What is the Metaverse?
We have been hearing about the metaverse quite a lot over the last few months. However, there have been many different definitions, approaches and goals. As a concept that is still under development, a lot of people and businesses have their own understanding of it.
The overarching theme is that the metaverse is a world that uses elements from both physical and digital realms so a number of people can interact within. It is a persistent world where you can represent yourself as you wish, own objects, and interact in an active economy.
Why Should Marketers Care About the Metaverse?
This type of technology offers a way to access a bigger community and engage with them in a way that can’t be possible through Web 2.0.
The technology that metaverse experiences are being built on is deeply intertwined with blockchain systems: the underlying tech behind cryptocurrency and NFTs. These technologies offer a method of claiming “ownership” over unique digital goods.
It might seem clichéd, but in a phygital world, the only limit is your imagination. (And in this case, your marketing budget.)
The Purpose of Branding in a Web 3.0 era
Branding has two main roles for the consumer. The first one is that it communicates the company’s values, credibility and beliefs. It lets the consumer know what the brand stands for. The second role of branding is self-expression and signaling, it communicates how the brand wants to be seen.
However, in the metaverse, it is crucial to amplify the self-expression component of a brand over anything else. Let your consumers immerse in your beliefs through metaverse activations that represent what you stand for.
While there are still elements of trust to consider, such as longevity and continuity of values, branding in the metaverse hinges on marketers’ ability to bring their brands to life in a specific way in a specific environment.
The power of signaling precisely what someone means and who they are when they digitally showcase a brand will grow exponentially. Similar to the mind-shift that occurred when marketers transitioned from catalogs to e-commerce and ultimately to anywhere-commerce, branding in the metaverse requires a fundamental change in their approach.
How Can I Build My Brand in the Metaverse?
There isn’t a straight formula, as we are still really early on in the metaverse development. And in the end, it massively depends on the nature and scale of your brand.
In the meantime, we should look at the metaverse as another campaign channel for your brand strategy to manifest through.
First off, you need to choose a platform, plan your creative strategy, and how this will reach your target audience. One you have all of those you can start building your positioning in whichever metaverse platform you have chosen.
The most important factor is whether your brand can actually add value to a virtual space or not. Think about what the metaverse is adding to your consumers’ journey. You can create virtual experiences that foster an emotional connection with your brand, like narrative content or interactive environments.
That said, a virtual world has essentially infinite creative potential — so you can’t rule anything out completely.
While there aren’t many playbooks for brands that have already made successful metaverse moves, it does mean there’s plenty of space for creativity. Brave brands willing to take a risk could end up being true pioneers.
Three risks of Metaverse Branding
1) Consumers might not want to spend time there
Many metaverse projects sound great on the surface. But they can be too idealistic and not practical enough about what’s actually going to get made.
Over the past few years, there’s been a ton of projects popping up in blockchain gaming; usually, crypto-linked online games where users can claim virtual land or goods for themselves. The problem is, they focus way too much on the transactional nature of their in-game items, and not enough on what’ll make people want to play them in the first place
2) Consumers have to pay extra to participate
Right now, it looks like VR headsets are going to be your main entry point into metaverse experiences.
But VR equipment is still niche and pretty expensive, with the lowest-price Meta device going for $299. This could change, but it’s debatable whether VR headsets will become widespread enough to warrant spending your marketing budget on appearing in them.
3) Choosing the right platform might be a headache
“Each entity that creates a virtual world does so with its own access, membership, monetization rights, and formats of creative expression, so the business and technical specifications vary widely.” Harvard Business Review
So, not only will you have to figure out which virtual world your target demographic hangs out in, but you’ll also have to play by the rules of each virtual world and customize all your digital assets to its operating rules. It could get expensive.
Adapting Branding Strategies for the Metaverse
With the metaverse emphasizing a new level of importance on brand image, brands must more clearly define their personality, core values and stance on social issues (if they choose to do so) more than ever.
So how can brands shift their strategies to create a strong brand image that resonates with and delivers value to consumers in the metaverse?
Understand Your Brand and Audience
Before fully diving into shifting your brand image to the metaverse, marketers need to ask themselves a few key questions. What does my brand stand for? Who are my customers? What do they value?
But how a marketer defines its brand personality and how a consumer sees it are often different. Truly understanding this provides a clear understanding of both the brand and its customers, which is instrumental in shaping the brand’s image and messaging in the metaverse. It also provides the guidance necessary to create synergy between a brand and its customers to signal who they are accurately.
Adopt an Authentic Approach
To avoid being perceived as gimmicky, marketers must nail their brand’s voice and persona in the metaverse. How? Through authenticity. This means the digital brand carries a voice that’s appropriate for the platform and would be “how the brand would behave” in that type of environment.
This demand for an authentic brand image extends into the experiences marketers create within the metaverse. Whether incorporating a brand into games, media and content or digital items — NFT’s anybody? — the brand must also naturally integrate with the world around it.
With these considerations in mind, marketers can build a branding strategy that establishes a deeper connection with customers and delivers on customers’ desire for value, community and experiences in the metaverse. However, the most crucial element that marketers must embrace is experimentation. The metaverse isn’t fully here yet, giving marketers ample time to thoroughly vet their branding strategy, testing new approaches, failing spectacularly and adapting to perfect their technique.