The early part of the coronavirus pandemic made staying home and conducting life digitally commonplace for nearly all of us. As augmented reality moved onto our phones to become second nature and virtual reality hardware gained in acceptance, the future wants us to take yet another step — right into the metaverse.
The metaverse is thus far more of a concept, embodying a set of experiences in immersive virtual reality worlds where people can interact and exist. Companies like Epic, which owns Fortnite, have adopted the terminology to describe the worlds inside their video games, and social media platforms like Meta are touting their plans to help create the future. It’s clear that we are quickly advancing on this front toward an unprecedented reality (or set of realities).
Where does this lead marketers?
How will marketers reach audiences in the metaverse?
Virtual influencers are already here, and the metaverse is a natural fit for them.
The Influencer Marketing Factory reports that the virtual influencer market hit $4.6 billion in 2018 and was expected to grow 25% annually through 2025. Lil Miquela, a character that was created using CGI, received some notoriety for a kiss with a real person in a Calvin Klein campaign. But she’s not the only big time virtual influencer, and some of them are earning millions for their creators.
Yoox, an online luxury discount site that created virtual influencer Daisy, is among the brands with plans to move their virtual influencers into the metaverse.
“Gen Z and millennials don’t see a separation between the digital world and the physical one,” Manuela Strippoli, the company’s communications director, told Vogue Business earlier this year.
The role of agencies in the metaverse
In the early days of social media, leading edge marketers became social media consultants. Big agencies snatched them up to take advantage of the growing opportunity, and dedicated social media agencies also emerged.
Weber Shandwick hired Jeremy Pepper to help start its social and digital media communications practice in 2006. Maggie Fox’s Social Media Group as well as Jim Tobin’s Ignite Social Media became some of the first specialty agencies to offer social media counsel and services to brands.
We should expect to see the same for the metaverse.
In fact, some specialty agencies have already emerged, and some large agencies are building out their virtual and metaverse practices. Just do a Google search of phrases like “metaverse agency” and “metaverse consultant,” and you’ll see what I mean.
So, if you’re a brand that’s not too sure about the metaverse, you have agencies to help you get started -– and help you decide how soon (or whether) to take those capabilities in house.
Everything old is new again
In real life or virtual ones, marketers will always seek out consumers. Wherever you see or experience ads in real life, you should expect the same in any virtual world.
Snapchat Lens already has many of us accustomed to trying on funny faces, and many people are used to trying on make-up virtually now thanks to brands like M.A.C. Cosmetics. Many companies are taking virtual and augmented experiences beyond the phone too, such as in this recent PepsiCo bus-stop campaign.
You can’t even play some video games without seeing an ad.
As we dive deeper into the metaverse, there are plenty of meta opportunities for marketing, such as on metaverse billboards.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the revolutionary nature of these technologies, it’s important to remember that the fundamentals of return on investment and key performance indicators still stand in these virtual opportunities. Smart marketers will thrive in any reality if they focus on meshing their needs with their audiences’ needs to create valued experiences.
Or, as VMLY&R’s Karen Boswell recently told Adweek, “To thrive, brands must create safe, inclusive, human-led experiences.”
“As with any investment in good experiences that answer a need,” she noted, “the return will follow.”