Some guide to follow carefully is helpful
Is it the future of the internet, a seething investment market, is it a fight over how we humans will interact, or is it a game: the metaverse is seemingly everywhere: that’s how the agencies present it.
Or rather, arguably the smartest online marketing publishers on the planet, WARC, wrestled with two recent reports from major marcom portfolio companies on the Metaverse: one from Publicis’ Starcom and another from WPP’s Wunderman Thompson. They reflect a form of the tips to come. That is interesting.
A world where the real world and the virtual world come together
We clicked through to the Marketingfacts story and found that it’s been less than half a year since the Metaverse was first mentioned, more specifically by Gert Koot, these days the esteemed trend watcher of all things innovation, media and marketing: NFTs, virtual work environments like Zoom and Horizon Workrooms advertised by Facebook, and the sheer size of games like World of Warcraft and Fortnite. These are signs of what is now called the ‘Metaverse’. A world where the real world and the virtual world come together and there is no longer any difference between them. Are we getting closer to what could be? No not yet. But of course it’s a development you definitely need to keep an eye on in certain areas.’
WARC did the latter by delving into how vendors are sold and the site was quick to emphasize that the metaverse doesn’t exist at all yet. In fact, the current wave of hype about the metaverse is siphoning off much of all kinds of investment capital and mixing it with this futuristic concept known as Web 3.0. That includes crypto, but also the metaverse.
So the bottom line is that someone is going to win in the midst of the turmoil; Opaque markets are good at it and good marketers have a nose for it. For example, Wunderman Thompson brought together 15 different experts to define the “thing,” WARC found. Still, there is reason for a serious attitude. The company formally known as Facebook is now pursuing Meta’s ambitions and spending a lot of money on it. Microsoft just spent $68 billion on Activision Blizzard, also with an eye to the metaverse. In fact, this mainly means that the idea has taken hold that digital services and experiences will become even more important to people’s physical lives. You don’t have to believe it yourself to see where the money is.
A fundamental topic of discussion on digital identity
WARC sees two main currents with overlap between all the explanations for something so mind-boggling. One field sees the metaverse as an Internet that feels like a video game, where the Internet becomes a virtual realm. The other sees the metaverse as a fundamental discussion topic around digital identity, making it a task to build back-end systems that allow a user to switch between virtual spaces through a single, consistent digital identity. Think of it like logging into Facebook or Google accounts, but richer and even more consistent.
It’s quite rare that tekkies actually deal with the metaphysical aspects of philosophy (their loose relationship with ethics is notorious), but “the metaverse is at a point where thinking about it means thinking about ourselves, the nature of reality, the nature of control. ‘. Koot also pointed this out in his Week van Koot. Some guidance on cautious tracking makes sense, WARC argues, so it delved into how marketing service providers, the largest agency networks, explain it.
Starcom is honest about the theoretical stage this technology is at, highlighting four tensions, which it also highlights in a series of podcasts accompanying the report. Those podcasts are a must anyway.
- Socials vs. Solo: How the Metaverse Merges First and Third Space.
- Truth vs. Design: How the Metaverse Can Tell You Anything You Want to Hear.
- Access vs. Ownership: How actions and objects can be owned in metaverse spaces.
- Protection versus freedom: how the metaverse is organic but needs regulation.
Wunderman Thompson, on the other hand, wrote a report in September based on the way business is being done, whether it’s through virtual ownership or advanced remote work. It focuses on five key “lessons” for brands:
- Brands need to be part of the digital third spaces: the places where people increasingly socialize, work and shop.
- Values and ethics will continue to matter in the virtual world.
- The degree of integration between the digital and the physical will be high; virtual events will have physical consequences and vice versa.
- There are two main ways to get involved as a brand: help build the infrastructure, tools that enable metaversal experiences, or refine the end-user experience.
- No one owns the metaverse, even if companies try. The internet works because no one owns it, and if the metaverse is going to live up to its potential, brands will have to work together instead of colonizing its pieces.
The question that remains, of course, is whether the metaverse is already worthy of serious discussion during the marketing management meeting. Or during the pile driving session. WT seems to point to that. It will certainly matter where and how often you sell products and services – an automaker will be different than a peanut butter brand – but we’re especially curious if the whole topic is alive and well among marketers. And how. And because. Feel free to let us know. After all, we are ‘marketing innovation’.