This post is by Chris Arnold, a Doctor of Business and co-founder of CONNECT 2 (the UK’s leading business to community engagement marketing agency) and a specialist in communal economics.
How can advertisers use the Metaverse? To go boldly where they haven’t been before…
“The Metaverse is an immersive experience that makes the transfer of knowledge and experience more rewarding and human”. Mark Zuckerberg
Or will it be an ad-free zone? Unlikely, as Meta Platform (Facebook) and Microsoft, Google and Niantic are investing heavily in it, and we all know Facebook loves income from ads.
I think this will certainly be seen as a platform that will multiply social commerce income (worth over $36bn in the US alone). But essentially, it is just another platform to engage consumers – if you get it wrong, like any platform, they’ll ignore you. Get it right and it can deliver.
TRIVIA: The Metaverse was originally coined in the 1992 science-fiction novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, in which people use digital avatars of themselves to explore online realms.
Today it’s a different digital beast. Think of it as the 3D version of the internet where we can come together, explore and immerse ourselves into a whole new world, new communities and experiences. Beyond AR and VR.
It will be about everything from knowledge, gaming, exercise, sports, shopping, entertainment to work. Most of all, it offers shared experiences.
Which provides a golden opportunity to advertisers to create more immersive experiences, not just ads. And target new communities of consumers not just individuals.
But this requires a new methodology, a new way of advertising that agencies have yet to understand. And way beyond the already established in-world advertising found in gaming environments.
It also needs to get over the massive lack of trust consumers have for all forms of marketing – as seen by the recent Ipso MORI Veracity report – adland came bottom of consumer trust.
Even the newly formed Meta Platforms (Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram) have admitted that data abuse has created major trust problems.
“The way we do marketing depends on people trusting us with data. The more they lose trust, the harder it will be to do good marketing”. [Carrie Timms, Meta]
Mark Zuckerberg describes it as, “a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces… think about this as an embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at… a successor to the mobile internet.”
Zuckerberg adds, “You’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine — get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create — as well as completely new experiences that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today.”
Is this just gaming or Second Life on steroids? Or a new universe for consumers and marketers with new opportunities to engage users?
Or will advertising kill it off? I predict that whatever the outcome, it will require new rules of marketing and advertising?
It certainly requires a more experiential approach, more creativity, less selling, more dimensional thinking focused around the brand, but most of all it provides the perfect environment for brands to convey their values, ethics and that word of the moment, ‘PURPOSE’.
Using the Metaverse for Communicating Your Values and Ethics
It certainly provides a perfect platform for selling a brand’s values rather than just it’s products/services.
“The Metaverse gives you opportunities as a company to not only try new things, but also to accelerate your purpose or long-term goals like sustainability, which is well suited to many applications of the Metaverse.” [Harvard Business Review]
But as many brands have failed to use advertising effectively, most ending up with greenwash and purpose wash ads, the Metaverse may prove too challenging to brands to get it right.
To create shared experiences, the Metaverse will bring people together in clusters and communities and that also requires a different set of rules. This isn’t the same as Facebook, it’s more like real life.
Communities, in real life or online, are highly influential upon what we do, think and buy. Influence the community and you influence it’s members.
This isn’t about selling but connecting, connecting with the values and needs of consumers and their communities on a different level. Understanding their values and needs – not selling yours – pull not push.
One of the big mistakes many brands are making is pushing their CSR and ESG driven values onto their consumers who don’t relate to it – it’s called VALUES DISCONNECT.
A good example is one supermarket that is focused on NetZero targets but this doesn’t resonate with the consumer (if not just because the target of 2040 is so far away consumers think it shows a lack of real commitment). Their consumers are more concerned about human issues and animal welfare. Brands need to align with the consumer’s values – not the other way around.
The natural pioneers are gaming platforms, like Epic Games’ Fortnite with over 100m users. Roblox, allows players to create and play across immersive worlds that can be created by the players themselves. Decentraland is an open-source 3D virtual world platform where users can buy virtual plots of land in the platform via the MANA crypto-currency. It’s a perfect place for VR and AR to flourish.
Ariana Grande is performing virtual concerts inside Fortnite while Balenciaga (the quirky luxury Spanish fashion brand) has launched its own game AFTERWORLD (Age of Tomorrow) which is full of characters wearing their clothing range – essentially an expensive product placement exercise. They are no stranger to using gaming like animations, their Fall 21 Campaign video is set in a dystopian 1984 style future.
No surprise that Nike are already exploring the Metaverse and recently bought a company that creates virtual sneakers and collectibles, RTFKT. “This acquisition is another step that accelerates Nike’s digital transformation and allows us to serve athletes and creators at the intersection of sport, creativity, gaming and culture,” to quote John Donahoe, CEO of NIKE.
Less than 2 years old, RTFKT are pioneers in the field, “born out of the Metaverse” leveraging the latest in game engines, NFTs (non-fungible tokens), blockchain authentication and augmented reality to create one of a kind virtual products and experiences.
Nike also teamed up with rapper Travis Scott for a virtual gig in Fortnite to endorse its new Jordan sneakers. It claims it reached an audience of 10million!
It’s not just the hot or new brands looking to be in the Metaverse, established auction house Sotheby’s is launching a bespoke NFT marketplace it will curate with collectors and artists. Sotheby’s Metaverse will serve as the primary portal for NFT sales through the auction house, which has hosted several NFT and built its own virtual auction house in Metaverse sandbox Decentraland.
Is the Future the Metaverse? Or Is It Just Another Platform?
According to Forbes: “Marketing and communications professionals need to pay attention to the Metaverse because it’s the next frontier for online interaction. Just like social media revolutionised the online marketing landscape, so too will the Metaverse.”
Meta (Facebook) are hiring over 10,000 people to develop their metaverse and new concepts, like a glove that allows you to feel the Metaverse. They recently bought the VR company Oculus for £2bn. They have also allocated $150 million dollars to train the next generation of creators to build immersive learning content.
But they are not alone, Microsofts’ Mesh is a mixed-reality platform that allows people to join and share the same virtual experience wherever they are in the world. Expect Teams to soon be in 3D and VR.
Some of the claims about the Metaverse may remain science fiction, some will become reality and much is yet to be discovered. Either way, savvy brands will be falling over themselves to be in this space, is not just to be seen in this space (such is the shallowness of marketing these days).
And with that will come big budgets because the unknown is always an area ‘so called experts’ can fleece desperate brands on. Cynical I know (if not a bit Ritsonish) but we’ve seen it time and time before.
No doubt Meta (Facebook) is already developing its in-house marketing agency, and big media agencies will be doing the same.
This is still new territory. New rules. New methodologies. So my advice is to be wary of the blag. Question the budgets. And apply common sense. Test and learn. Use real data not virtual data to measure success. And if you think you are being sold bulls*** at an inflated price, chances are you are.
But for brands that approach it with an open mind, and are prepared to think differently, it could be a great place to engage consumer communities and demonstrate a brand’s real values and purpose.
For more than 15 years we have been helping our clients address and solve these challenges. So the question is how can we assist you?