Lindsey McInerney at Anheuser-Busch InBev recently gave voice to the enthusiasm many marketers are feeling for the potential of the metaverse. She said:
“It’s a really exciting time to be a marketer in this space. I believe the shift we’re seeing to the metaverse, is going to be one of the largest shifts we’ve seen in a long time … we are where we were in social media 17, 18 years ago…
“Marketers like to be where people are …. Where there is set to be new traffic is certainly a place that marketers need to be paying attention to.”
First introduced in a 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, author Neal Stephenson imagined the metaverse as a future iteration of the internet where humans as avatars would interact with each other in 3D virtual spaces as a metaphor of the real world.
Social gaming platforms like Roblox, Fortnite, Animal Crossing, Minecraft, and Second Life are starting to show some of this potential at scale, particularly for younger generations. Mark Zuckerberg recently framed Facebook’s future strategy as helping “bring the metaverse to life.”
And as Lindsey put it, “marketers like to be where people are.” Done well, this is a chance for brands to experiment with entirely new ways to add value to consumers. Done poorly, it could echo Gary Vaynerchuk’s famous observation that “marketers ruin everything.”
Early branded virtual experiences with branded virtual collectibles like Van’s World or Gucci Garden generated a lot of interest. But marketers often go into new experiences with brand myopia, over-inflating how much people actually want to engage with their brands.
Nick Pringle at R/GA London shared this perspective:
“The successful brands will be the ones that don’t simply replicate their current products and services in the metaverse, but instead think more creatively about what they can offer…
“For example, a brand making energy drinks in the real world could manifest as a supplier of rocket packs in the metaverse. Or an IRL automaker could provide teleports in the virtual world. This may seem fanciful, but consider that the next generation could well discover your brand in virtual space first — so how do you want to be perceived and what positive values can be transferred to the real world?”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: