Merging of the physical and digital worlds holds endless possibilities for brands
Once every decade or so, something new comes along to transform the marketing industry. If you draw a through-line from radio and television to the advent of the internet and, most recently, digital channels like search, social and mobile, you’d find one common principle: that first-mover advantage pays off handsomely for the businesses who master new, paradigm-shaking channels early.
Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be surprised to see so many companies diving headfirst into the metaverse. Though some of them will surely stumble and fail in their attempts, the potential of the metaverse to define the winners and losers of digital marketing for decades to come is too enormous to ignore. And it seems more likely than not that the eventual winners can be found among those brands who are already testing it out.
Even though the concept for the “metaverse” is hard to pin down—as of yet it exists mainly as a loose and amorphous web of 3D gaming platforms, VR worlds and AR experiences—brands no less than Nike, Gucci and Disney have signaled their intention to commit to it.
And they’re not alone. Hiring for metaverse-related jobs had already spiked more than 400% this year even before Facebook went all in and changed its name to Meta, and the overall market size of the metaverse is projected to grow at nearly 44% over the next seven years.
Why all the fuss? What is it that makes the metaverse so alluring to brands, and why do so many feel that it’s worth taking such large bets on?
The first and most obvious reason is that it merges the best of the physical and digital worlds to impact the way people work, play, learn, socialize, shop and generally communicate with one another. Beyond that, here are several other important reasons that the metaverse stands to reshape digital marketing.
Consumers crave experiences
Today’s consumers have grown tired of the static display and video ads that permeate the web and social media. They crave rich, interactive, immersive experiences. No longer content to just sit back and be marketed to, they prefer to play a role in defining your brand, to have a say in what it means to them, to have agency.
The metaverse is built on such experiences. By its very nature, you don’t necessarily watch or view the metaverse so much as take part in it. Your very presence in it helps change it in ways both large and small. The metaverse replaces the flat, two-dimensional world of the web with a 3D (or in some cases even 4D) experience that is much more like real life, only without any of the pesky rules of quantum physics. Brands are flocking to the metaverse because the types of experiences brands can create there are practically limitless.
The entire customer journey can happen within the metaverse
Previous paradigm-shifting channels such as search and social generally catered to just one part of the customer journey. For example, search is great at identifying mid- to low-funnel prospects who are already in the intent and evaluation stages, but very poor at helping raise awareness and shape perceptions at the top of the funnel. On the other hand, social has always been very good at the latter but, at least until “social commerce” became a recent trend, relatively poor at the former.
However, the metaverse contains opportunities to affect the entire customer journey in a streamlined, holistic way. The metaverse allows brands to reach new audiences in new and inventive ways, while enabling them to dig deeper, learn more and ultimately make purchases, all in a single, cohesive experience.
It takes co-creation to the next level
Marketers have been striving to involve consumers in the co-creation of user-generated content for practically as long as the term has existed. It is a marketer’s dream to have consumers creating, publishing and sharing content featuring their brand, but the challenge has always been how to encourage co-creation in a way that feels authentic and meaningful.
The metaverse enables brands and consumers to co-create content in ways that we haven’t even discovered yet.
The metaverse enables brands and consumers to co-create content in ways that were never possible before—and in ways that we haven’t even discovered yet. As the metaverse is built, the co-creation of virtual environments, avatars, and experiences will define a new era of UGC.
It powers inclusivity, diversity and representation
Within the last year or two, there has been a movement to bring more inclusivity and diversity to marketing. A survey from Meta found that 71% of consumers expect brands to promote diversity and inclusion in their online advertising, and yet that same report says the majority (54%) of consumers do not feel fully represented in online ads.
In the metaverse, we create our own experiences and are all the center of our own digital worlds. The metaverse enables marketers to inject their brands into that experience in a way that makes each user the star of the show.
Instead of seeing famous actors, models or rap artists hawking the latest styles, in the metaverse a clothing or fashion brand, for example, can allow each of us to try on their latest looks. If we like it, we can send it to our friends, who may be more likely to engage with the content than if it featured a celebrity they don’t know personally.
If people feel underrepresented in advertising, what better way to represent them than to do so directly, by featuring them in the brand experience itself? We see this today through many of the AR experiences found on social media.
As with any emerging marketing channel, the brands that get there first will be the brands in the best position to capitalize on it once the channel reaches maturity. While many marketers have already taken significant measures to start testing the metaverse waters, it’s not too late for other brands to stake their claim—if they act fast.
After all, new paradigms like this only come along every so often, and the window to obtain first-mover advantage only lasts so long.
Foto: Iryna Veklich/Getty Images