The metaverse: where do brands fit in and how should you prepare

Everyone can agree that marketing and technology are closely intertwined.

So much so, that the twists and turns of technological advancements over the past few decades have transformed how marketing operates – think the advent of radio, film, television, internet and streaming services. Technology impacts on human experience, and marketing, put simply, is all about understanding human beings in order to make their lives easier.

The metaverse – an ominous term for some – might at first feel a bit too much like ‘humans in pods interfacing with the matrix’ but stay with me here.

It introduces a whole other dimension where brands and marketers can interact with their audience in far more creative and immersive ways. Since the metaverse will likely operate as a virtual ‘second life’ for users, we can expect their digital footprint to increase drastically. All of this signals a big opportunity for marketers and brands.

In case you were wondering ‘but it seems a bit extreme… is this actually going to happen?’, just remember, most people said the same about social media. If one thing is for sure, the metaverse isn’t going away, and when it comes along in full force, it’ll drastically alter the human experience as we know it today. 

So, the question is, how can marketers and brands use the metaverse to their advantage?

Well luckily for you, we’ve put together a quick breakdown to help get you started.

Intro to the metaverse

Since Facebook’s recent rebrand to Meta, the concept of the metaverse has taken the world by storm. But despite Mark Zuckerberg’s vision on how the metaverse will unfold, the idea actually originated long before this. First steps have already been taken by the likes of Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite in the gaming industry, putting them well ahead of Meta.

In theory, the metaverse will be a decentralised virtual space that works in parallel to the physical world – all based on blockchain technology. This means brands will have total ownership of their virtual real estate as well as full control over their relationship with their community – all free from limitations set by administrators or servers.

Using haptic technology – the ability to target all of the user’s 5 senses in virtual settings – the metaverse will be a 3D virtual community that seeks to connect people, ideas, places and things. This is an exciting prospect for marketers and brands.

Transforming life as we know it – a brief timeline

Drawing from clear relatively recent trends, every decade seems to welcome an innovation that totally transforms the human experience on a global scale. It goes without saying that this in turn has a big impact on the marketing industry. So, here’s a quick recap of some ground-breaking innovations we’ve seen over the past 30 years…

  • Web 1.0, the birth the internet, mainly operated as a read-only platform populated by static content
    • World Wide Web launched in 1993
    • Google launched in 1998
  • Web 2.0 saw the creation of social platforms that redefined who used the internet and how, allowing users to form strong communities that transcended geographic locations. And smartphones, in combination with the internet, meant that anyone with access could stay connected at all times.
    • Facebook launched in 2004
    • YouTube launched in 2005
    • iPhone launched in 2007
    • Netflix started streaming in 2007
    • Instagram launched in 2010
    • TikTok launched in 2016
  • Web 3.0, considered to be the next stage in the evolutionary journey, will be created by users and communities, who’ll also be able to trade digital items, access unique online experiences and buy virtual goods from anywhere at any time. We’re in the very early days of web 3.0 – but it’s definitely on its way.
    • The metaverse fits into the timeline here.

OK… but how can brands prepare?

I’m sure at this point you’re probably thinking ‘how can I prepare for something that doesn’t exist yet and hasn’t even been fully defined?’. The answer’s simple – there are many things that brands can do to start dipping their toes in the water, and those who’re brave enough are starting to reap the rewards.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)

Both AR and VR are big parts of the future metaverse and both are already gaining significant traction. Trends show that people are talking about them online and offline. We’ve seen industry giants such as Meta, Microsoft, Vans and Gucci invest and participate in AR and VR, with fantastic results. An example of successful VR use is the virtual placement of the O2 Arena inside Fortnite, allowing users to explore the venue and participate in games and social gatherings before a virtual concert. According to Meta, 75% of business leaders consider AR to be key in navigating between virtual and physical worlds. It also predicts that global spending on AR is expected to increase six fold by 2025. Broader uptake of these technologies is on the horizon – we’re already seeing AR and VR spill into a range of sectors outside the gaming industry, including education and healthcare.

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

NFTs are essentially non-duplicable digital items based on blockchain technology that belong to the user who buys them – that’s not to say no one can look at the item, just that there can only be one owner. These items can be anything from art to clothes to real estate – and we’re seeing brands successfully mint NFTs to their advantage. Gucci created an immersive ‘The Gucci Garden’ experience – running parallel to their celebration of 100-year anniversary which took place in the physical world. This allowed users to purchase virtual collectors items in the form of NFTs. Can your brand mint any NFTs?

Creative economy

Creative and value-added content will continue to be at the forefront. The metaverse seeks to create immersive virtual experiences that relate to and enhance the real world. So, if your brand participates, make sure you think outside the box and embrace the creative nature of virtual reality. While basic advertising might be a way for brands to ease their way in, the trick is to ultimately build more immersive and creative experiences for users. A good example of this is Warner Bros.’s collaboration with Roblox to promote the film ‘In the Heights’ – in creating a virtual replica of the Washington Heights neighbourhood, they offered users a unique and immersive experience.

Keep an eye on the gaming industry

As mentioned previously, the gaming industry is miles ahead. In 2021, according to Newzoo’s Global Games Market Report, users spent an incredible $178bn on games – this is expected to increase to $218.7bn by 2021. And to put this into perspective, it’s estimated that around ¾ of overall revenue is thanks to the sale of NFTs. Crossplay – where users can seamlessly switch between console, PC, tablet and smartphone – is also becoming increasingly prominent, and this is likely to be a valued feature of the future metaverse. On top of this, some prototype virtual worlds already exist (think The Sandbox, Roblox and Decentraland) and some have done for quite some time (think Animal Crossing, World of Warcraft and Horizon).

So, we recommend that brands monitor the latest innovations and evolving structures taking place to make sure they don’t get left behind. In the interest of making life easier for you, entry into the metaverse is a whole lot more manageable if you’ve been following the topic as it develops.

Considerations for brands and marketers

Even if your brand isn’t ready to invest more seriously in virtual worlds, it’s definitely worth keeping up with the trend and considering which options make sense for you. Ask yourself whether it would be effective for your brand to create a virtual world. If it isn’t, would it make sense to sponsor one? And finally, do you have any intellectual property that could be minted as NFTs?

The metaverse might still be some way off, but it’s clear that the wheels have been set in motion. It’s true that predicting exactly how it will unfold is very tricky, but brands and marketers are well advised to keep up-to-date and active so as not to be left behind. Metaverse, coming soon to a world near you.

If you have any further questions on anything mentioned, or on our digital marketing services, contact us for more information.

by Yazmin King
8 March 2022



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