With the looming death of cookies, brands must double down in creating authentic relationships with their current and potential customers. The value exchange between the brand and its customers should become more balanced and transparent. With the metaverse, there's a clean slate to do just that, says Jean-Francois Thery, the head of growth at Ultrasupernew.
There has been a lot of online chatter around the metaverse, its game-changing potential, and impact on the future of commerce, connectivity, and interactivity. If you're unfamiliar with the term Metaverse, I highly recommend reading Matthew Ball's 8 part primer It’s an in-depth analysis of all the moving parts and a great place to begin your journey.
In my opinion, the metaverse is the new frontier. It democratizes the internet with fewer limitations as to where and how content can be accessed. A bridge between the physical and digital worlds with scale, interactivity, and interoperability.
Its potential? Huge. We're starting to see different iterations spawn in the form of culture and gaming, with the rise of Roblox, NFTs, and digital fan experiences in Fortnight. These have been covered to death, so I won't spend too much time on them. However, the thing that caught my eye is the emergence of entire in-game economies just like in Axis Infinity, which is one of many games that's charting a whole new 'play-to-earn' vertical. A recent study into axis's economy showed that it's the 25th richest place in the world to be ‘in’ based on monthly income.
As an ad man, this tells me that the rules are being re-written. In the metaverse, users will generate their own content and distribute it freely through a widely accessible digital world. Individuals and businesses will have the opportunity to create, own, sell, or be rewarded for a wide range of services.
Unlike the current iteration of the internet, as we know it, in the metaverse, users will experience changes in real-time by everyone. Any actions, updates, or changes will be permanent and immediately visible to everyone else. This promise of transparency and the interoperability of the metaverse will give users an increased continuity of identity and personalization compared to the modern internet.
From a social impact perspective, the Metaverse promises a truly borderless experience to commerce. A great equalizer in a sense. A chance to build the foundations of new human systems for a more equitable world. Anyone anywhere can earn an income by selling their goods digitally or via play-to-earn platforms. The NFT space in itself is barely in its infancy, but I strongly believe we'll see more use-cases emerge in the coming years outside minted collectibles, digital art, and goods.
As we spend more time online, it's inevitable for our identity that straddles both the physical and digital world to start colliding. Brands and advertisers must start thinking about how this will impact their lines of business.
When gaming first exploded into mainstream media sometime last year, there was a lot of hype around its untapped potential. The industry herald gaming as the new frontier. Fast forward to today, mass adoption from non-endemic brands has been slow. Aside from sponsorship plays, co-branded digital goods, and influencer-driven content, there hasn't really been much business value derived from this vertical. At least, based on the conversations I've been having with my clients – they struggle to view gaming as anything more than just another media channel to activate in. This begs a larger question for brands and advertisers alike.
Is it finally time to re-write the marketing/advertising playbook so we can fully explore these new 'digital' frontiers? Does it make sense for us to apply the same performance metrics and measure success based on traditional KPIs like awareness, consideration, and conversation?
I quote Matthew Ball in his article about the metaverse.
“We need to think of the metaverse as a sort of successor state to the mobile internet. And while consumers will have core devices and platforms through which they interact with the metaverse, the metaverse depends on so much more. There’s a reason we don’t say Facebook or Google is the internet. They are destinations and ecosystems on or on the internet, each accessible via a browser or smartphone that can also access the vast rest of the internet.”
As an industry that has been long harping on the need to put customers first, creating personalization and purpose-driven exercises. The metaverse provides a new sandbox for brands and advertisers to play in, far removed from the current centralized iteration of the internet. A world not constrained by ad fraud, overpriced inventory, and the ability to be private.
But to leverage these opportunities, we need to re-write the playbook. We cannot apply the same business goals and expect a similar outcome to traditional channels. How we advertise as a whole needs to be reimagined. Agility must be built into marketing plans to adapt to ever-changing consumer preferences and trends. KPIs must be updated as consumers start to interact directly with products and services within the metaverse. We’re already beginning to see the Metaverse re-write the rules around in-game behaviors, content delivery, and ownership.
Perhaps it's time we remember that before we started to standardize everything according to first-party data and performance metrics, we were inspired by masterstrokes like Volkswagen’s Think Small, Apple’s 1984, and Dove’s Real Beauty just to name a few. Good advertising sell’s products, but great advertising changes behaviors.
With the looming death of cookies, brands must double down in creating authentic relationships with their current and potential customers. The value exchange between the brand and its customers should become more balanced and transparent. With the metaverse, there's a clean slate to do just that. To imagine and create new economies where anyone can plug into different virtual worlds and contexts, each presenting an abundance of native opportunities for the user.
Advertising has come a long way, from the days of TV and billboards and consumers have shown that they're willing to trade their time and attention for things and experiences that are meaningful. If brands are transparent and the value exchange is evident, people have shown that they have no problem opting in.
The conversation we should be having now isn't around how we can advertise our brand in the metaverse or gaming for that matter. But to start shifting the conversation from what is, to imagining what could be. Only then can we view these new digital frontiers as more than just another channel to advertise in.
Jean-Francois Thery is the head of growth at Ultrasupernew