Gopa Menon from Mindshare South Asia sheds light on the role of Metaverse in the marketing ecosystem. While it is in its nascent stage, Menon explains that marketers will need to have a Metaverse strategy in the days to come.
The term ‘Metaverse’ is the buzzword for 2021 and one will tend to hear more of it, this year. Just to give a context before I deep dive into how brands can prepare for the Metaverse. Web 1.0 was what was called connected information, so the internet era started, and did that change or impact the brands? It probably did. Web 2.0 was all about connecting people and was the genesis of social media, the sharing economy. It had a massive impact on brands & their narrative and how they used it to reach out to consumers.
And now we are in the era of evolution from Web 2.0 into Web 3.0, and what does that mean for us? This will connect people, spaces, and things. And these people, spaces, and things can sometimes be in a fully virtual world, or it can also mean that it is going to be in our real world with some level of augmentation, probably through a wearable or a device.
So, what Web 3.0 is doing is kind of enabling the creation of the metaverse, and the metaverse is a convergence of the physical and digital world.
What Is The Biggest Potential for Brands?
Many of us are thinking avatars and every other thing connected to this virtual binge is going to be as big as the next direct-to-consumer or e-commerce wave. I guess it will eventually become one and we are taking baby steps in the direction. Everyone today speaks to one another through emoticons and emojis which represent them. They are the so-called emotional surrogate of the person who is sending them, moment of self-expression and it will be interesting how brands can start playing a big part in that narrative going forward – how can brands start making a statement and showcase how they can be part of the conversation.
How does your avatar show up, right? What does it look like, what does it wear? There are going to be a lot of opportunities for brands. And there will be opportunities for them to engage with their core audience.
For most brands, the most immediate opportunity is to create wearable items for in-game or social experiences. The biggest opportunities involve partnering with games like Fortnite, Roblox etc.
For mainstream brands who are in fashion, wearables, consumer tech, it is going to be very important to be part of this narrative and sometimes easy to join the conversation.
Additionally, brands can create mesmerizing, virtual-fashion augmented-reality (AR) lenses on Snapchat and other relevant platforms.
One would have to see how a CPG brand can be part of the metaverse play, as the clamor for digital currency and share of digital payments go up, the understanding of how metaverse works is also going to become more and more mainstream. People will expect some of the currency which they would have made in the metaverse, say, in a game of Fortnite, expecting this to be traded to something tangible in the virtual or real world.
Brands can build fully immersive, 3D virtual spaces from the ground up. One of the most immediate opportunities for brands in the metaverse right now is creating virtual venues, worlds, and spaces to host events and experiences.
There is a huge engagement and audience for online events like concerts on Fortnite, and this clearly brings the brand an opportunity to interact with the audience. While the traditional way for interruption may not be the best way to get noticed, brands would need to know how to leverage the Metaverse better. The messaging and communication must feel native to the platform and ensure the brands seamlessly integrate with the environment.
Gamification of the entire Web is the essence of Metaverse, so gaming is at the heart of what brands are trying to do, there are many used cases of brands creating collaborative, social spaces to create the virtual environment. One of the recent examples is how NASCAR used the popular platform Roblox to engage with young users. NASCAR dropped a digital car in the platform’s breakout Jailbreak game and is selling apparel for the players’ avatars. Players are now able to design their own NASCAR uniforms as part of a contest. A similar activation was done by Chipotle as well in Roblox. All of them are using “metaverse” to reach out to new audiences who are digital natives.
Internationally brands like Hyundai and Gucci have built their own virtual worlds; Coca-Cola, AnheuserBusch are also experimenting with this by selling NFT, the most popular form of virtual ownership is nonfungible tokens (NFTs), which give us a way to transfer ownership of virtual assets between people and companies and creators, on the other hand, brands like Sephora, Nike, are experimenting with AR and VR experiences.
As the line between digital and physical experiences is rapidly diminishing, brands will need to work on creating new forms of entertainment and extended reality experiences. These experiences will often be interactive, experienced together, and try to bring the virtual and real world together.
As of now, the metaverse is still very nascent and comes with some learning lessons for marketers. For one thing, brands need to first embrace their own digital transformation. NFTs are proving an entry area for many brands to experiment with metaverse properties. Early Movers in this space will always have advantages and help build their brand story in this world.
From digital billboards and videos in gaming environments and co-created spaces to interactive ads and experiences, brands now have a huge opportunity in ways they can communicate in today’s new blended physical and digital realities.
For brands operating in the metaverse, it will be very important to understand their audience and how they behave in virtual worlds. This will also mean that one will have to look beyond existing audience insights, go beyond the existing social metrics, and apply a whole new set of criteria based on unique metaverse behaviours.
The concept of targeting will have to be completely re-looked in metaverse where people change or describe things like gender & age.
As the world turns to this, brands will need to have a metaverse strategy as things evolve and become mainstream. If someone asks me how soon metaverse will become mainstream, I will say these are formative years for people, brands, and everyone to be innovative, testing and learning on how it works and how one can bring all of it together. It’s time for innovators and creators to build something unique.
The key thing here will be for brands to lower the barrier to entry and make people’s experiences as seamless as possible with lesser complications.
My advice for the brands will be to have fun because the metaverse will be defined by many rather than a few. And brands won’t like to be left behind.
The article is authored by Gopa Menon Digital Head Mindshare South Asia as a part of Social Samosa’s #RoadTo2022 series.