agency Laundry Service.
In May, Chipotle held a virtual job fair on Discord, inviting anyone with interest in working for the company to join the conversation. In July, Jack In The Box opened a Discord server to celebrate San Diego Comic-Con. Jack In The Box hosted a Discord Stage, which is a livestreaming channel within a Discord community, where it held a concert with the ska band Aquabats.
“It’s really like building a mini-neighborhood. That was a word that was thrown around [at agency day],” Isaacian says. “And it really describes it well. If that’s not the ultimate brand builder, I don’t know what is.”
“It’s super easy to set up your own server; two or three clicks and you can have a free Discord server set up. Then you can customize it with your own bots and logo and your own channels. It’s really straightforward,” says Jeff Danley, director of Innovation at the ad agency VMLY&R. Danley manages VMLY&R’s internal Discord server for employees at the agency, but he also is talking with more brands about how they can operate on the site.
Discord is undeniably on the upswing. In December, the company raised $100 million at a $7 billion valuation, putting it on par with Reddit, which raised $250 million in February at a $6 billion valuation. Discord boasts 150 million users, and it recently launched its first major marketing push with video ads starring Awkwafina, a.k.a. Nora Lum, and Danny DeVito. The commercial ends with the tagline: Imagine a Place.