Marketing and the Metaverse

Earlier this week, Hennes & Mauritz (abbreviated as H&M) created a buzz by announcing its 3D store in the Metaverse. While H&M has been the first to open a retail clothing store in the virtual universe, there have been lot of big players already marking their territories in the virtual realm.

The rebrand of Facebook as Meta got everyone talking about this new virtual phenomenon called Metaverse and suddenly Metaverse became the fancy bandwagon everyone wants to ride.

Metaverse is a term coined in 1992 in Neal Stephenson’s in his novel ’Snow Crash’. The novel defines the metaverse as a place where people use virtual reality headsets to interact in a digital game world. As per Wikipedia, a metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. In simpler terms, it’s a virtual realm where you can go to school, go to work, play games, watch concerts, browse stores, hang out with friends and a lot more.

Though Metaverse caught the attention after Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement, it has existed in some form or other for a while now on different platforms in some form or other. Hollywood movies like Spielberg’s Ready Player One or the recent Ryan Reynold’s Free Guy hardly left much to the imagination what a virtual world could look like.  

This serendipitously evolving virtual reality is affecting how the brands are reaching out to the new-age consumers. H&M would be opening its store on Ceek City, Nike already has a Nikeland – a replica of its headquarters on Roblox, Hyundai offers virtual test drives on the same platform, Marvel placed Guardians of the Galaxy characters on Minecraft, Gucci has been selling digital bags that are more expensive than the physical bag on Roblox, Balenciaga’s collaboration with Fortnite (Epic Games), Samsung is debuting new fan experience with Samsung 837X and the list goes on.

The advertising in metaverse is the advanced form of in-game advertising, that included throwing some logos or digital billboards ads here and there, focusing on brand awareness largely. However, the immersive experience of the Metaverse has led to a creative revolution in terms of brand placement. The platform provides the marketers unique placement options to keep their target consumer group engaged and updated with their products and services, clearly signaling that the regular ads and marketing tactics simply won’t work.

Ogilvy’s Influencer Trends 2022 report highlights the need for the brands to focus on consumer experience. “Consumers want products and experiences and not necessarily in that order” – it says.  Metaverse is a great platform for brands to interact with their existing as well as prospective consumers and build the connect through the experience. Simplifying it – imagine, instead of seeing Vans skateboarding accessories on a billboard on the virtual platform, you get to try the Vans gears, buy them, customize them and skate in the Vans World Skatepark – this interactive engagement would put the brand in middle of the entire virtual experience for the user and not just another forced brand positioning. The only downside is the tracking – considering the newness of the technology, the measurement of these campaigns and advertisements is hard to determine, but it’s only a matter of time before the metrics part is sorted.

Metaverse is an alluring prospect for both the brands and consumers for an authentic brand experience without any nightmarish real-world costs and logistics. The magnanimity of the Metaverse doesn’t set any creative limits. Being an open field, it could be a really good playground for the brands to experiment. Additionally, if the concept of one, open Metaverse becomes a reality, the number of users in the virtual dimension would increase exponentially which would make it even more critical for the brands to strengthen their presence in this three-dimensional world.

For brands, it’s time to create, and not just be part of this life 3.0.

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