Is there a new CMO in town? How the chief metaverse officer is shaking up the C-suite
Immersive Wire’s Tom Ffiske ponders whether a metaverse-related role warrants a seat in the boardroom.
/ Gerd Altmann
Attaining the title of chief marketing officer is, for many, the absolute summit of the industry. The ’Mount Olympus of marketing’ is an exclusive club with thick budgets and even thicker salaries and whose decisions shape the activities that launch to the public. Plus it comes with an equally exclusive and easily-recognizable acronym – the CMO – which has been a useful shorthand for the executive level of marketing and communicates an individual’s role with succinct ease.
The same acronym, however, can now also be attributed to a new group of people – chief metaverse officers. These new specialists are rising from a tide of work related to decentralized systems and spatial technologies. The title reflects the new type of working practices and processes that organizations are investigating, with the C-suite position signifying its importance and size within an organization. For some companies and agencies, the deployment of immersive bits and bytes warrants as much focus and marketing, human resources, and IT infrastructure.
But that title isn’t universally accepted. Its announcement has, in some quarters, sparked a debate on the validity of its existence. Cathy Hackl, the ‘Godmother of the Metaverse’ and chief metaverse officer of Journey, told me that she believes she is the first to adopt the title. She created the role because she wanted to “start a conversation around who should be leading metaverse and web3 within organizations”. Looking online, I believe she has succeeded.
I have seen some professionals guffaw at the new title, debating whether it is too early or, perhaps, pointless. The metaverse is already a vague concept: its very definition is still under discussion. How many companies need a metaverse-related role or have a team sizable enough to warrant a seat in the boardroom?
Not many, I agree. But for the few, it does make sense. Every organization has different focuses and, for the select few who need a metaverse strategy, it is necessary to have a figurehead that holds the finances. Plus, it helps to drive toward a company’s particular vision or corporate strategy. “The metaverse will create disruption that brings exciting opportunities for organizations that are ready,” according to Joanna Popper, chief metaverse officer at CAA. “[They] lead organizations through successfully preparing for and maximizing the forthcoming strategic business opportunities and be metaverse-ready.”
Then there is the economic argument. Pinning a value on the metaverse is like throwing darts on an invisible dartboard. McKinsey argues that the metaverse will be worth $5tn by 2030, while Citi argues it will be worth $13tn. $7tn is an extraordinary margin of error, but in the vast calculus of economics it is still a gravity-defying opportunity for businesses. The metaverse will iterate and grow with time, but it is vital to have someone in the company who focuses on its development.
The individual does not necessarily need to have a dedicated C-suite title, but having some level of leadership is desirable. Hackl says that she is unsure if the title would ultimately be chief metaverse officer, “but someone from the C-suite will eventually have to be involved”.
But with the creation of a new role and new specialism comes a new label – even if only for lanyards and LinkedIn profiles. And for the purposes of distinction, the CMO acronym is inadequate. More importantly, it only confuses the field. For years, the CMO has been a useful shorthand that clearly and concisely communicates a specific role. Conflating it with metaverse professionals only clouds discussions and doesn’t enhance or further them. An alternative acronym is essential for linguistic clarity.
Popper is partial towards CMVO, CMvO or CM3O (which includes M from metaverse and 3 from web3). I’m personally a fan of CMVO – an extended acronym that is unique and distinct enough to warrant its nature. But its establishment takes time and a rising tide of additional professionals who join the exclusive club. The linguistic needle rarely shifts overnight and the corporate world moves at a slow but inevitable pace. An idea starts with one person, but its adoption is subconsciously adopted after years of repetition and a widespread acceptance of its requirement.
Still, the metaverse is comparatively young and prone to risks. Regulatory scrutiny, cataclysmic value drops and rampant fraud all damage its potential and trust in its development. The decision to have a chief metaverse officer is forward-facing – but perhaps so forward that the results may fall prey to Amara’s Law. The title could become a relic of a hype wave – a signifier that a company investigated an area before it passed away. It is hard to say, but for now we should steer clear of discounting their relevance. Titles are transitory, but business opportunities are perennial.
Tom Ffiske is the editor of Immersive Wire.