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Exploring the metaverse: why experience-minded brands and agencies are poised to win

The world of the metaverse is an exciting opportunity for brands and agencies / Image via Jack Morton

In 18 months dominated by change, one opportunity has truly stood out as boom or bust – the metaverse. In the last month alone, we’ve heard metaverse mentions from brands as diverse as Facebook and Gucci. Everyone is trying to understand how to get involved.

The metaverse as a concept is decentralized – no one owns it. Therefore, there is no single definition of what it is or how brands should participate. This is both incredibly exciting and a little bit frightening.

The metaverse, fueled by emerging technologies, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, will continue to evolve rapidly over the next decade. For now, it is home only to creators and explorers – there are few actual inhabitants. It will require a rapid shift in behaviors to unlock the true potential of people spending time living, working and playing in the metaverse.

Ultimately, we’ll use a single identity that will allow us to move seamlessly across different environments in both the physical world and the metaverse. Until then, there are three significant trends fueling excitement for brands in this space right here, right now.

The first is platforms that are developing out of gaming, such as Fortnite and Roblox. The latter has 43.1 million daily active users and millions of shared experiences to participate in – concerts featuring Royal Blood, art installations from Gucci, a skatepark from Vans... the list goes on.

Next up are digital twins. Generally associated with virtual representations of physical spaces, this subject also covers things and people. The challenge is that the twin should accurately simulate the properties and behaviors of its physical basis to reflect changing states and interactions constantly. Volumetric capture and real-time 3D engines are leading the charge, with Unity’s HDRP and Unreal’s MetaHumans allowing creators to meet these challenges.

Finally, we have RTDX (real-time digital experience), where experiences are created by blending real-world environments with a world-aware, real-time digital layer. This layer brings together IRL and virtual experiences to make them more immersive, interactive and engaging. This space is exciting because it breaks the current restrictions a brand faces when limited to a physical space. Brands can think (literally) outside the box of footprints and floor plans.

With each of these trends and opportunities, the question is how to monetize them. Brands realize that the people who buy their digital products in the metaverse are not the same people who buy their physical products through retail channels.

What is clear is that we will continue to meet, gather and experience things in new and remarkably different ways via the metaverse. And have no doubt – this is a boom, not a bust. Experts estimate that the metaverse will one day be an economy that represents up to 10 times the total value of the entire current global economy. The advertising opportunity is significant, but the experience opportunity has the potential to be significantly more effective.

The key to monetizing experiences in the metaverse is no change from IRL. Brands must avoid jumping in for the novelty, but instead focus on providing value to drive an emotional connection with their audience. The experiences we can create and the brand loyalty we can build are limited only by our imagination.

The metaverse will be the biggest disruptor to our business since the birth of the experience economy. Brands that are willing to experiment in creating valuable experiences at the intersection of physical and virtual spaces will win.

Written with Shelley Elkins, chief creative officer, Jack Morton.

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