How To Build Your Brand For The Metaverse
Ever since Mark Zuckerberg explained to Facebook employees, in his June 2021 presentation, that the metaverse is the future vision of Facebook, brands of all shapes and sizes have started to re-evaluate their digital strategy.
For brands, the metaverse presents new marketing opportunities like nothing seen before. And, much like how brands have embraced social media over the past 10 years, the metaverse is the next big thing that brands need to engage with before they get left behind.
What is the metaverse?
Metaverse literally means ‘beyond universe’, when the prefix meta (from the Greek word for beyond) is combined with the word universe.
The term was first used by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, with the metaverse being a virtual space where people could present themselves digitally.
Although Stephenson has since described his metaverse depicted in Snow Crash as “me just making s**t up”, his fiction writing from 29 years ago has been hailed by tech innovators as prophetic in nature.
Some of the eerily accurate technology predictions in Snow Crash include: internet dominance, crypto-currencies, avatars, wireless connections, mobiles devices and data privacy breaches.
While they might all be technology norms in our digital world of the 2020s, in the context of Stephenson’s writing almost three decades ago, his vision was somewhat unconventional.
And yet the topic of him predicting the digital future is his “least favourite interview topic of all time”, with Stephenson explaining to The New York Times that he “just can’t find the joy in talking about how I allegedly ‘foretold’ stuff.”
Whether he predicted the future or not, Stephenson’s science fiction metaverse certainly resembles aspects of our modern digital age. But the metaverse of the future is predicted to be a new era of the internet.
“The metaverse is where our real-world physical self interacts and immerses with digital worlds.”
Andrew Wise – Engine Creative
The metaverse of the future
The metaverse we’re experiencing in 2021 and which will continue to develop into the future will see our actual reality converging with a virtual shared space.
Andrew Wise (our very own Client Service Director here at Engine Creative) describes the metaverse as “a catch-all term for the increasingly digital world we live, shop, play, and socialise in. From the mainstream social media platforms and established online gaming world to the emerging cryptocurrency market and growth in shared VR experiences, the metaverse is where our real-world physical self interacts and immerses with digital worlds.”
Speaking on the Vergecast podcast, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg describes the metaverse as “the successor to the mobile internet”. Explaining further, Zuckerberg says: “You can think about the metaverse as an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content – you are in it.”
Head of Facebook Reality Labs Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth has expanded on this further highlighting the importance of presence for the metaverse. In a July 2021 Facebook post, Bosworth stated “The defining quality of the metaverse will be presence — the feeling of really being there with people.”
While there is much speculation and differing opinions on what the metaverse might look like in the future, the majority agree it will combine presence and interoperability as the next generation of the internet.
“Every company will be there at some point”
Tim Sweeney – Epic Games
When will the metaverse happen?
The Covid-19 pandemic brought a halt to our real-world interactions and increased our reliance on technology.
Andrew Wise explains, “The recent lockdown restrictions have super-charged the acceleration of this shift from physical to digital, as digital devices (from mobiles to laptops and headsets) have provided gateways into new alternatives to the physical world. If you haven’t already, now is the time to start thinking about how you can build your brand for the metaverse.”
While the metaverse is already present in our here and now, the Covid-19 pandemic has catapulted us to the cusp of being immersed in it, with our integration into the metaverse likely to be a process.
Tim Sweeney of Epic Games believes the emergence of the metaverse will be a “linear evolution”. Speaking to VentureBeat, Sweeney explains, “It’s not going to be a massive sudden disruption. It’s going to be a meeting place for individuals and creators of all sizes, including brands. Every company will be there at some point.”
While some brands may begin with a tentative toe-dip into the metaverse, others have plans in place to take a deep dive, with their brands becoming fully immersed in all that the metaverse has to offer.
For Zuckerberg, his five-year plan will see a complete transformation for social media giant Facebook, motivated by the opportunities of the metaverse.
“I think over the next five years or so, in this next chapter of our company, I think we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”
Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook
Brands will need to evolve in parallel with technology in order to become immersed in the metaverse.
Strategist Matthew Ball, previously of Amazon Studios, explains: “The Metaverse will require countless new technologies, protocols, companies, innovations, and discoveries to work. And it won’t directly come into existence; there will be no clean “Before Metaverse” and “After Metaverse”. Instead, it will slowly emerge over time as different products, services, and capabilities integrate and meld together.”
Over the next decade, our experiences with the metaverse are going to increase, as our technologies evolve and our virtual and actual realities converge.
“There will be no other option but to join it. Otherwise, you will not survive as a company”
Vlad Panchenko – DMarket
Why should brands be part of the metaverse?
While the metaverse continues to develop and evolve, brands are beginning to prepare for metaverse integration.
Neal Stephenson, who coined the term metaverse, explained simply to Vanity Fair that, “You have to go there, you can’t set up your own.” And so brands will need to actively engage with the metaverse as part of their future digital transformation.
“Many brands intuitively or on purpose are moving towards the metaverse,” explains Vlad Panchenko, DMarket CEO and founder. “There will be no other option but to join it. Otherwise, you will not survive as a company.”
Epik co-founder and CEO Victor David has confirmed: “The idea of a massive, centralized community is being invested into heavily and is coming.”
Tech futurist Cathy Hackl believes the time is now for brands to prepare to join the metaverse: “Now is the chance for brands to get ahead by embracing the digital future… The metaverse may seem like another thing to do as part of digital transformation. Instead, embrace the metaverse as an opportunity to expand your brands, what they do, and how they do it.”
“Everybody from an individual participant to a major developer should participate on equal terms”
Tim Sweeney – Epic Games
Which brands are already part of the metaverse?
Big brands led by tech innovators are already seeking to commercialise the metaverse.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nudella in the July 2021 earnings call to discuss financial forecasts highlighted that, “As the digital and physical worlds converge, we are leading in a new layer of the infrastructure stack, the enterprise metaverse.”
Earlier this year, in April 2021, Epic Games announced funding of $1 billion USD to be used to support their long-term vision for the metaverse by “building connected social experiences.”
Facebook has already started work on their five-year plan to become a “metaverse company” with Facebook Reality Labs standing up a metaverse product group, as announced by Andrew Bosworth in July 2021.
ITV has become the first UK broadcaster to target a metaverse audience by recreating the new Saturday night gameshow ‘The Void’ in Fortnite Creative, allowing Fortnite players to experience their own in-game version of the programme.
Dan Colton, ITV Group Strategy and Transformation Director, described how, “The Metaverse is a huge opportunity for ITV both from a consumer and advertiser perspective and this is the first step of how we can best make use of our IP in these spaces.”
But the metaverse is not solely reserved for big brands and we should be striving for an Open Metaverse where everyone involved is on an even playing field.
Even Tim Sweeney, founder of Epic Games, which created Fortnite with it’s 350 million users, shares this sentiment, voicing that, “Everybody from an individual participant to a major developer should participate on equal terms. Only that way can you get a really enduring free and fair economy that is built on the same foundational principles.”
How do you build your brand for the metaverse?
As one of the UK’s leading digital creative agencies, we are fortunate to be at the forefront of helping brands to “increase their footprint in the metaverse” through rich digital experiences.
Andrew Wise, Client Services Director for Engine Creative, explains, “From immersive learning experiences, to virtual presentations in 3D environments, the scope of digital transformation amongst brands is increasing and broadening all of the time.”
“These innovative digital experiences are still underpinned by a solid and engaging online presence, but the website is increasingly becoming a jumping-off point for richer and more varied branded digital experiences.”
Speaking to VentureBeat, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney discusses how different brand experiences in the metaverse will be: “If you are a car manufacturer, your brand presence in the metaverse isn’t going to be a bunch of advertising for your cars. It’s going to be a place where you can actually drive the cars around and feel the experience of it.”
When building your brand for the metaverse, it’s important to initially identify key strategic objectives to be achieved as part of the digital transformation of your business with the aim of being actively engaged in the metaverse and the opportunities it can provide for your brand.
Tips for building your brand for the metaverse
To get the conversation started in your business and build your brand for the metaverse, we’d suggest the following 3 steps to get your brand actively engaged:
- Map out your brand’s digital footprint (online, social, virtual, etc) to get a clear sense of where you currently sit in the metaverse.
- Do the same exercise for competitors and for your favourite brands in other industries. What are some of the more innovative brands doing and can you take inspiration from them?
- Target a key area such as using AR to showcase your products to customers, or introducing VR into your training programme, and prioritise it as a company goal.
Build your brand for the metaverse and kick-start your digital transformation strategy today
For a free discovery call and more information on how we can support you, please contact Andy Wise.