The journey to a fully realised virtual world will require many step changes in social, economic, and technological trends to allow mass adoption. Most people understand the notion of a virtual world (Ready Player One or World of Warcraft) but accessing the metaverse, economising it, and being a part of its evolution is provoking a tremendous amount of discourse with people vying for their slice of the virtual pie.
Why every brand should consider a metaverse strategy
No brand wants to be left behind,especially at the beginning of a huge societal shift towards a virtual world. We have seen the impact of remote working and virtualising and after two years, we are all finally adjusting to a new world order. There will be an ever more seismic change over time with the metaverse.
The way that Gen Y, Gen Z and now Gen A are interacting with technology has completely changed the way society will engage, not just with brands but with each other, in two or three decades time. This journey has already begun.
Which means, if brands don’t adapt to the technological needs of these generations now, it will be increasingly difficult to exist in the future. Brands that travel on the journey into the metaverse with their consumers and make incremental strategic changes to their marketing strategy will find the greatest success.
Preparing for the metaverse now
, we have seen a lot of brands asking about how they can be a part of the metaverse, especially those brands with physical products. Advertising in the metaverse will be more immersive, engaging and interactive than ever before. Which means, having digital twins of your products will be critical. This is something that the automotive industry has been doing for years.
When automotive brands moved to a full CGI approach, instead of physically taking a car to a set and shooting it, they started to create virtual garages of their cars. 3D models of every spec, colour and trim available. The result: whenever they need to “shoot” a certain car, they simply drop the CGI model into a live action backplate, print image or social campaign. It’s much faster and far more efficient. Most importantly, it opens a world of possibilities for interactive mediums such as trade shows, conventions, and online configurators. The holy grail of reusable assets across all your marketing touch points with improved speed and efficacy.
This same principle can be applied to any product. It can be digitised and stored in a virtual garage or what we call a “digital twin”, ready to go for people to interact with in any virtual world.
The great thing about digitising your products now is that, just like automotive brands, you can still drive efficiencies for your traditional linear marketing with virtual garaging – as well as prepare for the future. It’s not a wasted endeavor regardless of how the metaverse pans out.
Brands that step forward will be at the forefront of thought leadership and consumer engagement. And even if you don’t have something to sell today, having a strategy and a roadmap to sell it in the future is critical.
Consumer engagement in the metaverse
One of the most interesting concepts surrounding the metaverse is the virtual economy, and that economy already exists in gaming. We’ve seen gaming economies such as Fortnite, League of Legends and more evolve at a rapid pace with microtransactions and in-game purchases. And we know that the metaverse is going to be particularly reliant on cryptocurrency and NFTs. The principles already exist, it’s just spotting the opportunity.
Having a strategy to engage these generations in the digital worlds they are currently living in can help brands journey to the metaverse alongside their target audiences. Developing a branded skin for Fortnite as a retail brand or sponsoring a gaming event can help brand perception and sentiment and is a way to align your brand with Gen Y, Gen Z and Gen A. Acquisitions in the gaming space such as Microsoft acquiring Activision for $70b USD forecasts how important this space will be in the future.
Engagement extends to the avatar economy also, which will span across sectors from retail and F&B to wellness and healthcare. How will people dress themselves in the metaverse? How will they dress for virtual work meetings vs gaming? Different outfits and inventory setups for different needs. If I have that one pair of sneakers in the real world, how do I purchase them in the virtual world to match my physical image or will I want to embrace a different physical image in the virtual world and how will that look? For brands to be prepared to cater to the avatar economy, they must be thinking in terms of digitising productions.
How to create a seamless metaverse experience offline to online
Data is one of the biggest commodities in our global economy. The amount of data that has been collected on each one of us is going to be a huge driver in bridging the virtual world with the real world. We will be more targeted, more localised, more specific, and hyper relevant to consumers in the advertising space moving forwards. Think of this as an evolution to precision marketing.
Although there is potential for future generations to be completely absorbed in the metaverse, it will still require for the body to exist in the real world - we will still need to feed ourselves and keep ourselves healthy. Healthcare and wellness brands could be tapping into that.
We've seen the prevalence of telemedicine in the last few years. You can have an online appointment with your doctor now. You can get your prescriptions digitally and delivered straight to your door. There are so many ways that we can digitise the healthcare process in the virtual world to make the experience more engaging for consumers and more convenient, improving access to medicine for those that are typically disadvantaged or in remote communities.
Another aspect for the healthcare sector is device. To engage in the metaverse, we need to be attached to it through a wearable. These devices track motion, eye movement, heart rate, blood pressure, and so on. All this captured data could be utilised by healthcare providers for things like diagnosis which opens up a huge world for device manufacturers to support virtualising the medical experience.
Sports and fitness are another example. Say you wanted to attend a cycling tour in the metaverse. Well, how do you experience cycling without physically sitting on a bike in the real world? We will still need these products in our physical spaces to get over the biggest barrier of creating realistic sensation in the virtual world.
What are some of the biggest obstacles in the development of the metaverse?
One of our biggest challenges right now is the development of sensory technology that can interact with our minds. It is a huge evolutionary step to making the virtual world hyper real. Haptic feedback that will help us experience the physicality of picking something up and touching it. Mapping our real-world spaces and rendering them in real-time virtually so that we can walk around our physical world very accurately without bumping into walls or falling downstairs. We've seen some evolution in this area with Apple's AR technology and Tesla's self-driving technologies using Lidar. But it needs to become much more sophisticated.
Ultimately, we also need to see an evolution of content creators and world builders – building a whole world is unbelievably nuanced and complex, which will open up a very big learning economy - college courses, new syllabuses, and education structures to help create the content of the metaverse. Facebook is backing this with an investment of $150 million into education to assist with tech development and to train people to use augmented and virtual reality tools.
What role does creative production have to play?
Creative production is the literal foundation of the metaverse. Without creators it can't exist. The crowd sourcing approach to production is critical to its success. Sure, big players such as Unreal and Unity will provide world building technologies but content creators and the creator economy will be huge. If we know one thing from the current generation is that they want to be part of the creative process. What’s more fun than building worlds?
On an enterprise or brand level, as we look specifically at the part that Tag has to play, it's to help brands be the gatekeepers to their digital brand. Helping them digitise products whilst maintaining their “virtual garage” into the future. We have to help brands produce more localised, more meaningful and more interactive and engaging marketing channels and techniques using their digital products to bridge the gap between the here and now and the virtual world.
Just as brands have to take their consumers on a journey from the real world to the virtual one, we have to take brands on that journey also to enable their success.