What is the Metaverse and How Will it Change Marketing?

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse has been one of the most talked-about topics as of late. While this discussion has been happening for some time now, when Facebook changed its name to Meta it added fuel to the fire.

Metaverse Trends

When talking with people about the metaverse I hear a lot of common questions, like:

Before we dive in too deep, I think it’s important to make sure you understand what the metaverse is and is not. Even if you think you have an idea of what the metaverse is, it’s possible that the concept has already evolved. As the digital world seems to expand at an almost exponential rate, it can be difficult to keep up. So, let’s lay the groundwork for what the metaverse was, is, and will be.

What is the Metaverse?

For the average person, it can be helpful to think of the metaverse conceptually as a persistent digital world where you can create, play, learn, and interact with people just like in the real world. While the many virtual worlds or experiences are technically separate, you would be able to access and move (transport) between virtual experiences much like visiting different websites.

The way you access these experiences could be through a number of devices or modes, including, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), or Mixed Reality (MR). But we’ll stop there.

Is the Metaverse Just for Gaming?

No. In many ways, gaming has been and will likely continue to be the gateway for most people to the metaverse. Don’t let that fool you, though. The metaverse will be a rich environment for all types of activities and experiences, such as: fitness, meetings, events, shopping, education, training, communities, music, art, travel, and many others.

“According to Fortune, 87% of Gen Z play video games on their phone or other consoles. In fact, so many members of Gen Z enjoy gaming that it is beginning to become this generation’s main source of entertainment, beating out traditional forms of media like TV shows and movies.”
Source Voxburner

One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about the metaverse is the movie “Ready Player One.” If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely watch it. While the movie is much more focused on the gaming side of the metaverse, it does give a unique perspective on what one vision of the future of the metaverse may look like.

Ready Player One Metaverse

The concept of the metaverse was introduced in the novel “Snow Crash” in 1992 by author Neal Stephenson. This laid the foundation for “Ready Player One.”

Just as the content accessed through the internet is created by numerous people and organizations, the metaverse will be similar. Individuals and brands will be able to create their own worlds and their own experiences that will allow them to interact in many different ways.

Does the Metaverse Already Exist?

Yes, in the same way that the internet existed in 1992. While the internet came to be in 1983, it didn’t become public until 1991, and the first image wasn’t uploaded until 1992. You can see in the chart below that mass adoption of the internet didn’t really take place until about 10 years later. It’s likely the metaverse will follow a similar adoption curve.

Internet adoption over time

Is the Metaverse Real or a Passing Fad?

The short version is that the metaverse is real and is here to stay. There’s still much debate on how it will all play out, but I’m confident that it will play out.

The metaverse is very much in its infancy with mostly early adopters currently playing with it through a variety of early-stage uses. What the metaverse will eventually evolve into has the potential to be pretty fantastical and serve so many different purposes.

Technology adoption cycle (Roger's Bell Curve)

New users adopting the technology — and continuing to use it — is what’s going to determine the ultimate success or failure of the metaverse. However, there are a number of challenges that the metaverse faces before it’s ready for mass adoption.

  • Hardware is a major factor in adoption. Currently, most VR headsets are large, cumbersome, and uncomfortable. Definitely not something that you want to wear while doing other activities. This is one of the reasons why I think AR (augmented reality) will likely be the method that initially appeals to the masses.
  • Computing power is an issue. Raja Koduri, senior vice president and general manager of the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) Group at Intel, said the computing power required to support the future vision of the metaverse will need to increase by 1,000 times.

The screenshot below is from a presentation given by Carlos Mats (video here). He outlines a number of the technologies that will support the metaverse. There are many different technologies that need to be developed and/or improved in order for the metaverse to reach a more mature state.

Technology required to support the metaverse

You can check out the video presentation from Carlos Mats here.

Who Owns or Controls the Metaverse?

There will most likely be both centralized and decentralized worlds in the metaverse, so not any one person will own it. However, there are a lot of organizations that are planting their proverbial stake in the metaverse. For example, Nike recently purchased virtual sneaker maker RTFKT and launched Nikeland in Roblox.

There will no doubt be a land grab/gold rush-style Wild, Wild West for a few years as companies compete to build/create/buy their worlds.

Many companies have an advantage because of their pre-existing user base, including Meta AKA Facebook, Decentraland, Roblox, Sandbox, Fortnite, Microsoft (they just acquired Activision Blizzard), Apple, Amazon, Google, Disney and many others. Many will likely utilize a User Generated World’s (UGW) model by incentivizing their user base to create worlds which the larger organization will likely own all or a portion of.

(By the way, somebody may have already coined UGW, but if not, you heard it here first. Either way, it’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.)

How Will the Metaverse Change Marketing for Businesses?

I love this question. While we’re starting to get a clearer picture of the metaverse and all its potential, I can say with confidence that it will continue to evolve, and user behavior will ultimately be the deciding factor. Of course, within the metaverse, anything we predict at this point is mostly conjecture.

First, the good news is that the fundamental concepts of marketing won’t really change. (If you don’t understand the fundamentals, then call me and I’ll give you a quick breakdown.)

Second, your overall marketing strategy should be integrated across numerous channels and tactics. That mix should be prioritized based on a deep understanding of your customer — looking at both psychological and behavioral factors.

With that said, here are a few thoughts I have on how the metaverse will change marketing for business. This is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Richer immersive experiences
  • Potential for deeper customer connections (Check out the Nike video above and tell me that doesn’t have the potential for creating a much deeper connection with a brand.)
  • Digital scarcity via NFTs (non-fungible tokens)
  • Augmented Reality (or Mixed Reality) will likely be the more commonly used functionality by the masses because of the limitations of the full VR experience.
  • Gen Z, followed by millenials will likely be the main groups adopting this technology — at least initially.

What Can Businesses Do Now to Prepare for Marketing in the Metaverse?

I would recommend a few of the following actions to dip your toes in the proverbial metaverse:

  • Start checking out the technology (VR/AR) and experience what it’s like to be in the metaverse.
  • Get educated. You’re here, so that’s a good start.
  • Execute on your overall marketing strategy to build your brand. This will likely make entry into the metaverse more successful.
  • Get involved in one of the many communities/games/interactive worlds.
  • Follow some of the early adopters leading the way in this space.
  • Reach out to a company like ours that helps businesses determine the best strategy, channels, and tactics to help them succeed.

Whatever your stance was on the metaverse when you came to this post, my hope is that you now see it has the potential to be a game changer. With companies pouring money into the space to solidify their early mover advantage, it’s just fueling the fire.

While I have no doubt that the metaverse (and the different dimensions of how it may be experienced) will have a significant impact, I caution businesses to do their research before jumping into the deep end. There will be a lot of companies trying to be on the cutting edge that will get cut. Some will be hugely successful. That doesn’t mean I don’t think you should plant your flag and go after it, just that you should have a deeper understanding of all of the variables and make an informed decision. Call us, if you have questions. We love helping people conquer new worlds. Until then, thanks for stopping by!