A brave new world? Experiences in the metaverse

As with any emergent technology, the metaverse is currently a mix of old and new – for the most part, a patchwork of recreations of IRL experiences ranging from the sublime to the banal. For our deep dive on all things metaverse, RPM’s creative director Simon Evans argues that those who get it right all focus on one thing: experience.

The metaverse is polarizing, both in idea and application. Some see it as a higher state of being for the future’s experience economy, others as the latest tech marketing quackery.

For most people who don’t live in Team Zuck’s Meta HQ, the metaverse is a new concept, so far involving a series of digital worlds that don’t properly connect. If the big players continue to create closed ecosystems, then they may never do so.

The early adopters

Fashion and music are early adopters, with Nike, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren exploring gaming experiences, in-world collaborations or NFTs.

Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X and Travis Scott have seen the early potential of virtual immersive gigs, with earnings per hour and fan access massively outstripping in-person shows. Snoop Dogg has created his own world on the Sandbox platform, monetizing access to him. We all know the magic of experiencing live music, but now the creative potential and reach goes up a notch: how about riding a rainbow-farting unicorn through an Escher-inspired dream world while a giant Ariana Grande performs? Or buying the house next door to Snoop?

Hybrid experiences

If Covid-19 accelerated virtual experiences, then the loosening of lockdowns and re-appreciation of IRL human interaction has already reignited the requirement for blended solutions. Technology has provided the ability for online guests to connect successfully with those at an event, rather than be the afterthought. Global communities can come together to support brands or passion areas and get a different (yet genuinely engaging) experience, whether they are experiencing it in-person or remotely.

Access to the metaverse is kept as open as possible for all fans, not just a playground for the rich or early adopters – inclusivity is the name of the game. Our virtual strategy launch event for Diageo Reserve was purposely crafted to ensure all comers from across the globe felt at ease in the space rather than overwhelmed with options. Virtual headsets have a time and a place, but when reach is required, barriers must be removed and varied device/browser/experience level has to be factored in. The experience has to add value beyond the use of new technology.

Haven’t I seen you before?

It’s the experience of things that define them: people, places, brands. Brand experiences have moved in waves through the decades, from mass participation face to face (‘you had to be there’) to social media amplifying experiences via broadcast, widening reach while harnessing exclusivity.

The metaverse is a platform for the next stage in this evolution: blended technologies delivering experiences at scale through participation. Marketers have always been excited by the newest shiny object – remember VR’s first stint in the mix? Some experiences were mind-blowing; some added nothing more than a video with added disorientation or disembodied limbs. When an idea is built for the channel alone it will always flap aimlessly in the augmented wind.

As marketing touchpoints progress and consumer demands mature in each emerging channel, the application of the fundamental truth of experiences and how they influence humans is unchanging. Neuroscience tells us that experiences are the most instinctual and powerful ways of learning and that actions shape our psychology, deeply embedding memories that are more durable and vivid.

The challenge for those exploring the metaverse is to create an environment that drives action online and IRL simultaneously, adding a depth that continues to resonate in consumers’ ecosystems.

Experience is everything

The connecting of digital worlds is no different to those in real life. When tethered together with an authentic experience at the heart, the metaverse could prove to be the great leveler, with the potential to drive inclusivity across continents, cultures and communities.

From conferences to product launches, brand experiences and ecommerce, these moments will be democratized as access becomes uniform, and the audience grows exponentially through wider participation – where you live will no longer matter.

The power to connect and extend communities of interest through the metaverse is a natural step to take now we are more digitally-enabled as consumers, creatives and people. These experiences matter, and those that get it right will take the digital treasure.