Metaverse for Brands. Is The Future Already Here?
14 Steptember 2021
“In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-aka the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS.”
This is the IMDB summary of a motion picture by Warner Bros released in the year 2018. The movie was called “Ready Player One”. If you are not a gamer, I suggest you watch Ready Player One, or read the novel by the same name, to understand metaverse and NFTs in a much more layman way.
Ready? Let’s start with simplifying the concept of metaverse.
Most of us know how to use the internet, and we also know where to go to access certain information. Like social media websites or apps for social media needs, news portals to get a refresher on the latest happenings, video apps to entertain yourself. To access most of these platforms, you need to create an identity which may be unique to that particular platform.
Metaverse is the unification of the internet, where all these platforms are connected and you only have one identity to access anything. In really simple worlds, it’s just like how the universe is. Where you see everything happening in real-time, and you have your identity which is unique to you. How you present yourself, i.e the type of clothes you wear, hair-style and tattoos you have, represents you no matter where you go - from your local grocery shop to a beachside bar thousands of kilometers away. It’s the same concept, but in a virtual world. Hence the word, metaverse - Meta (beyond) Verse (Short for universe), a collection of all virtual worlds.
The movie, Ready Player One, was released in 2018, but it’s based on Ernest Cline’s sci-fi novel of the same name, which came out in 2011. The concept of metaverse has existed for quite some time now, especially in video games. But most video games have a universe (or metaverse) of their own. You can create an identity or a persona in a game like Fortnite, and use it to do whatever the game permits within the boundaries of that particular game. Wear unique clothes, fight, have a dance party, chat, build massive structures, and many more. The issue is that you cannot bring all the stuff you did within the game to another world (or another game). That’s where the metaverse makes it whole, by connecting all these virtual worlds together.
Imagine you build a nice pyramid in a game like Minecraft by spending countless hours. You can visit your pyramid anytime you want, but within the Minecraft universe. Metaverse will allow you to actually bring that pyramid with you to a deathmatch or a dance party in fortnite. How cool is that?
Since we are in the marketing industry (digital to be specific) everything that happens in the online world gets our curiosity. We are all trying to sell something, so why not inside the metaverse as well? The concept is still in its infancy, and there are a lot of informational and skill gaps in the marketing world to make this happen seamlessly. But let’s look at the simple ways metaverses could be integrated with marketing. Brands can start with simply being present in the metaverse by sponsoring assets, or engage with the communities by creating virtual events. It could be used for lower parts of the funnel, by letting people exchange their virtual assets in the real world. For internet companies, it’s even easier, because transactions can be completed within the metaverse if there are no physical goods to be sold.
Then there are NFTs or Non-fungible tokens. The idea behind NFTs is to have unique digital assets stored in blockchain, so there is no duplication and no theft. These NFTs can represent any digital items like photos, videos, documents, or any other digital files. Since it’s backed by blockchain, it guarantees genuinity and uniqueness. This means that the clothes my “avatar” is wearing is a NFT, and hence unique. No one can wear the same clothes in the metaverse.
Brands can use NFTs to give away unique items to their potential customers, or even have NFT based brands stored in the metaverse which people can trust to be genuine.
The adoption of metaverse in the marketing world will take some time because of two main reasons. First, the entry is complicated, and the information available on the internet is usually by the geeks and for the geeks. Even if there is interest from big brands, there is a big gap between the demand and supply of information. Second, trying out anything new is not for everyone, especially the big legacy brands. And it’s not because they couldn’t, but they wouldn’t because of the amount of dinosaurs with ancient knowledge involved in the decision making.
For legacy brands, it was already difficult to switch from the traditional sales model to e-commerce. But with the forced digitization due to the pandemic, they had no other option but to consider Digital as one of the key channels for sales and marketing. Things have changed for good, because most legacy brands have started trusting digital as the new normal. This new mentality will help convince a lot of legacy brands to try new and different things, like metaverse. Most brands care about numbers, and till there are numbers involved, I don’t think it’ll be too difficult to justify the ROI behind entering a new space.
Just like most things on the internet, since it’s not that difficult to put ones and zeros to the outcome, I think it’ll come down to how you are going to measure results from your activities within the metaverse.
I remember the days when Facebook first launched ads, and it wasn’t easy to convince brands to try reaching out to their potential customers on the platform. But due to the trust built by the performance delivered by Facebook, it was easier to buy Instagram, and it wasn’t that difficult for TikTok as well. So it’s all about starting a trend. It’ll be slow, and it’ll be hard to find the first brand to experiment with the idea. But it’ll definitely pick up pace, as more brands understand the importance of being present in the metaverse.
Let’s play a game. Which brands and industries do you think would be the first one to adopt metaverses?
The most obvious choices would be companies who are into video games, internet based companies, technology firms. But it’ll be difficult for most brands, or to be specific, the people who manage those brands to understand the concept of Metaverse and to use it properly. If a brand is present in the real universe, it can be present in the virtual universe or metaverse, doing pretty much the same thing.
With more people joining the metaverse everyday, it’s not far when brands can find the same reach and awareness within the metaverse as they do with the real world. I can imagine Coke with a NFT within the metaverse, which is a building the size of burj khalifa. Or imagine people buying a Louis Vuitton NFT for their metaverse avatars knowing it’s a unique jacket they’re wearing. But for brands who are into categories like F&B, it’ll be more about top funnel.
Brands who are into providing services or e-commerce can also tap into actual sales driven campaigns. Metaverse will be relevant for all brands in different capacities. The bigger question is, who will use it in the most effective way. At REISE, we have partnered with Dapp-Craft, a full-cycle production studio creating experiences for metaverses. We help create the NFTs for brands who are interested in entering the metaverse.
While brainstorming marketing ideas with the brilliant Dapp-craft team, and us coming from a Digital Marketing background - one of the biggest concerns we have is the ROI behind doing all these things. In the end our job is sales and marketing, and everything is measured by returns. Right now, most virtual worlds are busy bringing the end-users into the metaverse platforms. Things are picking up around the globe, but the volumes are still not big enough for companies to focus on developing proper measurements. The brands who are playing with the idea of metaverse, and have their presence marked using their unique NFTs, are the fast mover brands. The focus is not to get a direct ROI, but to be the first. Of course there are basic metrics like number of active users, which can help calculate your effective reach, but in most cases it’s about being the first. For e-commerce enabled clients it’s much easier to calculate the direct ROI, still, there are no complex measurements and reports available.
Not just the measurement and ROI, but before we get into discussing the mass adoption of metaverse, we need to think about the hardware and connectivity requirements.
I remember, and I think IMVU is one of the first examples of the beginning of metaverses. You can create an avatar using the platform, and use it across any instant messenger. Back then, we used to have dial-up internet connections in most parts of the world, which was enough for platforms like IMVU and IMs to work seamlessly.
For any gamers, it’s not the opposing team who is the real enemy, it’s the lag because of the internet speed. We are so used to experiencing virtual worlds in HD and 4K, that kilobyte sized images just won’t do. And it’s not just simple JPEG or PNG images anymore. Think about all the size consumed by files created by Augmented And Virtual reality.
It’s not just the media that needs high speed connections, the era of local data processing is ending, and most devices have started relying on virtual data processing. What this means is, that it’s not just the images and videos devices are downloading, it’s the whole data stream. With metaverse living on the cloud internet, the biggest hurdle for it would have been connectivity. Your hardware won’t matter much apart from rendering whatever you get from the servers, but you’ll need high speed internet for seamless connections with these servers. That’s where the role of 5G is bigger than ever for two simple reasons. First, people like staying mobile, so they need it on their smartphones. Second, these smartphones will need constant and reliable connections to the metaverse servers.
Alternative and critical thinking is always necessary when judging the pros and cons of anything which we claim to be the future of technology. Companies have been trying to create a metaverse for quite some time now. But with Facebook’s announcement of becoming a metaverse company within the next few years, I am pretty sure it’ll bring curiosity to the big brands. There will be some noise, and some positive progress towards a true metaverse. My biggest concern is the creation of multiple metaverses, which will defy the whole point of metaverse. Multiple siloed metaverses is the exact opposite of the idea of metaverse. Then it’s just multiple virtual worlds, where you need to create an identity unique to each of the worlds you join. It was difficult enough to have omni-channel and omni-platform tracking and attribution, and we are still trying to figure that out. The same can happen to the idea of metaverse, and that’s something tech giants need to think about. For a true metaverse to happen, most companies who have monopolized the markets will need to stay away from trying to monopolize the metaverse, else it’ll fail.
P.s. The Ready Player Two novel is already out, and a movie is in the works if you believe the rumors 😉
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