At one point or another, every one of us has come across the internet’s new buzzword: the “Metaverse”. Whether you’ve stumbled upon the news of Mark Zuckerberg rebranding Facebook as Meta, digital stores in Decentraland, live concerts in Fortnite and TikTok—it seems like the Metaverse is going to be as big as the internet was in the 90s.
(If you hadn’t seen even a glimpse of these examples, you may be living under a rock.)
But what really is the Metaverse? Is it simply a virtual space that we can escape to like the movie Ready Player One demonstrates? Or is it the dystopian 1984 novel by George Orwell? Perhaps it’s just a synonym for extended reality (XR) technologies?
While it may seem like we’re stepping into the world of the Matrix, this buzzword has sparked plenty of speculation—people have been wondering what this new technological advance would be like.
To better understand what the Metaverse is about is to know where the phrase was first coined. While this term has been floating around the internet for quite some time now, the word originated from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, “Snow Crash”. In his book, the author referred to the Metaverse as an all-encompassing digital world that coexists with reality. However, in 2022, many experts aren’t convinced that the Metaverse could evolve into something similar.
Here’s a brief explanation of the Metaverse by an interview conducted by Vice:
In the same interview, Ball revealed that: “The next elevation of user interface and user experience is in 3D. Secondly, if we think of [a] mobile [phone] as placing a computer in our pocket and the internet being available at all times, think of the metaverse as always being within a computer and inside the internet.”
To sum it up, Ball characterizes the Metaverse as:
If its definition is still quite convoluted to you, don’t worry—you’re not alone. The Metaverse broadly covers many aspects. For example, the technologies that make the Metaverse possible include extended reality (virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality). However, that doesn’t mean that virtual worlds aren’t accessible by more traditional means—platforms like Fortnite can be accessed via PCs, gaming consoles, and phones.
You must be thinking: hasn’t this already existed? Video games have always made immersive worlds possible.
While it would be difficult for me to disagree, the Metaverse is more complicated than that. Stating that games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Overwatch is the Metaverse is like saying that Google encompasses the entirety of the Internet.
One way that the Metaverse separates itself from being a blanket term is through its ability to support digital economies. In fact, it’s opening up new avenues of virtual commerce—one where users can create, sell, and buy goods. One example of the metaverse making its way into commercial industries is through the auction of virtual properties. Architects like Zaha Hadid are designing properties to be sold in the Metaverse.
Others may define the Metaverse as a hub of selling NFTS on the blockchain, and they’re not wrong about that interpretation. To be candid, terms like XR, gaming, NFTs, and blockchain make up an aspect of the Metaverse.
Perhaps the best way that I can explain the Metaverse is that it bridges the gap that physical distance creates. In a more entrepreneurial view, it can be seen as a great asset for collaboration; an accelerant of productivity; an opportunity for different user experiences; and a resource for marketers.
Now that we’ve covered the multifaceted qualities of the Metaverse, we can jump into why it matters for marketing.
Successful marketers know that embracing new technologies are just scratching the surface. To truly stand out against rapidly competitive industries, marketers must have their finger on the pulse of every new trend, tech, and development.
It’s no secret that many renowned businesses have already jumped on the Metaverse bandwagon. For example, Forbes started a column with Cathy Hackl, a tech futurist and Metaverse strategist. Meanwhile, many government awarded Metaverse-focused funds have been set into motion.
And it seems like businesses aren’t the only ones catching on. Google showcases that the keyword “metaverse” yields 245 million results on its engine. On social media platforms, the hashtag #metaverse is trending on Instagram, with over 1.5 million posts found on its app.
With these statistics, it’s not hard to see why the Metaverse is not just a passing trend—on the contrary, it’s making its way toward becoming the next big thing.
There are many reasons why marketers are moving toward the metaverse. Not only is it a hot, new commodity, but it also allows faster connections with others in a rapidly growing digital environment.
However, the most compelling reason why they’re choosing to move to the Metaverse is simple: marketers want to target Millennials, Gen Zs, and Gen Xs. The best way they can keep up with these generations is by engaging with them through the metaverse, which is a new and untapped channel.
And looking at the success brands have been receiving, it’s clear that this strategy is proving to be fruitful.
Big metaverses like Fortnight, Roblox, Decentraland, and more, offer brands the opportunity to promote their products in a completely digital world. Let’s use Gucci as an example. They partnered with Roblox to release Gucci Garden, a unique and interactive virtual exhibit. When visitors first enter Gucci Garden, avatars become neutral mannequins. During this process, each visitor’s mannequin will absorb elements of the exhibition as they go through different rooms. Since every person experiences the exhibit in a different order, they emerge at the end of their journey as unique creations.
The exhibit ended up selling thousands of dollars worth of Gucci bags to Roblox users. In fact, it was so successful that the Roblox version of a Gucci bag sold higher than its real world counterpart.
The Verge reported that Gucci also released an exclusive digital pair of sneakers called the Gucci Virtual 25, which can be “worn in augmented reality (AR) or in partnered apps like Roblox and VRChat”. They cost $12.99 on these platforms.
These two cases are great examples of the digital space allowing brands to be more creative when compared to the real world.
The Metaverse may have been regarded as a concept for the video game industry years ago, but non-gaming Metaverses are appearing more regularly now. There’s no limit to what the Metaverse can accomplish for brands. Your audience can now attend exhibitions without even leaving their house. Think about how much your audience can grow exponentially! Imagine how much easier it would be to explain your product or service concepts by allowing others to experience it.
Since the Metaverse is still a new avenue for marketers, branding, marketing, and advertising costs are lower than other channels. If you’re a brand or business looking to connect with Millennials, Gen Zs, and Gen Xs, then it’s time to implement the Metaverse into your marketing. Now, it’s important to bear in mind that regular advertising won’t work—you’ll need to think outside the box to see results. Utilize engagement as your main KPI.
Here are a couple of ways you can best engage with the metaverse for your marketing:
If you choose to implement the metaverse into your marketing strategy, you’ll need to create an experience that ties in with the real-world experiences that your target audience will receive when interacting with your brand—both offline and online.
Let’s use Disney as an example. In December 2021, the media giant filed a patent for a “virtual-world simulator”. In this simulation, users can move in “highly immersive individualized 3D virtual experiences without requiring those users to wear an AR viewing device”.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed that the company planned to create its own metaverse. “Our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we’ll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling without boundaries in our own Disney metaverse, and we look forward to creating unparalleled opportunities for consumers to experience everything Disney has to offer across our products and platforms, wherever the consumer may be,” said Chapek.
This is a great example of brands integrating their metaverse marketing with their real-life marketing efforts. Disney has already begun integrating physical, digital, and virtual worlds to help their guests navigate Disney parks and platforms. Therefore, it makes sense that the company is looking to move laterally into the Metaverse.
The Metaverse allows brands to dip their toes into the world of virtual advertising, immersive marketing, and interactive campaigns. For example, instead of just placing traditional ads, look into implementing branded installations and events in which users can interact with.
Let’s look at Warner Bros.’ promotion of Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. In order to advertise their new movie in a wholly new way, they partnered with Roblox to create an exclusive virtual event. The event brought the “music, dance, and Latin American culture of the film’s iconic Washington Heights neighborhood” to people all over the world. Billions had connected to the platform to share unique experiences together, which turned the event into a global success.
It’s no secret that people love to collect exclusive items. Curate unique experiences for your users in the Metaverse by offering assets or limited-edition items that are only available virtually.
For example, Coca-Cola partnered with Tafi to design virtual wearables for Coke’s first ever non-fungible token (NFT) collectibles in the Metaverse in celebration of International Friendship Day. The F&B company auctioned an NFT loot box on OpenSea, which contained digital apparel that can be worn in the virtual world of Decentraland.
The Coca-Cola Friendship Box—a reimagined version of the brand’s highly collectible vending machine—contained a futuristic Coke Bubble Jacket Wearable, a Sound Visualizer to capture the experience of sharing a Coca-Cola with friends, and a Friendship Card inspired by the company’s trading cards from the 1940s.
Coke’s single NFT asset fetched about $575,000 and its proceeds were awarded to the Special Olympics International. Now that’s what I call a successful Metaverse marketing campaign.
Interact with Existing Communities
As marketers, we are aware of people’s dislike of advertisements. So when you’re trying to penetrate the world of Metaverse marketing, it’s essential that you don’t show up and simply annoy the audience that’s already there. Instead, you’ll need to garner positive impressions since you’re trying to tap into a completely new market.
When choosing to begin your Metaverse marketing strategy, it’s imperative that you take the platform’s format into account. For example, in Fortnite, brands gain more traction when they partner with members of the creator community. This also has proven to work well for Roblox and Decentraland.
Think of this method as being similar to influencer marketing. User-generated content is extremely beneficial and it’s no different in the Metaverse. Community members have a large sphere of influence and can play an integral part in the execution of your metaverse campaigns.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things
The Metaverse is a new and exciting venture for marketers and brands to explore. Since it’s relatively recent, it remains to be a platform that offers plenty of room for experimentation. Best practices and strategies haven’t been properly established yet, so this is the perfect space for marketers to try out new approaches and experiment with their content, tactics, and more.
The Metaverse offers a large revenue to be generated from live events, social commerce, ads, and hardware—in fact, it’s projected to reach over $1 trillion in revenue. There are already 1 billion active augmented reality (AR) users worldwide and that will double by 2024. Meanwhile, 56% of influencers stated they currently participate in the Metaverse.
These are only a handful of facts and figures—it’s certainly safe to say that the Metaverse is here to stay. So what should marketers and brands do then? Continue to break through the noise, understand new technologies, and embrace new ways of engaging audiences. Determine your brand’s place in the Metaverse and balance the risks and rewards of entering into this new space. Remember to stay in the experimentation mindset and remain agile.
Most importantly, don’t forget that the Metaverse is a great space for you to experiment new strategies. Your brand has the ability to be an early adopter and a trailblazer for this new frontier of digital marketing.
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