Marketers are familiar with social media, AR, and VR, all of which have become critical tools in shaping brands’ marketing landscapes. But the metaverse is the new digital frontier. It sounds futuristic (the term itself was coined by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in 1992), and it’s on track to become a new marketing reality in the not-so-distant future. So, what is the metaverse? Why does it matter, and how can brands prepare to advertise and engage with consumers there? Below, we’ve rounded up the top 3 things marketers need to know about this emerging space.
#1: What is the metaverse?
In a basic sense, the metaverse is an immersive digital environment that combines augmented reality, virtual reality, and blockchain/digital purchasing technologies to create a new, realistic space for users to interact. In the metaverse, consumers can play games, attend concerts, make virtual purchases, attend work meetings, interact with friends, all via their avatar — an essential aspect of the metaverse, as it allows users to create a digital version of themselves to act on their behalf.
The pandemic has increased the amount of time people spend on digital platforms, and in turn is accelerating the development of and interest in the metaverse. But for all the recent buzz, the metaverse itself isn’t exactly new. While the history of the metaverse is extensive, it has more recently seen iterations in gaming platforms such as Fortnite. The concept has seen a resurgence of interest since Facebook acquired VR company Oculus in 2014, and again when it announced its parent company would rebrand itself as Meta, staking its ground in a vision of the future of the internet that is fully immersive.
Since then, many brands have acted quickly, entering the metaverse to increase brand awareness and engage with consumers in a revolutionary way.
#2: Which brands are already making metaverse moves?
As we mentioned earlier, gaming platforms have already begun to embrace the possibilities of building and maintaining metaverses of their own. By utilizing this kind of environment, platforms such as Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft have been able to engage with consumers in a whole new way, while providing them an escape from their regular reality.
These gaming environments create unique opportunities for other brands to leverage, too. In 2021, Vans launched an in-universe (or in-metaverse) skate park in Roblox, where players can test out skateboarding tricks, earning points along the way that can be redeemed in the virtual store for (virtual) Vans products. As The Wall Street Journal reports, Vans has found the metaverse to be “the best place to build brand awareness among their core demographic of 13- to 35-year-olds,” with the online park seeing “upwards of 48 millions visitors” as of November 2021.
Even Gucci has dipped its toes into metaverse marketing, with The Verge reporting the brand would be selling exclusive, virtual luxury sneakers on Roblox. In addition, the luxury fashion house also opened the Gucci Garden on Roblox in May 2021, “a virtual experience to complement a real-world installation called the Gucci Garden Archetypes, which took place in Florence, Italy.” The Garden allowed consumers to buy digital Gucci wares created in collaboration with the creator of Roblox, Rook Vanguard, while also socializing with other virtual shoppers.
#3: What can marketers do next, and what’s on the horizon?
It’s not too early for marketers to start examining whether the metaverse is right for their brands, as early adopters will most likely see the greatest impact and return on their investment. If it’s something you’re considering stepping into, it’s important to learn about and weigh the risks, and also protect your brand from them, in this completely new environment.
To achieve brand longevity requires consistent brand relevance, and exploring a new frontier can help support long-term goals. If marketers are ready to experiment, they should begin thinking creatively about how to strategically engage in a virtual world. The metaverse, and all its potential variations, is full of possibilities for brands and offers enormous opportunities for those willing to push the creative envelope. It allows brands to engage directly with younger generations, including Gen Z, and blaze a new trail within fully digital, but also fully interactive, spaces. In addition, as a relatively new way to engage with the general public, it allows for greater experimentation and innovation than traditional marketing channels. And, through that innovation, brands can get ahead of the marketing opportunities that will come through digital platforms in the future.
The metaverse could redefine digital marketing for the long term, so brands would do well to keep an eye on its continuing evolution.