‘Metaverse’. It’s a word which, as of late, seems to be popping up more and more frequently. But despite its prevalence, the definition of what it is still often seems to be up for debate. According to Lareina Yee of McKinsey and Company, the metaverse is “the next platform on which we can work, live, connect, and collaborate.” Describing it as an “immersive virtual environment that connects different worlds and communities,” it comes as no surprise that brands would want to capitalise on this newfound opportunity. But how?
Enter Momentum Worldwide. As metaverse partners to the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As), Momentum conducted global research using quantitative and qualitative methods to study 4,500 participants from seven countries (Canada, Japan, MENA, Mexico, Spain, the UK and the US), in order to analyse the human side of consumer activities in the metaverse.
What they discovered was that consumers are now looking to the metaverse to fill three core aspects of life - inspiration, individuality and inclusion. And for a country like Canada, this led to some interesting discoveries:
- 73% of Canadians find the metaverse to be a much more inclusive place then the ‘real world’
- 66% had no idea they had been in the metaverse all this time
- 85% like that they can change their appearance as they desire
- 76% say their friends within the space accept them for who they are rather than what they look like
With over $120 billion invested (worldwide) in building metaverse technology and infrastructure in 2022 alone, it comes as no surprise that Canadian brands would want to know more about this new information - and perhaps more importantly - how it can be used when designing new brand strategies.
LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Momentum Worldwide VP business strategy, Canada, Ian Kapasi to learn more.
LBB> How did the idea of the metaverse study come about? Was there specific data you were hoping to find?
Ian> Developed over 10 years ago, Momentum Worldwide’s ‘WE KNOW’ series is a place where we explore - in detail - specific topics that are of interest to our clients and industry areas. We understand that the metaverse has already had a significant impact on our industry, so it’s important to have a holistic understanding of it.
For the ‘WE KNOW Metaverse’, we used this as an opportunity to gain a better understanding about the people who were motivated to use the platforms, as we felt this was an area where there was a lack of knowledge. This served as the focus for our study.
LBB> How did you go about executing the research? Who was involved in making it happen, both on the Momentum Worldwide and 4A side, but also on the respondent side?
Ian> From the research team to the strategists, business leaders, CSO and CEO, we all work together to ensure the research is beneficial to both our clients and our entire agency.
We conduct extensive research to uncover what insights are already available, in order to make sure our research is unique and will provide new content. We surveyed over 4,500 respondents across seven countries to share their thoughts via a quantitative study.
To be involved, respondents were required to visit a metaverse platform weekly. A ‘meta curious’ sample (those currently not on any metaverse platforms, but interested) was also collected for comparison purposes. The word ‘metaverse’ was not mentioned until the end of the survey to eliminate bias or confusion for some respondents, adding to the uniqueness of our research.
Once the survey was closed, we followed up with 100 qualitative global video surveys to add more colour and texture.
LBB> Did you have any preconceived expectations for what the results would be? If so, what were they, and why?
Ian> We worked to enter this study with as few expectations as possible. The only exception was that we anticipated being surprised. One of the biggest challenges we face as marketers and agencies is that the metaverse is yet to be clearly defined, especially in a way that most consumers feel confident about.
We’re all working to cut through the hype, in order to understand the full picture and implications of what web3 means for our brands, our consumers and society as whole. That’s why we focused our work on an area few were exploring - putting technology and tools aside and instead, turning our lens towards the people that make this world so powerful and exciting.
LBB> The big headline number is that 73% of Canadians feel more included in the metaverse than in real life. Can you tell us more about this? What constitutes ‘more included’? And what makes the metaverse more appealing?
Ian> It can be challenging for people to feel comfortable fully expressing themselves to others. Whether it’s real or perceived, people worry about being judged for a number of reasons - many of which don’t apply when in virtual spaces.
The metaverse is a place where people can explore the boundaries of how they express themselves. When they find their communities, their affinity is based on that self-expression and the relationships they build in the community. For many, it’s a place where they are included based not on looks, income or education, but talents, shared interests and the connections they make with each other.
LBB> Can you explain what a ‘metaverse identity’ is? How are identity and personality separate? And how do brands navigate and use that information?
Ian> The idea of an avatar, screen name or ‘persona’ is nothing new, but the metaverse has truly allowed people to build new identities for themselves. A ‘meta identity’ can be seen in a number of ways. It can mean being seen as an expert in a field like crypto or NFTs across communities, even if in ‘real life’, you’re a student. It can mean the domination of a gaming world for a Twitch streamer, or it could even be someone who teaches dancing skills or sells avatar fashions in ‘VRChat’. Ultimately, it’s how others see you in your corner of the metaverse.
The difference between online persona and traditional personality isn’t all that different either. We dress for occasions and we avoid certain topics based on our audience, but who we are isn’t static. We respond to our environment and the company we keep. As an example, our research showed that the majority of respondents felt more comfortable being extroverted in these spaces than in real life, and found making new friends to be much easier. It’s not that people have different personalities in the metaverse, they just feel freer to be the parts of themselves that they hold back on in real life.
This presents a unique challenge - and opportunity - for brands looking to play in this space, as much of the psychographic information we have on consumers doesn’t translate as easily. The metaverse lets consumers be their most aspirational selves, and a lot of the challenges and barriers they face don’t exist in the same way.
What it does, however, is allow brands to do the same thing: express parts of their brand identity in new and exciting ways, experiment and play, and allow for more collaboration with their consumers in this space.
LBB> What were the most interesting things you learned from the study? And what was the most surprising?
Ian> The most interesting thing is that the research challenged a lot of our beliefs about the ‘who’ and ‘where’ that make up the metaverse. We have this perception that people in this world are solely hard-core gamers, highly tech-savvy, or very focused on crypto and NFTs. In reality, the metaverse is actually a wide-reaching series of channels, platforms, games and technologies that anyone can - and does - participate in. Whomever your brand is trying to reach, they have a corner of the metaverse to call their own.
That led us to a very surprising finding: these consumers actually welcome brands playing in their spaces, as long as they are adding to the experience and considering what is valuable to them. This goes against a lot of prior research around advertising in niche markets and online communities. Mobile gamers, for example, have long accepted that advertising helps pay for their experiences; a way to play. Most meta consumers, however, look forward to having engaging brand experiences designed with them in mind.
LBB> How can Canadian brands learn from and use this research going forward?
Ian> At Momentum Worldwide, we believe that it’s what brands do that matters, whether it’s in real life or the metaverse. The most important takeaway which we believe brands can benefit from is that, to the majority of consumers in the space, they don’t place a lesser value on their experiences because they are virtual.
We should release our idea that the metaverse is experimental, high-tech, and science fiction for a few people or a handful of niche demographics. Brands should embrace it as another space to create experiences, another channel to integrate into their communications, or a place to explore new ways to build more meaning.
The platforms, play and relationships users experience in the metaverse have just as much meaning as those they have offline. When you partner that with the amount of time and exploration people commit to the space, you have a huge opportunity to not only meet people where they want to be (one in which they’ll be open to engaging with you), but you’ll also get to explore a place that will deliver the same returns as conventional campaign tactics.
LBB> Canadian advertising is gradually making a bigger global impression. How can Canadian brands best use the metaverse to make a larger international impact?
Ian> What is amazing about this space is that it is borderless. Our research shows many similarities among the groups of people who are active in these spaces. The audiences in the metaverse are connecting over shared identities, passions and pursuits, and your abilities to enhance that experience for them transcends location. Solving a problem for a group in the metaverse is inherently solving a problem for a global cohort, and as we know, internet culture spreads quickly. Canada is often used as a pilot market, so there is more of an appetite to do something first here and then scale, which sets the conditions for Canadian metaverse work to have a global impact.
LBB> Has Momentum been involved in many metaverse projects? If so, which has been the most creatively challenging or fulfilling? Which has been your favourite to work on? Please give us some examples with links and a paragraph about the project(s).
Ian> Momentum Worldwide has helped some of the biggest companies in the world make an impact in the metaverse. There was our work with American Express to aid small businesses in coming together to get the resources they needed to survive and grow during the pandemic, the creation of the AMEX Campus metaverse, helping Verizon partner with ‘Fortnite’ to bring Super Bowl fans into the metaverse to experience all the action on the virtual field, and our work with Chevrolet to create the first virtual product specialist to help a new wave of EV consumers overcome barriers to start their EV journeys. In short, Momentum Worldwide has found fulfilment in helping our clients do what was once impossible. As we all know, doing something for the first time can be an apprehensive and challenge-filled experience, but seeing consumers embrace the final product is the most fulfilling part of building any experience.
LBB> How has the information gained from the study affected the way Momentum Worldwide will be working in the future? Are there any new projects you’ll be taking on as a result of this?
Ian> Momentum Worldwide is an agency that specialises in building creative experiences on behalf of brands. The information gleaned from this study showed us that consumer expectations for the metaverse are the same as their expectation for real life experiences. They want something new and unexpected that they can be a part of, they want something that feels personalised just for them, and they want something as a result of participating. The metaverse is simply another place for brands to engage with their consumers through the creation of an experience.
This philosophy is something that we’re bringing to every project. Consumers are gravitating towards these digital spaces more and more, and that’s why we are considering the metaverse a starting point for engagement.