Ready? Choose your characters
By now, the word metaverse needs no further introduction. First introduced in 1992 by American science fiction author Neal Stephenson in his novel Snow Crash as a virtual world where humans used avatars of themselves to escape a dystopian reality, it has since become a buzzword in Silicon Valley and in marketing.
As Mark Zuckerberg said, “The metaverse will bring enormous opportunity to individual creators and artists; to individuals who want to work and own homes far from today’s urban centres; and to people who live in places where opportunities for education or recreation are more limited. A realised metaverse could be the next best thing to a working teleportation device.”
Sounds amorphous? There is no denying the immense market opportunity for businesses and brands in this space. Bloomberg Intelligence predicted that the market opportunity could hit USD 800 billion by 2024. In 2021 alone, we have seen a multitude of brands tapping into the metaverse to create brand experiences for their target audiences. Nike’s Nikeland and Ralph Lauren’s The Winter Escape were launched on Roblox, and Luxury Marketplace UNXD will launch a metaverse Fashion Week on Decentraland in March 2022.
With all the hype and potential surrounding this emerging evolution of the internet, how can businesses and brands be active and purposeful players with a first-mover advantage?
Move from corporation-first to community-first
The metaverse cannot exist without the participation of avatars ‒ the digital representation of ourselves. Avatars gather around communities that are formed around interests and ideas.
Brands need to learn to engage with existing communities and hand the power back to them. For example, brands gain more traction when they partner with members of the Roblox developer community in creating items and experiences, allowing communities to drive the creation and rewarding them for their efforts.
Blend the real and virtual with digital-twin experiences
A digital twin could be described as the digital representation of a real world entity that is synchronised with the real world. Simply put, they are digital clones of real world objects.
Digital twins will help businesses connect the metaverse closer to reality by linking virtual experiences with real world experiences.
For example, the blockchain-based game Upland allows users to own digital real estates that are mapped to real-world addresses. Each digital property’s value is also tied to an NFT. Now think of the possibilities in which your business or brand can create a digital replica in the metaverse to unravel new data, learnings, and predictions. For example, if you are in a retail business, having a digital twin of your store will help you in predicting your store traffic, queue time, top-selling products, and inventory planning, just to name a few possible advantages.
Tap into the rise of virtual status symbols and engage through collectibles
With the metaverse and NFT, status symbols begin to manifest themselves in novel ways in the virtual. For example, the Bored Ape Yacht Club was created by four NFT novices turned internet rock stars, in which the price of the collection is 52 Ether, above USD 200,000. Adidas has also collaborated with Bored Ape Yacht Club, with Bored Apes decked out in Adidas Stripes. The entire 30,000 NFT collection was sold out in a few hours over two drops.
Brands can tap into the need for authenticity and exclusivity in the digital creator economy and offer limited-edition items or assets that can only be found in the metaverse. Gucci offers The Collector’s Room on Roblox, allowing fans to collect rare and exclusive Gucci items in the metaverse. The creation of virtual products and goods will help brands drive deeper penetration, relevance, and fan-love, be it in the real or virtual world.
Connect through Gamification
The metaverse presents a huge opportunity to redefine engagement through play and a huge component of that lies with gamification. The integration of technology from augmented reality, mixed reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence, presents a whole new way to connect and engage with avatars in the metaverse.
The ability to gamify your marketing will align your brand with the play-to-earn gaming models that are gaining massive traction in the mainstream.
For example, Axie Infinity was a breakthrough success in the blockchain-gaming world.
Players on the platform earn tokens by winning battles with their ‘Axies’ against other players. These special tokens can then be sold for fiat money ‒ real cash. But to get an Axie, players have to buy one on the exchange or breed them from existing Axies.
For another example that is closer to home on how gamification can apply to marketing in the metaverse, here is a metaverse gaming experience developed by digital marketing agency Lion & Lion for virtual social platform Status-K, where social media, tokens, and real world rewards were integrated.
Keep on experimenting
At the time of writing, we are still in the very early stages of the metaverse coming into its full potential. There are still quite a few roadblocks on the pathway toward a bona fide metaverse. For example, interoperability. For true interoperability to happen, cross-metaverse bridges need to be enabled, so that millions of users and communities can migrate their avatars and virtual possessions across the metaverses regardless of platforms or corporations.
While these are guiding insights and ideas on how brands and businesses can navigate better in the metaverse, there will always be paradigms that will be disrupted and created. Marketers need to constantly experiment and stay ahead by understanding technology and being open to fresh creative suggestions. The metaverse will allow entertainment, gaming, marketing, retail experiences, and social interactions to converge and evolve in brave new ways and even set the stage for new businesses to arise.
It is an exciting time for both business owners and marketers to explore this space and to constantly rewrite the playbook through unceasing experimentation and invention.
To end off, I will leave with a parting note and reminder from the book Ready Player One by Ernie Cline, “As terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”
This article is written by Cheelip Ong, chief product officer and regional chief creative officer of Lion and Lion Digital Group.
The article is published as part of MARKETECH APAC’s thought leadership series What’s NEXT. This features marketing leaders sharing their marketing insights and predictions for the upcoming year. The series aims to equip marketers with actionable insights to future-ready their marketing strategies.
If you are a marketing leader and have insights that you’d like to share with regards to the upcoming trends and practices in marketing, please reach out to [email protected] for an opportunity to have your thought-leadership published on the platform.