Once every decade or so, something new comes along to transform the marketing industry. If you draw a through-line from radio and television to the advent of the internet and, most recently, digital channels like search, social and mobile, you’d find one common principle: that early adopters’ advantage pays off handsomely for the businesses who master new, paradigm-shaking channels early enough.
Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be surprised to see so many companies diving headfirst into the metaverse. Although at this early stage it shouldn’t be a surprise to see some of them stumble and fail in their attempts, the potential of the metaverse to define the winners and losers of digital marketing for decades to come is too enormous to ignore. And it seems more likely than not that the eventual winners will be found among brands who are already testing it out.
Even though the concept for the “metaverse” is hard to pin down, as of yet it exists mainly as a loose and amorphous web of 3D gaming platforms, VR worlds, and AR experiences—brands like Nike, Gucci and Disney have signaled their intention to commit to it.
And they’re not alone. Hiring for metaverse-related jobs had already spiked more than 400% this year even before Facebook went all in and changed its name to Meta, with the overall market size of the metaverse projected to grow at nearly 44% over the next seven years.
Why all the fuss? What is it that makes the metaverse so alluring to brands, and why do so many feel that it’s worth taking such large bets on?
One major reason is it merges the best of the physical and digital worlds to impact the way people work, play, learn, socialize, shop, and generally communicate with one another. Beyond that, there are several other important reasons that the metaverse stands to reshape digital marketing.
Consumers crave experiences
Today’s consumers have grown tired of the static display and video ads that permeate the web and social media. They crave rich, interactive, immersive experiences. With most consumers no longer content to just sit back and be marketed to, they prefer to play a role in defining a brand and to have a say in what it means to them.
The metaverse is built on such experiences. By its very nature, you don’t necessarily watch or view the metaverse but you’re also an active contributor. Your very presence in it helps change it in ways both large and small. The metaverse replaces the flat, two-dimensional world of the web with a 3D (or in some cases even 4D) experience that is much more real lifelike, but this time only without any of the pesky rules of quantum physics. Brands are flocking to the metaverse because the types of experiences that can be created there are practically limitless. This is the most creative world brought to life and brands want to be a part of it.
The entire customer journey can happen within the metaverse
Previous paradigm-shifting channels such as search and social generally catered to just one part of the customer journey. The AIDA (awareness, information, decision, and action) model. For example, search is great at identifying mid- to low-funnel prospects who are already in the information and evaluation stage, but very poor at helping raise awareness and shape perceptions at the top of the funnel. On the other hand, social has always been very good at the latter but, at least until “social commerce” became a recent trend, relatively poor at the former.
However, the metaverse contains opportunities that affect the entire customer journey in a streamlined way. The metaverse allows brands to reach new audiences in new and inventive ways while enabling them to dig deeper, learn more and ultimately make purchases, all in a single, cohesive experience.
It takes co-creation to the next level
Marketers have been striving to involve consumers in the co-creation of user-generated content for practically as long as the term has existed. It is a marketer’s dream to have consumers creating, publishing, and sharing content featuring their brand, but one major challenge has always been how to encourage co-creation in a way that feels authentic and meaningful.
The metaverse enables brands and consumers to co-create content in ways that we haven’t even discovered yet. The metaverse enables brands and consumers to co-create content in ways that were never possible before—and in ways that we haven’t even discovered yet. As the metaverse unfolds, the co-creation of virtual environments, avatars, and experiences will define a new era of UGC (user-generated content)
It powers inclusivity, diversity, and representation
Within the last year or two, there has been a movement to bring more inclusivity and diversity to marketing. A survey from Meta found that 71% of consumers expect brands to promote diversity and inclusion in their online advertising, and yet that same report says the majority (54%) of consumers do not feel fully represented in online ads.
In the metaverse, we can create our own experiences and are at the center of our digital worlds. Through the metaverse, marketers will be able to inject their brands into a consumer’s experience in a way that makes each consumer the star of their show.
Instead of seeing famous actors, models, or rap artists hawking the latest styles, in the metaverse a clothing or fashion brand, for example, can allow each of us to try on their latest looks. If we like it, we can send it to our friends, who may be more likely to engage with the content than if it featured a celebrity they don’t know personally.
If people feel underrepresented in advertising, what better way to represent them than to do so directly, by featuring them in the brand experience itself? We see this today through many of the AR experiences found on social media.