Amid some of the hype surrounding the metaverse, I was struck by a Washington Post profile of Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, creator of Fortnite. The article included this synopsis of Tim’s vision for brands and the metaverse:
“The metaverse … would be an expansive, digitized communal space where users can mingle freely with brands and one another in ways that permit self-expression and spark joy…
“It would not be the manicured, ad-laden news feed presented by platforms like Facebook.”
As brand teams think about how to experiment with the metaverse, there’s a risk of marketing myopia. From inside a marketing team, it can be easy to imagine that consumers are just waiting to “mingle freely” with their brand. Marketers sometimes over-inflate just how much people think about brands or want to engage with them.
I saw this type of marketing myopia as a General Mills summer intern years ago. That summer, the cereal division debuted an entire Theme Park focused on General Mills cereal brands inside the Mall of America. It was called Cereal Adventure and it featured a two-story Lucky Charms slide, cereal-themed games, educational offerings about how cereal is made, and a chance to walk through a mock cereal factory. All cereal, all the time. So confident in the appeal to “cereal fans”, they even charged admission.
It turned out that visitors didn’t really care about cereal brands and the making of cereal as much as cereal marketers thought they would. The project was shelved a year or two later (although I still have a Wheaties box with my picture on it somewhere).
I see some of the mindset behind Cereal Adventure in how some marketing teams talk about their brands’ surefire appeal in the metaverse. This type of marketing myopia also appeared in the early days of brands on Facebook, and every newer social media platform that came along.
Whether building a world or dropping a brand experience into an existing platform, it’s important to keep in perspective the actual role of the brand in people’s lives. Ultimately, brands have to meet people where they are.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: