You might be hearing a lot of talk right now about the metaverse, but what is it? And is it something you need to be thinking about?
Let’s start by understanding what the metaverse actually is. Essentially in its most basic and widely accepted form, it is a virtual space in which to interact with others. However, this really undervalues the concept of the metaverse and what it could become. The term which was first coined by author Neal Stephenson 30 years ago in his book “Snow Crash”, reimagines life and everything you can do now on the internet, but in a fully immersive digital space. With all the tech capabilities of 2021+ this opens up near limitless opportunities to do almost anything our creative minds can imagine! As we move into an era of web 3.0 it will likely be the most collaborative creators who will make the most accessible and impactful virtual worlds with consumers (everybody else) creating avatars to become whoever they want to be – the potential for advertising and design will be near limitless.
As a marketer, this innovation could change not only the way we socialise and network online but also the way we work day-to-day. Virtual interaction until 2021 has been flat and quite one-dimensional but with the new digital frontier within reach, it’s clear that there needs to be a paradigm shift in how marketers communicate with their audience. Future opportunities are still mainly unknown but what we do know means that for the most imaginative creatives among us, the opportunities are boundless (and you can collaborate with other creatives about it whilst looking like an orange robot dinosaur, with flowers for feet – if you want to of course!) #avatar
You might be thinking to yourself that a virtual world sounds too far fetched or a long way off, but as the foundations are in and the building blocks being put in place, even as you’re reading this, and, data tells us that most people will eventually buy into it. The question right now should be ‘when will people start to adopt the metaverse?’, and to answer that we can look at Roger’s bell curve (below), which is often used to predict tech uptake. We ‘ve passed the innovation stage and we’re actually passed the early adopter’s stage too – just think about how many VR devices people have now.
Meta (Facebook) is certainly serious about the Metaverse to the point of their name changing from Facebook to Meta. With such a huge userbase across their portfolio of apps it’s easy to see that they have the pull to really make the metaverse take off. Take a look at Meta CEO Zuckerberg’s metaverse intro video to find out more about their plans.
One thing is for certain, for the metaverse that everyone is envisioning, there needs to be a level of collaboration between entities that has never been seen before. For a truly immersive and vast virtual world to exist, companies and creators need interoperability to allow for easy transitions between worlds and realms. Essentially, if a consumer has bought digital assets in one world, they need to be transferable to another, even if those worlds are created by two separate companies. If this level of collaboration isn’t realised then the metaverse will not be the utopia pioneers like Zuckerberg talk about.
One of the biggest draws to the metaverse from a creator’s perspective is the creation of NFT’s however, NFT’s will not become as valuable if they are only location specific. For those who don’t yet know, an NFT is a non-fungible token, and it can be anything anyone creates that is unique. For example, a creator might make a piece of art within the metaverse that only one person can own. But unlike in the ‘real’ world (the meatspace to some) where you can take a piece of art wherever you please, in a digital world, you can only take it where companies and creators collaborate and allow that asset to exist and this, therefore, creates a potentially debilitating limitation to what the metaverse could ultimately be. With it’s roots firmly found in gaming, could that be the saving grace of a none collaborative metaverse? Gamers have a long history of purchasing in-game assets which can’t be transferred to other games. So for the 3.24 billion gamers out there (Statista), having items or NFT’s that can’t be transferred between worlds might not be the blocker we’re assuming – but then you have to ask yourself, is that the metaverse or just an extension of the VR that already exists?
Fast forward to the next 5 years and the metaverse which is likely still a work in progress has reached mainstream meatspace in the form of an augmented reality (AR) world. A world where physical life is overlaid with virtual world graphics, characters, videos and so much more. The marketing opportunities here are new and endless meaning brands adapt or fall behind. It’s certainly hard to predict exactly how we will need to adapt, as is the case with any new horizon. However, it’s important to start thinking about it now and looking at the way the majority of society will use the metaverse. Marketing in the metaverse is in the innovation stage right now, and that’s a great thing – in a virtual world where anything is possible and any form of marketing is possible what will you and your brand do? Just please, no cold calling!