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Gen Z Brand Strategy Metaverse

Metaverse skepticism is easy – but let’s not be blind to the opportunities

By Alice Regester, Co-CEO

33Seconds

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October 25, 2022 | 7 min read

If one question has dominated debates among marketers this year, it’s ‘metaverse: snake oil or savior?’ Alice Regester, co-founder and chief exec at 33Seconds, cautions against either extreme position as web3 continues to develop.

4D render of the earth

The new generation of internet, web3, is coming... or is it? / Image courtesy of 33 Seconds

A year ago, Facebook became Meta and offered a new vision of a virtual future. Since that decisive moment, the topic of the metaverse and its role in the next evolutionary phase of the internet, web3, has been a prominent part of the news agenda.

Like other web3-associated innovations (such as cryptocurrencies or NFTs), the conversation around the metaverse has swung from excitement and curiosity to alarm, confusion and outright cynicism. A virtual world (or worlds) where people regularly interact as avatars: is this the dystopian fever dream of a tech billionaire or an obvious next step in how we spend our time online?

As with any big change, there will always be concerns voiced and questions raised. With web3, and in particular the metaverse, warnings around everything from data security to potential psychological impacts have been widely aired.

There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism, but we also have to be realistic about how the ways in which we interact, communicate and engage with each other and brands online will inevitably change – not letting ‘fear of the new’ blind us to the opportunities this presents.

History repeating itself?

It pays to remember that at the beginning of the web2 era, when social media was taking off, there were similar misgivings: fears about its impact, but also doubts that it would have any impact at all. During that time, the founders of our team were working at MySpace as it launched in the UK. Over just a few years, MySpace became the most visited website on the planet. This shift transformed the dynamics of online communication and interaction, paving the way for the popular social platforms of today.

It’s hard not to see the similarities between how web3 and the metaverse are currently being discussed. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it really happening? The answer to all three of these questions (as it was with social media) is: ‘yes.’ Throughout the evolution of web2 there have been huge complexities with regards to our online interactions, and they will continue. But one thing is in no doubt: social media is a fundamental part of many people’s daily lives on a global scale.

The question now is whether the advent of web3 will bring about similar seismic changes that will become just as ubiquitous. There are those that argue that the metaverse, for example, is in fact nothing new and has been around for years in the form of avatar-based games and gaming communities. But this is often how new technologies (and ways of using them) begin before achieving mainstream adoption. After all, when MySpace first launched it was a niche community of musicians and music fans; nearly 20 years later, its cultural influence is widely acknowledged.

In our current work with clients such as Virtua, a metaverse platform and curated NFT marketplace, we’re seeing how companies are now taking this technology to the next level. Virtua plans to launch its own metaverse in the coming months, having already released its first realm, Cardano Island, and partnered with mainstream companies such as Williams Racing. Working with Virtua to understand the team’s expertise and foresight, and helping the company communicate its vision, has shown us first-hand how these developments are more than just a passing fad.

The new generation

Across industries, innovative web3 platforms such as Decentraland and The Sandbox are partnering with brands curious to explore and interact with potential customers within these virtual worlds. The likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana and Estée Lauder all participated in Decentraland’s metaverse Fashion Week, for example. Earlier this year, Warner Music Group launched a concert hall in The Sandbox.

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If recent estimates are anything to go by, it’ll take time for consumer demand to build. Adoption is predicted to be gradual. However, encouraging signs are there; Virtua’s recent report on digital ownership in the metaverse found that gen Z is familiar with these concepts and ready to embrace them. The necessity now is keeping brands active and willing to invest in creating highly-engaging experiences to attract these users and keep them coming back for more.

From a creative comms perspective, this presents challenges but also huge opportunities, which could eventually prove to be as revolutionary as our first forays into social media. It can be easy to get swept along by the narrative that web3 and the metaverse are just hype or marketing buzzwords, but the evidence is beginning to point to the contrary.

We should of course never stop questioning, but at the same time, neither should we close ourselves off from staying open-minded about new horizons – even (or especially) if that includes entirely new virtual worlds.

Gen Z Brand Strategy Metaverse

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33Seconds

33Seconds is an independent, award-winning communications agency, specialising in climate, technology and lifestyle.

As well as offering services across strategy,...

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