What is the metaverse? And no, Facebook (now Meta) didn’t create it.
At its core, the metaverse is an evolution of the internet that supports a persistent
online 3D virtual environment, also known as virtual or augmented reality, that’s
accessible through a conventional personal computing environment. It’s not a new
or untested concept – ten years ago Second Life was ahead of its time building a
limited “metaverse.” Nowadays the notion is extremely prevalent. Platforms like
Roblox, Decentraland and Sandbox stand out as places to build up your own meta
worlds, customize avatars, communicate with friends, and explore a number of virtual
environments through meeting gaming objectives. Fictional movies like “Ready Player
One” and books like “Neuromancer” showcase some fantastical possibilities of what
metaverses could look like and how it might play out in society.
Earlier this year, Facebook rebranded to “Meta” and launched “Horizon World,”
a virtual world leveraging its Oculus device and leaving the door open to include
add-ons like a cryptocurrency stable coin, a Facebook/Instagram-style social
network, messaging application integrations (e.g., WhatsApp) and advertisements.
Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard for $68.7B in stake claims preparing for a virtual
future. But there is still a long way to go to realize a fully immersive metaverse that
integrates into daily life and has the potential to be mass adopted with both
consumer and business applications.
What does this mean for marketers?
Marketers have a wealth of options in the new metaverse. There are in-game product
placements, influencers, sponsorships, virtual stores, and virtual billboards to name
just a few. Marketers are partnering with companies like Roblox, Meta, and Fortnight
for advertising opportunities, and game developer platforms like BidStack to
streamline in-game ad placements for better reach. Just recently, Unilever leveraged in-game ads from Bidstack during popular soccer games. Brands like NASCAR, Gucci,
and Nike are partnering with Roblox to create virtual stores, custom environments
(e.g., Gucci Garden), and new integrated digital product placements tailored to
reach a young audience. Luxury clothing brand Balenciaga collaborated with Fortnite
to showcase its products in that ecosystem and European brand O2 went big by
throwing a virtual concert.
Marketers should expect a certain level of customization, adaption, and commitment
from an immersive platform and as a best practice, strive for as integrated a
placement as possible to maintain a quality execution and build/maintain credibility
with their target audience. New types of brand engagements can push creative
messaging and delivery. But scale is still very, very limited. As companies like Meta,
Roblox, Fortnite, and Second Life continue to innovate and invest in this space, there
will undoubtedly be more opportunities for marketers to push their creativity and
connect better with their audience than ever before.
H/L will – of course – vet any opportunities before ever recommending client
investment. See you in the metaverse!