Vanishing Line between Physical and Digital
One of the most exciting metaverse opportunities opening up to brands today is the possibility of creating virtual venues for a huge variety of experiences and events. This was the path followed by the Eurovision song festival, which attracted 500,000 visitors through fresh content every day, with 3-D tours of its host city, Rotterdam.
As a cost-effective alternative, brands can partner with virtual worlds that are already up and running, hosting encapsulated events. This strategy was used very successfully by Coca-Cola within Decentraland, while Marvel (Deadpool, Nexus War, and Captain America) and Disney (Star Wars) have opened up new areas on the Fortnite map.
Set in 2045 and written way back in 2011 (when Orkut was cool and Blu-Ray was hot), Ernest Cline’s bestselling Ready Player One portrays a collapsing world on the brink of chaos. Brought to the screen by Stephen Spielberg some seven years later, its characters live in the Oasis – an expansive virtual universe created by a brilliant but eccentric zillionaire. Does this sound familiar?
Exuberantly paced, this quest narrative transposes easily to the big screen, empowering gamers with wish-fulfilling assurances that they are actually the most important people in the universe. Battling monsters and saving the world through encyclopedic (and otherwise useless) knowledge of comic book culture has long been a compulsive pastime, particularly among young (and not so young) men finding it hard to cope with the outside world.
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy For Society?
When it was launched, Ready Player One was an instant hit with gamers. In this dystopian world, hunting through the Oasis for an Easter egg carrying the founder’s fortune (and control of the entire game) makes more sense than coping with harsh reality. Might this hint (nudge, nudge) at a scenario for 2030?
How closely the forthcoming metaverse will follow this fictional blueprint is still unknown. For the moment, the non-gaming world can only hope that FB’s renamed parent company will find innovative ways of muting and booting the bigotry, racism, and misogyny that taint so many social networks today.
Apart But Together
Usually interactive and experienced as a group, this togetherness enriches virtual reality, transposing everyday IRL activities to easy-access channels like mobile-based AR. Underpinned by technological progress in collectivity, with advances in both hardware and software, these highly immersive experiences are helping create more believable-machine interactions. An unexpected benefit of lockdowns is that people became more comfortable with technology, exploring the possibilities of unfamiliar apps and channels. The advantages are clearly apparent, reflected in a willingness to explore and eagerness to interact with others.
This leaves the field wide open for early-bird brands that are smart (and brave!) enough to jump into this unknown virtual world with both feet, without worrying about the splash factor.
The Bottom Line
Although still incipient, the metaverse is already a busy hub for brand experimentation. Cutting-edge innovators are striving to firm up their footholds before the field gets overcrowded by me-toos.
Some brand categories – particularly luxury goods – glide smoothly into this virtual world and its massive audiences. However, for more mundane products and services, the value of metaverse marketing still remains unclear. Nevertheless, it’s time to at least dip a marketing toe into the proto-metaverse, which will ultimately be defined by the many, rather than an elite few.
For businesses still hovering on the brink, the first step is to define WHERE your brand is going, and WHEN. Then think about the HOW – and don’t be nervous about being playful, irreverent, and original. The metaverse is new, demanding innovative approaches – and you certainly don’t want to be left in the dust by more adventurous competitors!