Following the hype in 2021, brands will focus on experimenting in the metaverse to offer immersive, social and shoppable spaces that generate ROI and further blur the lines between retail and marketing.
In 2021, marketers entered the metaverse via platforms such as Roblox and Fortnite, as well as with AR, NFTs and digital fashion. Interest expanded when Facebook announced its transition into a metaverse company, leading to mainstream curiosity and a new tech race. We are only at the precipice of what will someday be possible online, as the tools and tech available now allow us to experience the metaverse in its most basic form. Marketing opportunities will expand and the ‘metaconomy’ will emerge as technology matures and consumer interest grows, which will extend the scope of storytelling for brands.
As the world transitions from Web2 (UGC and social media) to Web3 (a decentralised internet that puts communities in control), brands will need to adapt and collaborate with native Web3 companies or risk obsolescence (see adidas's Into the Metaverse initiative, where it teamed up with Web3 partners such as NFT community Bored Ape Yacht Club). Marketers getting their heads around this new normal can turn to ‘learn-to-earn’ communities such as JUMP, a tokenised and community-powered group of ad industry workers who chat about Web3 applications and ask questions in a safe space on Discord. There is also web3baddies, a Discord group democratising Web3 information for "girlies, gays, non-binaries and baddies," driven by a mission to make the metaverse more equitable.
Brace for the ‘metaforce’
Brands need to be thinking about entering and experimenting in the metaverse now, and Fortnite and Roblox are great places to start. As we reported in 2021, Roblox's VP of Global Brand Partnerships, Christina Wootton, noted how brands are starting to build metaverse teams to future-proof themselves and power experiences in the platform. "We recently have started hearing about brands considering the creation of special metaverse teams, just like how they put together teams to focus on specific social media channels not too long ago," she told Vogue Business.
In 2022, the 'metaforce' (metaverse workforce) is emerging alongside the rise of virtual worlds. Facebook is hiring 10,000 workers across the EU, and fashion brands such as Balenciaga and OTB (which owns Diesel) are paving the path forward and launching dedicated business units. Agencies are even building virtual offices to amplify their metaverse ambitions. In December, creative agency Very Serious Partners bought real estate in Decentraland's exclusive Voltaire neighbourhood to build AdLand. It offered virtual office space in Decentraland for ad agencies to power their metaverse in exchange for new business.
Over on LinkedIn, searching the word “metaverse” and setting the filter to people reveals more than 13,000 results of individuals who use the term to describe their role in their bio. There are even 88 results from the search “Chief Metaverse Officer”. There are also metaverse job boards emerging, which are dedicated to identifying and recruiting for careers in Web3, so this is certainly a growing space that every business should be closely monitoring.
NFT reward schemes
NFTs are one-of-a-kind digital collectibles bought on the blockchain, which have defined the cultural landscape in the past year, and they have proven to be one of the easiest entry points to the metaverse. Consumer interest rocketed in 2021: Collins Dictionary named "NFT" word of the year, and NFTs became a top gift choice during the end-of-year holidays. While 60% of people don't know what an NFT is, consumer interest is on the rise, largely driven by hype and FOMO. In Q3, trading reached $10bn, up 704% from Q2. While some brands have been slow to embrace NFTs due to the environmental impact of blockchain tech and consumers' concern about its use case, others such as Gap have addressed these issues. For its first NFT drop in January, it launched on the "energy-efficient blockchain" Tezos. The offering included a gamified experience that let customers unlock additional digital goods and a limited-edition branded hoodie.
Until recently, brands have largely treated NFTs as a revenue stream with the potential to yield lucrative results, but in 2022 NFTs are transitioning into a rewards scheme. Clinique launched a gamified NFT experience that invited consumers to share stories of their hopes for the future in order to win the chance for an NFT and gain access to branded products for a decade. According to the brand, its MetaOptimist NFT "represents the promise of great skin for the future”. Similarly, The NBA's Dallas Mavericks rolled out a rewards scheme for fans at games, giving them a chance to unlock NFT profile pictures. Featuring six of its players, 20,000 were available only on-site, which encouraged repeat attendance. "The whole idea is not to try to sell (the NFTs) and try to make some money off them. The whole idea is to reward fans for coming," said owner Mark Cuban.
Brands are incentivising NFT purchases with the promise of long-term access. As part of adidas's Into the Metaverse Web3 initiative, it launched a collaborative NFT project, which sold out. A select number of NFTs were made available in 2021 with a promise of unlocking future physical goods (arriving in 2022) and experiences, such as a chance to access virtual merch within adiVerse, the brand’s new virtual world in The Sandbox.
Investing in NFTs will unlock new experiences and earning potential for fans. In October, Bacardi set out to empower women producers in the music industry as part of its Music Liberates Music programme. It rolled out three tracks on a mixtape, which was sold as an NFT, and gave the consumers who purchased it the ability to earn a royalty percentage each time it was played.
In this ever-changing world, it’s never been more crucial for brands to keep pace and align with the needs and desires of consumers. Available to download, our Future Consumer 2024 white paper underlines the actions needed right now to ensure brands create the products that consumers will prioritise in the metaverse and beyond.