LET'S GET STRATEGIC
What Marketers Need to Know About the Metaverse
by Linda Pophal
The metaverse may be the talk of 2022. I receive at least three to five emails a week that have “metaverse” in the subject line—including “Willy Wonka, Chocolate Rivalries, & the Metaverse,” “Preparing for the Metaverse Shift in How We Work,” and “Bring Your Love to the Metaverse With Personalized NFT Jewelry From MYKA.”
It is also telling, as Joshua Schall (a functional CPG strategist) points out in his post, “Metaverse 101 for the CPG Industry,” that Facebook announced in October 2021 that it was changing its company name to Meta. This made me quite curious about what the metaverse is, given how broadly the term is being applied. So, I reached out to the digital marketing world to gather some insights.
WHAT IS THE METAVERSE?
The metaverse blurs the line between the digital and real worlds. It’s something that many of us have dabbled in via Zoom during the pandemic. Brian Kavanaugh is director of global field and customer marketing at Bynder, which is a digital asset management platform. “Someone said recently that the metaverse is simply ‘the 3D internet,’ which might be an oversimplification, but I liked that characterization,” says Kavanaugh. “Our classic concept of the internet is 2D. The actual store isn’t visible; the customer sees images and text representing products. A living room image is visible on Zoom, but the other person isn’t in it. The metaverse starts to put us ‘there,’ and that will mean any number of things over time.”
The metaverse has been around for some time, but the pandemic and its mandatory social distancing may have served to quicken awareness of it and its adoption. “In a time when people were craving human interaction, no wonder the metaverse, a network for social connectivism in the virtual world, is exploding,” says Anders Ekman, president of V12, which is a provider of purchase intent software and marketing services. He predicts that “the metaverse will not only impact the way people socialize, work, learn, and play, [but] it will also affect how brands must engage with consumers.”
HOW MARKETERS ARE LEVERAGING THE POTENTIAL OF THE METAVERSE
The world of gaming is the most obvious example of how the metaverse works. Gamers interact with each other across continents—virtually—while simultaneously taking part in activities. “Companies like Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, and Unity, the game engine behind Pokémon Go , have been building the foundation of the metaverse—immersive and interactive games—for decades,” says Tim Parkin, a consultant, advisor, and coach to global marketing executives. “Their unique insights, experience, and capabilities will be a key driver of the innovation and marketing of the metaverse in 2022.”
But there are practical—non-gaming—applications as well. Ekman points to real estate as one example. “As a mover, imagine being able to experience real estate listings from the comfort of your living room, exploring and interacting with a house plan and neighborhood through virtual reality,” he suggests. “Imagine a potential home buyer viewing their own furniture and new purchases in their future home through the metaverse. There’s even an opportunity for home improvements brands to tap into the metaverse to enable a new, digital-first approach to remodeling projects.”
That same concept can readily be applied in other sales settings. During the pandemic, sales and business development professionals had to quickly shift from live, in-person interactions to virtual ones. To a large degree, they’ve found that these interactions can work, but they can also offer more cost-effective ways to do business—saving both time and money on travel costs, for instance. The metaverse takes these interactions to the next level because it’s an expansion of the internet that enables interactions in a virtual world. However, to be most effective, the metaverse must achieve more pervasive use.
Every iteration of the internet has required adoption and growth to scale, with each cycle of adoption occurring more quickly than the last. For instance, consider how fast adoption of the smartphone was. But as with any new technological development—think bitcoin, AI, machine learning—there will be a wide range of perspectives from early adopters, as well as from skeptics and even doomsayers.
Maryia Fokina is a PR and content specialist at Tidio, which provides live chat software and chatbots. It recently conducted research on how people are responding to the idea of the metaverse. The findings reveal the following:
- About 77% of respondents think that the metaverse can render major harm to society.
- Nearly 46% think that a decade after its release, people will live and coexist mainly in the metaverse.
- 52% of respondents cite job opportunities as a reason to willingly join the metaverse; it’s one of the most popular reasons.
- Around 71% of men and 65% of women would engage in a virtual hookup with someone they met in the metaverse club.
- Roughly 73% of respondents say they would play a life-or-death game (think Squid Game) in the metaverse.
“The value of the metaverse is predicated on large-scale participation and adoption,” says Parkins, which is “something that will take educating consumers and addressing their uncertainty in addition to the hardware required to participate.” That, he says, makes 2022 a year for “testing use cases, teasing demos of what ‘could be’ and touting the usefulness of the metaverse”—a lot of activity with little substance, he predicts. One example of testing by a big brand was Miller Lite’s recent Super Bowl ad. Sara Karlovitch, associate editor with Marketing Dive, writes that during Super Bowl LVI, Miller Lite’s partnership with metaverse company Decentraland aimed to “bring a virtual bar to patrons.” This metaverse bar was the only place people could view the company’s new ad, offering Miller Lite “a way around Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Super Bowl alcohol marketing exclusivity that began in 2010.”
Kavanaugh believes that the metaverse represents real opportunity for brands. “My single biggest question about the metaverse, however, is what will we actually be buying?” he wonders. “There’s the potential for purchasing items in the metaverse to be shipped to one’s house in real life, for example, but there’s also the possibility that metaverse-specific products will become a whole new market,” Kavanaugh says. “I’m not sure I see the value in the latter yet, but then again, I’m sure bitcoin felt like that at the start—and now it’s featured daily in The Wall Street Journal.”