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The Metaverse for Marketers 101

Projection on a woman’s face wearing futuristic glasses.

Most of the major big boys, when it comes to artificial intelligence, tech and business, are rumouring that the metaverse will be the successor to the internet as we know it today: a digital twin of our world, encountered in both augmented and virtual interconnected realities as a persistent and synchronous experience. It is predicted that in the next ten years, the metaverse is expected to sign on a billion users and eventually earn over $1 trillion in revenues. 

This poses marketers with a challenge; whether exciting or frustrating, that’s up to you. The challenge that the metaverse presents is that the dynamics of user engagement and spatial arrangement inside VR are completely different.

The metaverse is a persistent, 3D, and virtual space where users can spend their time and may be targeted with brand-related content and sales enablement tactics. When it comes to marketing there are a couple ways that you look at the metaverse angle. 

Firstly, the metaverse could work as an additional channel in your marketing mix, just like you have a branded mobile app, banner ads on Google, an analytics-enabled website, and social media presence (both organic and sponsored).

Secondly, the metaverse can be viewed as a new medium for storytelling. Apart from traditional ads like the ones that pop up on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., you can have immersive ad experiences that tell the brand story. Interestingly, this isn’t a new concept. Ever since the rise and gradual mass adoption of VR headsets, brands have invested in sophisticated 360-degree videos for specific ad campaigns.Take Gucci’s pre-fall 2017 campaign, for example, which invited the audience to participate in a soul scene dance choreography from the 60s.

According to various studies, articles and methods of research, there are several elements which marketers may find challenging in the early stages of the metaverse activity. Those issues are the following:

  • Blurred branding boundaries – Since the metaverse is decentralised, companies may not be able to exert control over ad spots. You may find an influencer sporting items from two competing companies simultaneously.

  • Replicating products in the real world – Prospective customers can engage in hyper-customisation in VR. But when brands fail to deliver a similar experience in the real world, product engagement could actually fall.

  • Content overwhelm – Constant video pop-ups, indistinguishable sponsored content, and repetitive ads are all too common in the digital world. Inside the metaverse, they take on an even more intrusive dimension and could cause sensory overload.

  • Data privacy and ethical issues – In the metaverse, brands can see a version of your identity in the form of a 3D avatar. But does the avatar denote explicit consent? Can advertisers, therefore, target ads based on someone’s appearance in VR? These issues are yet to be ironed out.

However, the metaverse also provides several silver linings for marketers such as the following:

  • Sponsored content in social spaces. Where social media comprises a mix of organic and sponsored content, VR spaces are similarly meant for multi-party interactions. Instead of consuming content alone, you can share ad experiences with your peer network.

  • Product placement in VR games. As more and more VR games are built for the metaverse, product placement is inevitable. This strategy was already used to great effect in Pokémon Go, where sponsored locations popped up to invite footfall, using the game’s AR creatures as a lure. Branded elements could act as a subtle but noticeable overlay on top of game surroundings.

  • A new generation of influencers. The metaverse could feature an interesting new technology called digital humans, who are essentially AI-powered humanoid bots in 3D. In the future, brands could design their very own influencers from scratch and transform how ads are pushed via influencer marketing…weird but wonderful?

  • Immersive native ad experiences. Finally, native VR advertising holds the most promise for marketers in the metaverse. Brands can create full-scale experiences that weave a story, allow users to interact with their product, and eventually make a purchase – also online, without leaving the metaverse. A good example is Nikeland on Roblox, a VR gaming platform and metaverse company. Nikeland allows you to engage in gameplay and organically explore the company’s range of shoes, apparel, and accessories in VR.

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