Ever since Facebook announced their plans to transition to metaverse, the world has been abuzz with what could mean for average users looking for the next big thing in the realm of digital interactivity. Metaverse, which in the simplest terms is a digital manifestation of a parallel reality; virtual, augmented or mixed, has been in existence for a very, very long time in its many avatars. The turn of the millennium saw it as a big fad when most of the digital converts found themselves spending a great deal of time on Second Life, literally living there, even when the internet speeds were frustratingly slow and the costs obnoxiously high.
Since then, things have only gotten better. Faster internet speed, state-of-the-art VR/AR glasses that companies such as Oculus have been perfecting for everyday use. And, for experience-marketers, the opportunities seem limitless.
As a tech-geek, my interest in metaverse and all things magical date back to the early 2000s when I would regularly spend a great deal of hard-earned money and time to visit science expos in the US and Europe, meet other fans and shake hands with the tech-Gods of digital-dom. I have witnessed big clumsy glasses get sleeker, interfaces get seamlessly smoother and experiences turn even more real.
Yet, as an advertising and marketing professional, I find myself cautious about the many traps waiting for new-media enthusiasts looking to spend brand budgets on the latest buzzword hoping for marketing miracles to happen. Of course, the caution comes from the fact, I have myself fallen for many of these.
1. Your brand needs to be in a metaverse
No, it doesn’t. Not unless it has a genuine reason to be there. If you think being in a metaverse makes for great PR news and therefore, want to venture in the space, it may totally misfire.
The only reason why a brand needs to be anywhere, is if that’s where their stakeholders are, and also, are in frame of mind where they are willing to engage. The reasons why they should engage and criteria of what will appeal to them will also vary greatly.
Case in point, a food chain like McDonalds that creates a brand experience and not merely sells food. Which means, the brand would need to recreate the same magic or improve it, in the metaverse to attract its audience. There are specialist companies who are committed to creating amazing experiences for their consumers, looping in the real world while engaging in a metaverse. Imagine enjoying a Big Mac that you ordered online without logging out, while your friends across the world do the same.
The possibilities are endless once you figure out why your brand should be there.
2. Metaverse is the in-thing and therefore a must-do. A presence will suffice
A mere presence amounts to nothing. Living in a metaverse is a full-time affair. Just like life. You can’t simply create your log in, create your avatar, create your brand space, and think that’s that. Imagine you had a retail boutique store. You would need to create exciting exteriors for people to notice it, walk into it. You would need to fill it up with merchandise for customers to browse through. You would need someone to help them with their transactions. And give them a reason to visit. Every single customer – who visits through the day. It can’t remain unattractive, unfurnished and unattended. This I speak from personal experience.
A top mobile phone brand with a very attractive marketing and promotion plan managed to lead me to their store in a metaverse. Once I got there, nothing… zilch. The store was closed. There was no communication on the same. So, I went again on a different day at a different time. Same thing. And again.
My takeaway – don’t be present in a metaverse if you don’t want to engage with your audience. Metaverse is not a one-time thing. Be prepared to be invested as you would in real life – with your time, effort and resources. Your consumers are real. Their experiences should be too.
3. Your audience is waiting to welcome you
Wrong again. No one is waiting.
Maybe it’s still early days. Or then, maybe it’s intrinsic human behaviour. Truth is, your consumers are not waiting for you in a metaverse. A lot of them may not be there yet. The still expensive and cumbersome to wear Oculus glasses are not for everyone. And until that happens, the entry into a metaverse will be determined by affordability and short-term utility.
But here is the thing. You can invite them in – and navigate their experience from the moment they log in. A robust lead building plan to invite, followed by a detailed ‘in-the-moment’ 24x7x365 engagement (including planned breaks if any).
4. Metaverse will get you more fans and following
If your brand has fans in the real world, it will have fans in a metaverse. Finally, a brand that lives up to its promise and has a strong story to tell is the brand that will gather most fans. Their fans will follow them into a metaverse or search for them there.
However, if you are expecting to garner new fans just because you made it into a metaverse, you are likely to be disappointed. Great content, continuous engagement and yes, a great offline attitude of the brand will make a difference.
What I would recommend is a robust deep-tech content strategy that is consumer centric. Something that they can only experience with your brand, in a metaverse. Something that is extendible and therefore, habit forming. So they keep coming back for more.
5. Metaverse will earn you revenue
This actually is my favourite myth to bust when clients inquire about how a presence in the metaverse can improve their revenue. I would like to break this into two separate discussions.
First and foremost, metaverse is where people will go to entertain themselves, and not to shop. It might change in the years to come when a multiple of digital universes combine and the currency of transaction becomes easier to use. But as of now, please do not expect people to spend their money in a metaverse.
Which brings me to the second part of the discussion, the currency itself. Currently, you need to use digital currency to transact in a metaverse. And for most of our consumers, the world of cryptocurrency is still a mystery. Moreover, it is not regulated and that alone has a lot of implications.
What can happen however, is an interaction that ends with a link that takes you back to the brand’s website or another e-commerce site where you can make a transaction in the currency you hold.
So, do we give up?
Absolutely not. I am for one a great fan of the technology and its possibilities.
Governments across the world, including India are looking to regulate cryptocurrency so it becomes a safer, user-friendly part of our lives. Data bandwidths are only getting better and better every day. More and more people continue to join the internet and spend longer hours, engaging with content, making online purchases and appreciating great experiences. Big brands are committing to more space, time and engagement in a metaverse.
Meta itself has tied up with Ray Ban to create experience glasses light enough to pass off as regular sunglasses, so that you don’t have to wear the (still) bulky Oculus headgear to enjoy the digital universe. It may take ten years. Or fifteen. Or five. But a metaverse is waiting to become a part of our lives, as easy as the smart phone did. And when that happens, we better be ready for it.
The author Rugwed Deshpande is the Director of Setu Advertising, Pune, a uniquely positioned regional communication agency that prides itself on nuanced market and communication insights. He is also the Partner-Director of Digital Art VRe that provides a multitude of AR/VR/MR experiences to consumers. Setu Advertising is a member agency of afaqs! Marketplace.