In this guest post, Codi Agency and LISNIC.Com founder Lisa Teh (main photo) talks about how Facebook’s proposed Metaverse will change the way brands market and engage with their customers…
When Mark Zuckerberg comes out and says Facebook will be investing $50M and hiring 10,000 people to develop their metaverse, you know that it’s no longer something you can ignore.
But let’s take a step back because if you’re wondering what the metaverse actually is, you’re not alone. The term actually came from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash where he used the term to describe a 3D virtual world inhabited by avatars of real people. While there is no universally accepted definition of the word, broadly it describes an online world where social media, virtual and augmented reality collide. Zuckerberg calls it the next evolution of social technology, and he’s not wrong.
In more simple terms, imagine you are on a website looking at products. If someone on the other side of the world was on the same website, you wouldn’t know. If you were in the metaverse however, you would be on the site as your avatars and could talk and ask each other questions about products. It brings the concept of community to a whole new level.
When it comes to building out the metaverse, the gaming industry has really led the charge, with companies such as Roblox, Fortnite and Animal Crossing blurring the lines between the real and virtual worlds to great effect. For example, Roblox and Fortnite have redefined the concepts of concerts. In late 2020, Lil Nas X (who found fame after his song ‘Old Town Road’ went viral on TikTok) held four shows over two days that had 33 million views. Not to be outdone, Fortnite partnered with Travis Scott for five shows which drew 45.8 million views in total. These artists would literally have to be holding concerts everyday for the rest of their lives just to reach anywhere near these numbers in real life.
But it’s not just the gaming world that’s having all the fun. Some of the world’s biggest brands have jumped into the metaverse with mind blowing results. Balenciaga Creative Director Demna Gvasalia who is no stranger to pushing boundaries (Kim Kardashian’s full black 2021 Met Gala look anyone?) recently collaborated with Epic Games the developers behind Fortnite on an ambitious collaboration that straddled the real and online world.
Four of Fornite’s most popular characters were decked out in head to toe Balenciaga. These looks were then featured on digital billboards around the world and people were able to not only buy the collection for their avatar, but they could purchase the styles in Balenciaga boutiques. This not only meant they could match their online avatars, but it gave them an opportunity to flex at scale. If you own a physical Balenciaga hoodie, anyone seeing you in the real world will know, but imagine owning a Balenciaga hoodie in the metaverse. Suddenly millions of people all around the world could see your fashion creds.
There is no doubt the pandemic accelerated the evolution of ecommerce, but with the metaverse on the rise, this has been further accelerated again. There has been a shift from people buying online to people buying online things.
Crypto has gone mainstream thanks to the likes of Elon Musk (who can affect markets and prices with a single tweet) and the rise of non-fungible tokens (or NFTs as they are more commonly known). They have helped commercialise crypto in a way that has never been seen before.
If you’re thinking WTF is an NFT, I don’t blame you. To be honest, it’s a bit of a hard one to wrap your head around. The concept of “non-fungible” means something that is unique and can’t be replicated. Something like money for example is fungible as you can have lots of coins that all represent one dollar.
What NFTs really represent is ownership of a specific asset, generally a digital one. And people will pay a lot of money for this ownership. For example, Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey sold the NFT of his first tweet for $2.9 million and yes, that’s USD. This is just the beginning of the digital asset revolution.
OpenSea, the eBay for NFTs recently saw $95 million of NFTs traded in two days on the platform. To give you some context, in 2020, they did $25 millions for the whole year. In August 2021 alone they saw $3B in NFTs traded through the platform. In the same period, eBay did $8 billion in sales and they have been around for significantly longer. Now OpenSea and the NFT industry hasn’t come without scandal. The fact that it’s unregulated has led to people buying NFTs that have no value as they aren’t the original asset. OpenSea also attracted heat for apparent “insider trading” which saw it implement a raft of new policies internally to combat this problem.
Ok, so all this information is great I hear you say, but if you’re a brand or marketer, what are the key things to know if you are looking to break into the metaverse or dip your toe in the world of NFTs?
Firstly, there is a huge first to market opportunity in the space. Yes some of the world’s biggest brands have activated in the space, but it still makes for a juicy PR op when you are one of the first if not THE first in your industry to cross over into the virtual world.
The metaverse and NFT world is very community driven. The more you have, or build an engaged community, the more successful your foray into the metaverse will be. Look at marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk for example. He has made millions selling NFTs with his VeeFriends collection. He has outwardly said he is betting everything on NFTs and will not let this project fail. He spends hours in his VeeFriends Discord (think Slack for the gaming world) regularly engaging with his active community.
Crypto has always raised sustainability concerns given the environmental impact of mining the currency so if you are a brand who is vocal about your focus on the environment, there platforms you can partner with to offset the carbon footprint of transactions. This was something done by beauty brand E.l.f did when it minted an NFT only cosmetics collection which quickly sold out.
The metaverse and NFTs give brands a unique opportunity to collaborate with creatives. Gucci for example partnered with Roblox creator Rook Vanguard to design virtual items for their Gucci Garden. Visitors to the Garden were able to purchase limited edition avatar items from the store.
The concept of the metaverse is still in its infancy, and with brands like Facebook pushing it more mainstream, there will no doubt be extensive leaps and bounds in the space over the coming months. While marketing in the metaverse will not replace marketing in the physical world, there is no doubt there is an opportunity for both to co-exist and feed off each other, leading to even more opportunities for brands to build an engaged community all over the world.
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