What is it and who started it?
Here’s a fun fact for you.
The metaverse was first coined almost 20 years ago by Neal Stephenson in the science fiction novel Snow Crash. He described the metaverse as being a virtual space where people could present themselves digitally. Smart guy.
He also predicted internet dominance, cryptocurrencies, avatars, wireless connections, mobile devices, and data privacy breaches. Very smart guy.
For those ahead of the curve the metaverse and associated web3 technologies are giving new meaning to the word internet. Blockchain, cryptocurrencies and NFTs signify a new world where all the R’s - VR, MR and AR - gaming, social and commerce collide.
For non tech folk, the back-of-the-book review reads “Zoom 2.0, with unlimited possibility, potentially 5*s”. Metaverse supporters will work, play, and stay connected with friends, family and colleagues, immersing ourselves, virtually, well, in everything.
Zuckerburg and his meta-army are about to blur the line between what’s real and what’s not, real quick. And business owners, brands and agencies alike are in technical opportunity overdrive.
So, what does it mean for the future of marketing and advertising?
For the world of marketing and advertising the Metaverse is a whopping opportunity.
The ins and outs of the Metaverse, it’s limitations and possibilities are still brewing; but it’s no longer 1992, the metaverse no longer lives in Neal’s novel and the most forward-thinking marketers across the globe should be rubbing their hands together as we Segway into the realm of possibility for brands, consumers and tech partnerships.
Digital display will rise after a period of metamorphosis in the form of digital real estate. Some ad companies, i.e. Bidstack, have already transitioned from advertising on real-world billboards to virtual billboards built into video games. The Metaverse enables interactive advertising to thrive as more and more marketers reap the benefits of "Gamification".
Brands are also starting to introduce a new realm of product demonstrations, experiences and partnerships. It’s an out-of-this-world, excuse the pun, opportunity for innovative and trendsetting brands to create and experiment with new streams of marketing activity that 20 years ago would’ve seemed bonkers.
Take the latest work from Converse and creative agency Virtue who launched the world’s first virtual store on the Pacific Garbage Patch. Riding the wave of the technical future, and sustainability, by donating prototype sneakers made from sustainable inks and selling their most sustainable sneaker to date. All whilst raising funds to remove plastic from our oceans and beaches.
Meeting in the metaverse, for business
It’s common knowledge that the events industry has taken a huge hit since COVID arrived (sorry for mentioning it). People thought we’d never be able to replicate the intricacies of a physical event digitally, although some have tried and succeeded, big up the events team at Ingenuity, it isn’t quite the same as in-person.
The thought of an immersive digital world is not only an opportunity for events businesses, but it also opens a new landscape of showcasing and new business meetings. Networking events that are successful have pull factors that normally cost an arm and a leg, while in the Metaverse, visions can come to life virtually without the cost of logistics (don’t quote me on that).
For a B2B consultancy like Ingenuity, we’re loving the tease of a new professional environment. The very nature of our business and the currency we deal in is meetings. Agency and brand introductions, new business matchmaking, and the ability to bring that to life in a 3D virtual world, has us all thinking about what’s possible. I can already envisage phoning a household name brand and inviting them to a chemistry meeting to meet an agency in their virtual 3D office, or on the metaverse moon – whichever they’d prefer.
Gymshark gave us a taste of this recently when their chief brand officer, Noel Mack, uploaded a clip of him and chief executive Ben Francis, holding their first ever metaverse meeting. Mack is heard saying the tech is “a step ahead of zoom” as we watch their avatars move around to create presence, special awareness and digital body language. Revolutionary.
The 3D agency pitch process and credentials
The thing we value most here at Ingenuity is opportunity, and in new business consulting this word very much applies. For agency pitching the questions won’t lie in, “How do we pitch virtually?” but more “How do we pitch in 3D?”. We’ve already started having embryonic conversations on the Metaverse with clients and what it could do for them in the future. This new dangling carrot makes global working appear all that more attainable. UK-based agencies can now – potentially - consult and work with brands across the world without physically having to meet face-to-face whilst still creating that sit down physical experience.
The success of perfect agency and brand relationships, like all relationships, lives within the chemistry and the understanding of one another. A lot of agencies out there have the skillset to bring brand hero campaigns to life but are they the right match? The pre-qualified chemistry sessions have worked for us virtually, we’ve been busier than ever this year. But nothing beats face to face business. A big factor to consider is the theatrical aspect of face-to-face pitches, networking and selling in a 3D world. Will the metaverse introduce new avenues, skillsets, and ways of making those online virtual pitches wow-factor worthy? I’d love to see an Oh Shit moment in the metaverse.
What brands could expect to see from their agency partners
From an intermediary perspective, I envisage immersive credentials and showcasing; a revolutionary look into what an agency might be able to do for your brand. I’m going to throw it out there (and you heard it here first) B2B virtual showcase rooms will be at the forefront of the Metaverse where people will fully be able to immerse themselves into the agency life and culture from the comfort of their own homes. This goes for recruitment, too.
PR and brand rep
PR is a territory (just like the rest) that I imagine will grow into its own. A Metaverse news channel. Digital has replaced (somewhat) traditional papers and the metaverse is the birth of new digital news - a hub on creating buzz.
For now, brands race for headline coverage or SEO for metaverse search terms. Walmart are dominating headlines on their own new cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). They’ve filed trademarks to start virtually selling goods and claim to be “continuously exploring how emerging technologies may shape future shopping experiences.”
AB Inbev's beer brand Stella Artois alongside Zed Run, created a digitalised Kentucky Derby experience that aligned with Stella Artois' real-world activities, as a major sponsor for sporting events and horse racing.
And Gucci unveiled their "Gucci Garden" experience on Roblox, which enables people to collect limited edition Gucci items in the metaverse. It is reported that Gucci made sales of 286,000,000 Robux; which at current market value equates to approximately $3,575,000. Not bad.
Limitations and concerns of the Metaverse
It’d be wrong of me to praise the world of opportunity the metaverse brings without considering its downside. We’ve all seen the memes of people being ‘plugged in’ to the matrix, uncaring of the world outside.
My first personal concern is how easy it’s going to be ‘do everything digitally now’. Amidst the excitement we mustn’t forget to connect with consumers, business partners and other professionals in real life; no matter how cool or funky the digital world we create for ourselves becomes.
Networking events, in person business meetings, and in person consumer connection in the form of brand partnerships should continue, where possible, in a physical world. This digital tech savvy universe, whilst a pandoras box of opportunity, will never, and should never, replace human connection.
Let’s see how the matter of the metaverse will play out. Either way, I’m excited and you should be too. If you’re in idea overdrive, like we are, join our marketing in the metaverse webinar to get involved with the debate on what’s next for agencies and brands, here.
Thanks for coming to my Ted talk.
Subscribe to Ingenuity’s content hub
Receive the latest interviews, insights and trends straight to your mailbox.