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Digital Transformation Brand Strategy Metaverse

We can’t let the bandwagon derail the metaverse

By Nick Horne | True



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March 7, 2023 | 6 min read

Nick Horne of digital agency True argues that we shouldn’t let disproportionate metaverse hype get in the way of true innovation.

An overgrown set of train tracks

The metaverse: over-the-top hype or genuine game changer? Both says True – but we can’t let one eclipse the other. / Antoine Beauvillain via Unsplash

If you’re old enough to remember the advent of QR codes you’ll remember the hysteria that surrounded them. Every client briefing contained the ‘could we use QR codes for this?’ question. Agencies pandered to it with at least one QR route in every round of thinking. Within months, QR codes became a joke; as an industry, we’d squeezed the lifeblood out of the technology before it was ready for market.

People joined the race to be the first to adopt the tech, believing the awards would roll in, only to find that no one outside the industry had any idea what those funny little patterns in the corner were (never mind possessing the hardware to use them). As a result, no one dared to utter the letters QR inside an agency or marketing department for five years.

QR codes are not alone: remember Periscope, Clubhouse, and Second Life. All of these have at some point been labeled ‘the future of marketing’, or at least ‘the next big channel’, and all with at least some good reason. They were (or are) great channels and technologies.

The issues arise when hype builds a misunderstanding of where these technologies’ value lies. We should learn the lessons of history fast. Before we kill the metaverse and all of its potential.

The metaverse: a term in scare quotes

The term ‘metaverse’ is part of the problem. A term from fiction, land-grabbed by Facebook (which renamed itself Meta) in an attempt to future-proof (and sell) their platforms, and ward off other publishers from growing their own metaverses. The latter, of course, is unlikely: we’re much more likely to see something like the gaming wars between PlayStation and Xbox. Multiple metaverses with their own cohorts.

Yet more damaging than a singularly owned metaverse is the idea that the Metaverse will be any one thing: a single place or world. Branding a disparate group of technologies that create a more immersive and connected world: it’s a marketing ploy. The reality is that it won’t create another world; it will be a part of our world. We won’t think of visiting the metaverse; it will be a series of different technologies, channels and digital locations that allow you access to experiences.

This is a truly important point. If we see the metaverse as a thing we can buy into, a borrowed interest to connect our brand with (and to earn ourselves a promotion,) we’ll miss the true value of all the technology that sits in front of us. And if we pursue the race to be the first adopter (to bag a few gongs), we will get there before the audience does, undermining marketing value and setting back adoption beyond its true start point.

The long game

Instead, we should be playing the long game. Not trying to be the first to be in the metaverse, but the first to deliver an experience of true value to our audience; something that will have longevity in the minds of fans and, just maybe, even create our own platforms, channels, and worlds for our brands to live in for a long time to come.

The medium is not the message, and the brief should not be ‘can we have a metaverse thing?’. We’re talking, instead, about a new way to deliver brand experiences and new realities: fresh stories and worlds for our customers. The brief should start with a pure thought on what we want that experience to be, the value it delivers for our customers, and the value it delivers for our brands.

Digital Transformation Brand Strategy Metaverse

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19 years ago true was founded with the aim of being different; straight-talking, to the point, focussed on delivering long-term growth, not through chat, but through action. Creating work that was true to our clients’ needs, true to their customers’ needs and true to our own expectations.

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