What do brands need to about the metaverse’s current and future role in communications, customer connections, marketing and brand awareness? David Craik investigates
Popping down to the high street is proving to be a different experience in 2022. This isn’t the main street of old anymore, with its grocers, butchers, identikit clothing brand stores and the ever-present person feeding the pigeons.
This is the metaverse; a completely manufactured virtual reality space that blends the computer with the individual.
The examples of brands engaging with their audiences through a digital universe are abounding. Fashion brand Forever 21 is a prime example of how the retail experience is embracing the future. It has recently teamed up with metaverse focused Virtual Brand Group and Roblox to create a game called the Forever 21 Shop City experience where users – or at least their virtual avatars – can build and operate their own personal stores. They can also buy and sell Forever 21 clothes, hire employees, manage inventory and decorate storefront windows.
Sportswear giant Nike also has a space on Roblox called Nikeland where users can play games and find sometimes exclusive collections of shoes, clothes and accessories which their avatar can wear on the site. In December 2021, Nike also bought non-fungible token (NFT) collectibles studio RTFKT to allow users to buy virtual sneakers to wear in the virtual world.
Estée Lauder teaming up with female artist Alex Box to create an original NFT based around its Advanced Night Repair product. According to Estée Lauder’s press release users on metaverse website Decentraland can step inside the ‘Little Brown Bottle’ to unlock a digital badge and claim one NFT wearable that gives “avatars a glowing, radiant aura.”
Aside from putting some oomph and excitement into a brand and engaging with younger users, the rush to the metaverse is clear when considering the growth forecasts.
A recent report from Citi, ‘Metaverse and Money,’ declared that the metaverse may be the next generation of the internet. It would combine the physical and digital worlds in an immersive manner with use cases including everything the internet is already used for today like gaming, e-commerce, art, media, advertising, smart manufacturing, health care, virtual communities and social collaboration.
A device agnostic metaverse, the report said, would be accessible via personal computers, game consoles and smartphones, resulting in a large ecosystem. As a result, it indicates that the total addressable market for the metaverse could be between $8tn and $13tn by 2030. Total metaverse users would number around five billion.
“Tell me a sector which is hotter than the metaverse right now. There is none,” says Justin Hochberg, CEO & founder of the Virtual Brand Group which helps firms – such as Forever 21 – build, operate and monetise the metaverse. “The Citi projection of $13tn is much larger than the valuation of Apple and other big tech firms and just shy of the US economy of $20tn. The marketplace is huge, and the opportunity is at the beginning.”
He says every brand should be looking at gaining exposure to the metaverse. “If I said to you today should my media publication or should my doughnut shop have an e-commerce strategy, there would be no doubt at all,” he says. “It may not be understood well enough, but we are exactly at the same point with the metaverse. If you are not spending time trying out aspects of the metaverse you are building an opportunity for an existing rival or startup to leave you in the dust.”
“You don’t have to be consumer-focused either. An insurance brand can go on to Decentraland and plant a seed for the next 10 years. Why not? It is there for you to shape it.”
To get onto the metaverse there are various options, from creating virtual stores or experiences on Roblox or Fortnite, to creating virtual structures and experiences on 3D sites such as Decentraland, or creating NFTs representing your brand, sponsoring events on the metaverse and, like Nike, making acquisitions.
Another option is to create a virtual office. That’s precisely what the Vice Media Group (VMG) has done on Decentraland. It brings employees together from multiple VMG businesses, like creative agency Virtue Worldwide. Clients and collaborators can meet for briefings, presentations and in-situ demonstrations of recent projects. “We will experiment together at the office on NFTs and Web 3.0 and apply these insights directly for brands eager to make an impact,” says Morten Grubak, global executive creative director of innovation at Virtue. “We will learn by doing and finding out what works and what doesn’t. Any client can contact us, and we will help them build a roadmap for the metaverse and get into this space.”
But brands have to have a clear strategy in order to reap the rewards of the metaverse.