Why it’s OK to fail in the metaverse

Whatever happens as the metaverse transitions from science fiction to reality, one thing’s for sure: it will bring great success for some, and challenges for others. Do potential pitfalls mean you should tread carefully? It’s a brave new virtual world, says Ross Martin, president of marketing agency and The Drum Network member Known. But brands shouldn’t fear a faceplant.

Brand experts have convinced themselves that the metaverse gold rush will only accelerate in 2022. They’re right.

Every new competitor for our attention – even when we have no idea what it will become or what we should do there – beckons with a promise of euphoric brand rewards. And, as with every marketing treasure hunt, brands are about to fall flat on their faces attempting to snatch the loot.

But that’s OK. The metaverse is a safe place to fail.

A new kind of reality

In already ancient analog terms, we can agree the metaverse is a digital world that prompts users to interact with one another through a set of unique, immersive experiences. ‘Virtual’ indeed, but also increasingly consequential. The choices we make in the metaverse are as real as you and me, and the sooner brands embrace their veracity, the sooner they will realize why they came in the first place.

The metaverse is blooming in a perpetual beta test. There are new rules of engagement and new social contracts that are finding global glory. New platforms, seemingly ubiquitous, freshly born by the minute and defined by the actions we take within them, continue to manifest new norms at a feverish pace. Creators have started to pioneer what they hope will become something both meaningful and lasting (and, no matter how you define it, profitable).

By their nature, metaverse platforms are resilient. Notably, their denizens have proven to be among the most forgiving – of engineers, administrators, servers, creators, even brands – especially when it comes to anyone genuinely trying to add value and ‘build a better tomorrow.’

A forgiving new home

What does all that bode for brands immigrating to the metaverse? Plenty of room to bump into things as they enter and stumble to create a name for themselves in a foreign land. And the space to (intuitively or accidentally) add real value to the communities they engage.

“While they should not fear taking a chance on metaverse strategies,” my colleague strategist Erin Rathz argues, “brands must be prepared to answer, ‘Why are you here?’ when they pursue any activation.”

A metaverse presence is a commitment to testing and learning. To building a framework for treating every brand action as a social experiment designed to unlock a central human truth and then respond to it. To create value by sharing something meaningful for the community, fostering a sense of connection through utility, play, education, commerce and so much more.

The metaverse won’t replace our physical world, but it has the potential to meaningfully augment the human experience. A fresh start in a new dimension offers us an opportunity not to escape the challenges we face in the physical realm, but apply what we learn and solve them in new ways IRL.

Brands have a huge role to play in both – especially those who commit to adding value to virtual communities that are already booming and very, very real.