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The metaverse has become one of the most talked-about innovations since Mark Zuckerberg bet Facebook’s future on it. He went so far as to rename his company, Meta. The metaverse is the next iteration of the evolution of the internet. It’s a place where your brand needs to have a strong presence.
The metaverse is embodied internet
Neal Stephenson first came up with the term metaverse in his 1992 book, Snow Crash. However, perhaps the first major chief executive officer (CEO) to discuss the metaverse was Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Nadella described Azure’s offerings as a metaverse during his keynote address at Microsoft’s Build developer conference, saying:
“Finally, as the virtual and physical worlds converge, the metaverse, made up of digital twins, simulated environments and mixed reality, is emerging as a first-class platform. With the metaverse the entire world becomes your app canvas.”
However, Zuckerberg’s discussion with Casey Newton brought the idea to a global audience. Zuckerberg described it as a “successor to the mobile internet”, calling it an “embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it. And you feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage.”
That notion of presence is at the heart of what the metaverse is about. In Mathew Ball’s Metaverse Primer, he described the metaverse as having seven qualities:
- Synchronicity and the quality of being live
- No limit to the number of concurrent users
- Exist as a complete, coherent economy
- Bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds
- Offer interoperability of all assets, items, content and data
- The content and experiences must populate the environment and be created as well as operated by a variety of contributors, from individuals to groups of people
We can take these seven qualities as the basis of our understanding of what the metaverse is.
How can brands engage in the metaverse?
As the metaverse is built, more and more people will spend portions of their lives in it. So, you have to understand your current customers and your target audience. From there, brands need to figure out how their target audiences and customers are taking to the metaverse. They can then calibrate their strategy based on the amount of time they spend in the metaverse. Gen Z and younger will probably embrace the metaverse faster than any other demographic. So brands whose core customers come from that demographic will have to move fast to adapt to the metaverse.
However, brands have to be aware that speed is not as important as getting the metaverse right. Eventually, a first-mover advantage is lost as rivals catch up. Long-term success is about doing the fundamentals right. It’s about being the best mover, even if that means not being the first mover.
A business must navigate through a competitive landscape in order to survive and have any chance at profits. It’s important for you to start studying how your competitors are navigating through the metaverse and the kind of decisions that they are taking there. Are they seeing something you aren’t? Is there something you can learn from their approach? What are they missing? It may help to designate someone to study the metaverse and help your business tailor its strategy to the metaverse’s opportunities and challenges.
Your brand should think about ways in which the metaverse helps it achieve long-term goals faster or more profoundly. Currently, ESG investing is becoming increasingly important. The metaverse may offer a path to trialing innovations to achieve long-term sustainability and other ESG goals in a measurable way.
Study how your brand can best enter the metaverse. This can go a long way toward determining how successful your brand will be. You want your entrance to be as seamless as possible. Difficulties with entrance could stain your brand. Winning the metaverse isn’t about populating the metaverse with ads. It’s about creating value. Brands need to create great experiences for their target audience and customers. Nike’s emergence on Roblox as well as Gucci’s launch of an NFT are examples of how brands can get the metaverse right, and deliver value to customers.
The metaverse will, like the internet today, not be dominated by any single firm. In as much as we have multiple social media apps, we will have multiple metaverses. There will be space to build many metaverses within any one metaverse. Brands may create their own private metaverses, serving their clients in one or many different metaverses. The metaverse will be both niche and big.
Brands already in the metaverse are aware that it, like all new technologies, offers the promise of high rewards. But that also comes with considerable risk. All new technologies will have teething problems. For example, the lack of standards, questions about content moderation, reliability and other issues. Brands need to know that they face a very real possibility of failure. But, the rewards of success beat anything they will have tried since the advent of the mobile internet.
The embodied nature of the metaverse presents unique challenges to brands. You have to be able to tell a story in a way that is both immersive and has the semblance of being real. Even if it does not look like anything in reality. In fact, the metaverse really offers creatives a chance to build on a scale they have never attempted before. This will be a real test of imagination. Especially because the metaverse is, in many ways, a form of escape. So it has to really give people something materially different from what they see on a daily basis in order for them to get hooked. Brands that can deploy their creativity effectively over the metaverse will inevitably do well.