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4 ways brands can succeed in the metaverse with influencer marketing

by Crystal Malachias

April 29, 2022

In the new world of web 3.0, the possibilities for building more impressive, immersive and valuable experiences and content are greater than ever before. So, where do brands fit in and how should they explore talent and influencer marketing in the metaverse? Crystal Malachias at ITB Worldwide investigates.

By 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse, according to a recent Gartner survey. Whilst not a total gamechanger, this is significant enough to make brands stand up and take note, and they’d be wise to start now, considering how to incorporate metaverse activations as a complementary element of their marketing strategy, driving innovation and incremental revenue streams.

A recent Vogue Business experience in the metaverse called it “a shared virtual or digitally enhanced interactive space” – an environment that allows for, and extends possibilities for, greater creativity and self-expression. In this exciting new world of web 3.0 the possibilities for creation are practically infinite as there’s potential to build spaces and products that aren’t limited by the laws of physics. So where do brands fit in and how should they activate talent and influencers in this new and ever-evolving space?

1.) Build more interactive and immersive experiences

While it may seem like a complex concept, at its core, the metaverse is simply a new way to bring communities together in deeply immersive experiences. No matter where you live, you can interact, transact and engage with others in a way that is almost as intimate as ‘real life’.

Brands like Nike, adidas and Gucci have led the way with metaverse activations that lean into this opportunity for creativity and community building, experimenting with the unrestricted possibilities of a digital environment. Each provide audiences with new and interactive ways to experience their brand and product, and rewarding superfans with early or exclusive access to launches.

Where brands have fallen flat in the metaverse so far is by building with a vision to directly mirror real life or web 2.0 content and experiences. Simply replicating real-world experiences like a runway show, or showcasing flat campaign imagery isn’t enough for the metaverse audience who expect greater innovation and creativity. Rather than reproducing pre-existing apparel or showing it on avatars who look like the models we’d come to expect in a real-world setting, brands should get creative and explore the idea of shared experiences and co-creation, so that audiences have the freedom to interact with and build the vision of the brand they want to see.

Gen Z, in particular, are starting to spend a huge chunk of their time socially interacting in the metaverse, almost twice as much as they do in real life – a stat for brands to be jumping at. As we continue the transition to web 3.0, Gen Z will be the ones to watch as they increasingly adapt to the virtual world. Already we are seeing reports show that over 50% of Gen-Z gamers have said they want to make money in the metaverse and even build careers there. With a generation of short attention spans and forever changing trends, it is clear from the offset that brands need to be prepared to go above and beyond to create engaging experiences. The key will be to find a balance of producing recognizably on-brand experiences but which offer more than can be achieved in-person or on web 2.0 touchpoints.

2.) Leverage true creators

The metaverse is slated to help creators do just that – create. In a new world, not bound by the laws of physics, the stakes are raised, with an expectation for creators to build ever more impressive, immersive and valuable content than ever before and explore new opportunities to forge meaningful interactions with their audiences.

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are a natural route for artists and creatives to experiment with, allowing them to create art beyond the realms of the physical and empower them to produce scarcity of their original work, while inviting fans to own a piece of it. Just look at Snoop Dogg and his recent venture into the world of NFTs with his son – a virtual weed farm where fans can truly feel a part of Snoop’s community. As collectibles, NFTs are also a way to reward and incentivize loyal fanbases, building engagement and interest as well as providing a new revenue stream.

With metaverse experiences, artists and entertainers can take their creative vision one step further – reaching even broader audiences across the world at once and showcasing themselves in myriad changing forms outside of the restrictions of real-life set or costume changes. Think Travis Scott x Fortnite and the Lil Nas x Roblox concerts. In environments like Roblox which are predicated on ideas of construction, creativity and innovation, creators have the opportunity to share their creative journey and process with their fans which in turn will encourage stronger and more extensive relationships.

For brands looking to activate in the space, aligning with true creators – pioneering talent and influencers who already play with notions of identity, experiment with future-forward technologies and who are curious about new ways to reach fans – is a sure way to make an impact. Ultimately, the creators that will thrive in this new format are the agile ones willing to take the time to level up their skillset and explore the unknown.

3.) Use virtual influencers

As web 3.0 begins to take shape and brands are eager to build clout and community in the metaverse, virtual influencers are only going to attract greater interest from marketers. Just as TikTok and Instagram stars have risen to prominence by sharing authentic real-world content for communities who look like and love them, virtual influencers are perfectly positioned to provide the creative experiences users will come to expect from the metaverse, which is their native home. Aligning with virtual influencers in the metaverse also gives more authenticity and credibility to a brand’s activation as they are seen as the experts in this space.

In addition to pre-existing virtual influencers like Lil Miquela, Imma and Bermuda, leading social platforms Meta and TikTok are clearly preparing for widespread adoption of online avatars by experimenting with tools that allow fans and users to create virtual versions of themselves. This will naturally play into Gen Z’s desire for fluidity of self-expression and identity, allowing users to change their appearance, wardrobe and characteristics as they please, in ways simply not possible in real-life (or other social network) environments. Within the metaverse it will also be possible for these avatars to be user-generated by shared communities – encouraging greater levels of creativity, experimentation and connection amongst widely disparate global audiences.

Avatars and virtual influencers will be a constant as web 3.0 evolves, so there is also a natural opportunity for brands to integrate through product placement – creating digital versions of apparel, beauty products and accessories for our digital selves to enjoy.

4.) Experiment in this new world

Whilst it may be the buzzword of the moment, the metaverse is still in its infancy and the technology and resources to support the vision many have of it is still a long way off. As it stands, the current iteration of the metaverse is a world for experimentation, opening doors for brands to be genuinely transformative, to amplify what’s already happening in the space and reward loyal fans with unique experiences.

Until technology advances further, its sensible to continue exploring the best of both worlds, combining complementary activations in an IRL/web 2.0 as well as a metaverse setting. For those pioneering brands taking steps into the virtual waters of web 3.0 it’s key to keep an open and curious spirit, in the words of Kering’s president and chief exec François-Henri Pinault, “rather than wait and see…test and learn.”

Tags

marketing
digital
Influencer marketing
interactive
talent
experience
creators
Metaverse