Transform Magazine: Succeeding on the Metaverse – 2022

What do brands need regarding the current and future role of the metaverse in communications, customer relations, marketing and brand awareness? David Craik investigates

Walking down Main Street is proving to be a different experience in 2022. It’s no longer the Main Street it once was, with its grocers, butchers, identikit clothing stores and the ubiquitous person feeding the pigeons.

This is the metaverse; a fully fabricated virtual reality space that blends the computer with the individual.

Examples of brands engaging with their audience through a digital world abound. Fashion brand Forever 21 is a prime example of how the retail experience is embracing the future. It recently partnered with metaverse-focused Virtual Brand Group and Roblox to create a game called the Forever 21 Shop City experience where users — or at least their virtual avatars — can create and operate their own personal stores. They can also buy and sell Forever 21 clothing, hire employees, manage inventory, and decorate store windows.

Sportswear giant Nike also has a space on Roblox called Nikeland where users can play games and find sometimes exclusive collections of shoes, apparel, and accessories that their avatar can wear on the site. In December 2021, Nike also purchased non-fungible tokenized collectibles (NFT) studio RTFKT to allow users to purchase virtual sneakers to wear in the virtual world.

Estée Lauder teams up with female artist Alex Box to create an original NFT based on her Advanced Night Repair product. According to Estée Lauder’s press release, users of the Decentraland metaverse website can enter the “Little Brown Bottle” to unlock a digital badge and claim a wearable NFT that gives “avatars a glowing, radiant aura.”

In addition to adding punch and excitement to a brand and engaging with younger users, the rush to the metaverse is clear when considering growth forecasts.

A recent Citi report, “Metaverse and Money,” said the metaverse could be the next generation of the Internet. It would combine the physical and digital worlds in an immersive way with use cases including everything the internet is already used for today, such as games, e-commerce, art, media, advertising, smart manufacturing , healthcare, virtual communities and social collaboration.

A device-independent metaverse, according to the report, would be accessible through personal computers, game consoles and smartphones, creating a large ecosystem. As a result, this indicates that the total addressable market for the Metaverse could be between $8 billion and $13 billion by 2030. The total number of Metaverse users would be around five billion.

“Tell me one industry that’s hotter than the metaverse right now. There isn’t,” says Justin Hochberg, CEO and founder of the Virtual Brand Group, which helps companies — such as Forever 21 — build , leverage and monetize the metaverse.” Citi’s projection of $13 billion is well above the valuation of Apple and other big tech companies and just short of the $20 billion US economy. The market is huge and the opportunity is just beginning.

He says every brand should seek exposure to the metaverse. “If I told you today if my media publication or my donut shop should have an e-commerce strategy, there would be no doubt,” he says. “It may not be well enough understood, but we’re at exactly the same point with the metaverse. If you don’t spend time trying out aspects of the metaverse, you create an opportunity for a rival or an existing startup to leave you in the dust.

“You don’t have to be consumer-centric either. An insurance brand can move to Decentraland and plant a seed for the next 10 years. Why not? It’s up to you to shape it.”

To access the metaverse, there are different options, from creating shops or virtual experiences on Roblox or Fortnite, to creating structures and virtual experiences on 3D sites such as Decentraland, or creating NFTs representing your branding, sponsoring events on the metaverse, and, like Nike, making acquisitions.

Another option is to create a virtual desktop. This is precisely what the Vice Media Group (VMG) did on Decentraland. It brings together employees from several VMG companies, such as the creative agency Virtue Worldwide. Clients and collaborators can meet for briefings, presentations and in situ demonstrations of recent projects. “We’ll be experimenting with NFTs and Web 3.0 together in the office and applying that insight directly to brands that want to make an impact,” says Morten Grubak, global executive creative director of innovation at Virtue. “We will learn by doing and discovering what works and what doesn’t. Any client can contact us, and we’ll help them build a roadmap for the metaverse and get into that space.

But brands need to have a clear strategy in order to reap the rewards of the metaverse.