We've all heard that the world is becoming smaller. Businesses are moving online and reaching customers from all around the world. It's become far easier to trade with people on the other side of the world, especially if you use virtual currencies and networks to reach them. And when it comes to virtual reality, there's no better channel to use than the Metaverse.
While experts still disagree about what the Metaverse is, we can describe it as a virtual space where people can interact with each other in a 3D environment. The Metaverse is made up of multiple digital layers, including virtual reality, augmented reality, social media, and 3D graphics.
Gaming and entertainment companies were the first to see (and take advantage of) the Metaverse to promote their products, but other corporations have followed their lead. Nike, Olay, and even singing sensation Ariana Grande have promoted products and music in the Metaverse, partnering with platforms like Decentraland and Fortnite to extend their reach and create truly ground-breaking campaigns.
By leveraging the Metaverse, brands can create immersive experiences that engage users in new ways on a global scale. The 3D design tools native to the Metaverse can be used to create interactive experiences and visuals that allow customers to explore products in a new and exciting way.
Why Marketers Need The Metaverse
It's easy to dismiss the Metaverse as a passing fad, but the numbers tell a different story. In 2021, Internet searches for the phrase "metaverse" increased by 7,200%. Metaverse-related companies raised $10 billion in that same year, while Epic Games raised $3 billion in 2022 to fund their long-term vision for the Metaverse. (They've also partnered with LEGO to build a metaverse for children). Today, the global value creation opportunity for brands in the Metaverse could be worth trillions of dollars.
While the current metaverse landscape is still constrained, cloud computing and the rapid adoption of 5G technology are rapidly removing the barriers, while the production cost for AR and VR hardware is rapidly declining. More than 10 million Oculus Quest 2 headsets were sold in 2021 alone, while additional devices (including haptic gloves and full-bodysuits) are moving into the mainstream as well. As tech companies like Microsoft and Meta continue to bet on the Metaverse, more consumers will participate and join virtual worlds, creating an excellent opportunity for brands to speak to early adopters.
The Wide Range of Applications
The Metaverse was originally the domain of gamers, but several corporations have started using the Metaverse for virtual employee training and collaboration as the remote working trend continues to prevail. Manufacturers have used the Metaverse for virtual prototyping, and architects and smart building designers rely on the Metaverse to create digital twins. Even governments are getting in on it: Barbados has opened an embassy in Decentraland, and South Korea is busy rolling out a five-year Metaverse construction plan. Brands can take advantage of these flexibility and interactive virtual spaces to set up stores, host inexpensive global product launches, or create virtual showrooms for their latest products.
The Expansion of Product Lines
Forty percent of global gaming revenues have been generated by the virtual goods economy. Most metaverse users over the age of 18 have a crypto wallet set up in order to participate in events and purchase virtual clothing or other accessories. These virtual items can be used in a number of different ways. Companies can gift virtual products to VIP attendees of their product launches or sell virtual versions of their products to metaverse customers. Other companies have experimented with virtual-to-physical transactions. Domino's, for example, will deliver pizza to your real-world home if you place an order in Decentraland.
Early Access to Important Demographic
It may surprise you to learn that less than 15% of current metaverse users are aged 18 and over. In fact, more than half of metaverse users are under the age of 12. This means that the next generation of spenders will be extremely familiar with virtual worlds and transactions, having grown up playing Roblox and Fortnite. Brands that want to capture the hearts and minds of this demographic when they graduate and start their careers need to be metaverse-natives.
Most marketers are well-versed in the power of social media and influencer marketing. The shift towards the consumption and preference of user-generated content can be perfectly carried over to the Metaverse, as a new generation of creator-users will create innovative and immersive brand content through paid and unpaid partnerships.
Creating Your Strategy
While we're only beginning to explore the possibilities of the Metaverse, several companies have already found success by leveraging the unique, immersive nature of the virtual world to build truly compelling brand experiences for their prospective customers.
Your metaverse marketing strategy may build on the same principles as any other campaign, but the application of those principles has to be adapted in order to take full advantage of the power of this multi-dimensional digital realm.
Here's how to compile your strategy:
Define Your Goals
Are your brand's consumers already using the Metaverse? Does the demographic of a specific platform appeal to your target audience? Are your existing or desired audience able to access the platform with ease and without paying subscription fees? If your target audience is already using, able to use, or interested in using the Metaverse, it may be better to allocate your time and resources elsewhere.
However, if you've established that the Metaverse is the perfect fit for your brand, you can start by setting your goals. Goals can include increasing awareness of your product among new audiences, generating favorable sentiment about your brand online, or promoting loyalty and usage among your existing customers.
Very few brands use Metaverse as a direct sales tool because the sale of virtual items can be quite complex and probably not significant enough as yet, especially since metaverse audiences tend to skew quite young. However, you can use the Metaverse to drive traffic to your ecommerce store or website, establish industry authority, or even boost brand engagement. Companies like Nike have made headlines several times over through their participation in the Metaverse, which has included launch parties, NFT sales, and participation in events like Decentraland's Fashion Week.
Choose Your Platform
The right message requires the right medium to be effective, and not every platform is suitable for your marketing needs. Artists like Ariana Grande and Travis Scott made upwards of $20 million by hosting concerts in the game Fortnite, while Gucci hosted a fashion event called Gucci Garden in Roblox. (The brand has also created virtual assets for sale in games like The Sims, Pokémon GO, and Animal Crossing). Other platforms, including Mesh by Microsoft, specifically target corporate and B2B users and require a Teams account to be used.
There are several platforms to consider, including:
- Nvidia Omniverse: This 3D simulation platform lets brands and users create and collaborate on 3D content in real-time. It's easy to create realistic images, avatars, and apps using Nvidia.
- Second Life: Second Life was one of the first Metaverse platforms to launch online. Brands can create and sell in-world assets to the community as it has a very well-developed and trusted economy.
- Somnium Space: Somnium Space gives brands unique opportunities to create exclusive worlds for their users, which can be expanded through SDKs. You can create sellable virtual assets in the game to boost engagement.
- Sandbox: This highly immersive, simple platform enables brands to build different items that can be sold or exchanged. It's one of the earliest users of the blockchain and works using its own currency, SAND.
- Decentraland: Several brands have already collaborated with Decentraland, including Coca-Cola. Users can explore a Coca-Cola museum, visit a colorful Coca-Cola factory and purchase digital Coca-Cola wearables and drinks.
- Cryptovoxels: Cryptovoxels is a decentralized virtual world that lets users create and develop virtual land on the blockchain. Many of the platform's users are established artists, which makes this a truly creative space for collaboration.
- IMVU: IMVU is a sociable virtual world where users can connect via realistic 3D avatars. You can earn credits by completing tasks and exploring exciting VR rooms. It's popular with fashion brands.
Designing Appealing Experiences
It's not enough to simply transfer a real-world experience to the virtual world. Metaverse users expect innovative campaigns and experiences, and brands need to meet those expectations. By using a combination of native advertising, virtual billboards, games, virtual stores, booths, events, and sponsorships, you can stand out from the crowd and create a truly memorable experience for your customers.
One brand that really ticked all of the boxes is Vans, who launched Vans World on Roblox to build awareness. Visitors could explore various skate sites with friends and earn points through gameplay that could be used to buy sneakers and apparel or customized skateboards. The company managed to reach 48 million visitors through the initial launch of the campaign.
Disney has also met the needs of their young target audience by using Roblox. When the movie Encanto launched, they added several interesting games and quests to Roblox that young fans could explore.
Experiment And Innovate With Omnichannel Marketing
We've already said that very few brands are focusing on direct sales, but that doesn't mean that companies aren't experimenting and finding success with completely new marketing and sales models for the Metaverse. Most companies have focused on direct-to-avatar sales. Gucci recently sold a digital version of their Dionysus bag for $4115 in Roblox, while Forever 21 earns revenue by selling a $1 beanie in the same game.
Other brands have looked outside the box and are experimenting with metaverse-to-offline sales and promotions. Chipotle enables Roblox players to exchange digital currency for burrito vouchers when visiting their metaverse restaurant, while Domino's will deliver pizza to your real-world address if you place a pie order in Decentraland.
Collaborate With The Right Partners
Make sure that you have the right skills to successfully develop and execute your metaverse strategy in a way that captures value. Brands should collaborate with companies and metaverse content creators that are active on their preferred platforms to ensure that they are able to deliver according to customer expectations. When NASCAR decided to create a metaverse event, they approached Badimo, the developer of Jailbreak, to add a branded car to the game for ten days. The game saw a 30% increase in concurrent players, while gamers interacted with the brand 24 million times during the period.
Today there are dozens of marketing agencies and developers that have added metaverse service models and capabilities to their portfolio. Many run successful virtual studios on platforms like Decentraland. You can also engage with influencers that are proponents of the Metaverse. Snoop Dogg has created his own virtual environment in the Sandbox and has even shot music videos in the Metaverse, while big names like Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, and Meghan Markle regularly host events or make appearances at popular launches or shows.
The free and unregulated nature of the Metaverse is a big part of its appeal to users, but it does pose risks from a brand perspective. Metaverse events take place in real-time and are far more immersive. Brands need to establish rules of conduct when it comes to user safety, data privacy, intellectual property management, and the distribution of false information. It's also important to discuss how the user experience will be managed by the platform to avoid walled gardens or access issues.
Metaverse Marketing Case Studies
New companies are the potential of the Metaverse being created every day. If you are looking for inspiration, take a look at some of these inspiring case studies:
Unilever worked with an in-house Metaverse company to create immersive experiences for popular products like Dove, Axe, and Lipton. In 2022, the company launched the Dove Self-Esteem Super U Story in Roblox in close cooperation with Toya and the Centre of Appearance Research. The story centers on The Academy, a school of superheroes that comes under siege from characters who spread negativity. The avatars are far more representative and realistic, designed to build the self-esteem of girl gamers.
Nike has launched several innovative campaigns in the Metaverse, including a collaboration with Hovercraft that made use of augmented reality. Together, they created a digitally-enabled discovery center for its All Conditions Gear H020 collection. Each station was equipped with QR codes that could be scanned to unlock interactive maps, an AR model of the Nike mascot, and animated models of local wildlife.
Samsung and the NFL created a 360-degree video experience that helps fans feel as though they are standing on the field. The campaign has reached more than 18 million fans to date, and the platform is being reused to create experiences for sponsors.
Olay also partnered with Samsung to promote their new gel moisturizer. Fans can use their Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift to do a virtual facial with popular influencers, from Jaime King to Sarah Jessica Parker, before repeating the process at home. The campaign received more than 369,900 views and improved its net promoter score by 3.
Millennium Hotels and Resorts
Millennium Hotels and Resorts have joined forces with MullenLowe Singapore to introduce M Social Decentraland, which marks the world's first-ever hotel in the virtual world of Metaverse. Upon entering M Social Decentraland, visitors are greeted by an avatar in the lobby who guides them throughout the hotel. Visitors who make it to the summit of Decentraland and post a screenshot of their avatar with the #MSocialDecentraland hashtag on their social media profiles have the opportunity to receive genuine hotel rewards. Virtual and physical reality combined to boost engagement.
Disney generated buzz around the movie Toy Story by recreating 70 movie scenes in virtual reality. The campaign generated more than 3.2 million viewers in a relatively short period of time and raised more than $20,000 dollars for the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.
The rise of virtual and augmented reality technology has provided marketers with an opportunity to connect with a global audience in new and innovative ways. One of the key advantages of marketing in the Metaverse is the ability to create immersive experiences that engage and captivate users. Brands can design virtual environments that showcase their products or services, enabling users to interact with them in ways that would not be possible in the physical world.
The Metaverse has the potential to be a powerful tool for brands, with careful planning and consideration. There are so many innovative Metaverse solutions that can elevate your brand, if you are willing to take a leap of faith to futureproof your business.
What is the metaverse and how does it relate to marketing?
The metaverse refers to a virtual world comprising interconnected digital communities and spaces where users can interact with each other in a fully realized 3D environment. Marketing in the metaverse involves creating virtual experiences and branding campaigns that engage users and build brand awareness within the metaverse community.
What are some examples of innovative marketing in the metaverse?
Innovative marketing in the metaverse includes virtual events, product launches, in-game advertisements, and experiential marketing campaigns. Luxury fashion brand Gucci created a virtual fashion experience in Roblox, where users could try on virtual clothes and accessories, attend virtual fashion shows, and participate in branded challenges. Dove created video game characters in Roblox representative of different body types as part of their self-esteem project.
What are the benefits of marketing in the metaverse?
Companies can reach a global, highly engaged audience, create immersive brand experiences, and generate revenue from virtual products and services. It can also allow companies to experiment with new marketing strategies and reach new demographics that may be difficult to reach through traditional advertising methods.
How can small businesses with limited resources participate in metaverse marketing?
Small businesses with limited resources can participate in metaverse marketing by leveraging existing platforms, such as Roblox and Decentraland, or pool resources with other companies. They can also offset the cost of their campaign by selling virtual items.
What is the future of metaverse marketing and how can companies stay ahead of the curve?
As technology becomes more affordable and accessible, more people will move to the Metaverse, creating additional opportunities for brands to explore. Brands that want to stay ahead of the curve should invest in virtual real estate now and start collecting data about their target market for future use.