The notion of ‘value’ in digital environments is unclear. The nature of virtual environments means that any scarcity is artificial and intentional, and while digital-only products have been around for years, the interplay between virtual and physical is relatively recent. So what does ‘value’ look like in the metaverse – and who can take advantage of it? Starcom’s Heather Dansie takes a look.
We might not all agree on the perfect definition of what the metaverse means; there are probably as many definitions as there are experts. However, there isn’t any doubt that with the amount of investment from the tech companies that matter – Meta, Microsoft and Epic Games, to name a few – along with the increased dependency of populations around the world on online spaces thanks to Covid-19, a metaverse future will change the way people interact with each other.
Crucially for advertisers, it also will change how we interact with businesses and brands.
For businesses the most exciting metaverse opportunities lie in how it will change the way we hold value. By value I mean the way we donate status and what we are prepared to spend money on. The more we invest our time in virtual experiences, it naturally follows that we are also prepared to invest our money on these experiences. These virtual possessions, whether they are skins and accessories for avatars in gaming communities, content such as music, art or literature, or even conversations that we want to keep as mementos, are increasingly important to us as our relationships, creativity and ideas become ever more established in digital spaces.
We would be remiss, however, to believe that value in digital spaces will be the same as value in the real world, in the same way that a decade ago we would have been foolish to clumsily throw internet banner ads into mobile displays. Metaverse spaces offer individuals opportunities to explore, practice and experience ideas and emotions that are rawer and more intimate than through any other medium, which means we should be open to how value itself may evolve.
How should brands explore value as they enter metaverse spaces?
Think about how you provide status to your customers. Virtual communities offer incredible ways for people to test themselves in new scenarios. Games and play are serious. Self-exploration has intrinsic value to people. Throw into the mix our inherent desire to show off to others with cues and stamps, whether through avatar accessories or an original NFT certificate, and suddenly people are prepared to pay a lot of money for something intangible.
For anyone who thinks this is silly, be reminded that the real world is packed full of examples of bizarre status symbols, from tiny handbags to black loo roll.
Provide ownership through action and observation. Valuable and meaningful ownership has shifted dramatically over the last decade. Physical products in our overstuffed, unsustainable spaces struggle to hold their value as fashion updates spin swiftly. But content platforms and devices that hold our personal data have become far more valuable to our quantified selves. Celebrating our actions in digital spaces through a wide range of rewards are ways for platforms to hold more value than the stuff they eventually sell to us.
Consider partnerships and sponsorship opportunities as a way of introducing your brand to new audiences. Luxury brands have jumped into metaverse spaces to sell virtual items at lower prices to younger audiences to build future relationships. These experiences not only allow them to sell at a lower price without diminishing the brand’s value, but also provide a useful means of concept testing before launching into expensive real-world production.
Explore new and connected revenue and product support streams. In the same way that we would work with clients to offer promotional discount codes through traditional media, virtual spaces are no different. How could eating at a digital restaurant in Roblox be connected to visiting your real-world restaurant? Can interactions online improve what they receive in store? Or vice versa? As soon as brands think in this way, the creative opportunities are enormous. Could the same restaurant brand move beyond their remit of food to other service offerings in virtual spaces to collect revenue or cement brand preference while remaining on brand?
Virtual possessions offer perhaps one of the most exciting areas of the metaverse for brands. Navigating these new need states as our priorities shift and what we value becomes more contextual and nuanced will be essential for brands. The challenge will be to adapt from their purely physical presence to one of hybrid or even purely virtual existence.
Foto: How we think about luxury is different in virtual spaces