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Why the Metaverse matters

The blended world of digital and physical realities mark a fundamental shift in marketing.

Max Pinas, Dept

Executive Creative Director

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Gen Z looks at brands differently than the generations that came before them. Over the past few years, the boundaries between Gen Z’s physical and virtual lives have blurred. From Snapchat to Twitch, TikTok to Discord, gaming platforms to WhatsApp, meeting up virtually on these platforms has become the equivalent of hanging out on the street corner with friends and has signalled the birth of the Metaverse - a blended world of digital and physical realities.

The rise of the Metaverse matters for all generations because of its comparable development to social media when it was in its infancy. Back then, the general consensus was that social platforms would simply be about people showing their pets, holiday snaps and random opinions. Most brands didn’t care that much. But it’s now undisputed that social media is the driving force of modern pop culture, making it a necessity for brands to be present and drive their story first and foremost on social media before anything else. And the Metaverse is currently at a similar stage.

The rise of the Metaverse matters for all generations because of its comparable development to social media when it was in its infancy.

Max Pinas, Executive Creative Director at Dept

Leading the Metaverse pack

Brands that are leading the pack in using the Metaverse to stay in touch with new generations typically come from gaming, fashion, sports and, more recently, the crypto world. Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, League of Legends, Fortnite and Nike seem to have a sixth sense, finding niche trends that shortly become mainstream, helping them to lead in their respective categories. It’s no surprise that over the past two years they have  invested heavily in virtual experiments to seek out what works.

For example, last year Balenciaga launched its dystopian game, Afterworld, showcasing their futuristic clothing line; Vogue Runway subsequently heralded it as the future of fashion. Fortnite, a player-versus-player game played by hundreds of millions Gen Zs, collaborated with Nike to promote their new Jordans, and teamed up with rapper Travis Scott for a virtual gig to an audience of over 10 million.

Hugely popular esports game League of Legends collabed with Louis Vuttion for their latest world championship. Nike materialised virtual stores for their Air Max 720, calling out physical lines in shopping streets as: “so 2k18. Meanwhile, ComplexLand recently had an interesting take on the Metaverse by creating a free, open-world, shoppable virtual destination.

A new frontier for digital economy

When the movie Ready Player One dropped a few years ago, it seemed a bit ‘over the top Hollywoodish’. But, in hindsight, it had really relevant insights into what the Metaverse will look like; a powerful demonstration around the idea of bringing people together through a virtual connection and a virtual economy on a large scale.

The latter has become supercharged over the past year, with the breakthrough of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In short, NFTs are about ownership of something unique that cannot be replaced by anything else. Think about Van Gogh’s painting, Sunflowers: you can have as many reproductions as you like both physical and digital, but there is only one original, preserved and displayed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

NFTs create the same unique, one-of-a-kind ownership for the likes of digital art, a music performance, or a digital asset. This opens the door for limitless possibilities in owning equity in the digital universe. For example, Dutch DJ Don Diablo’s NFT virtual performance sold for $1.2 million. And it’s not just for twenty-first century brands; founded in 1744, Sotheby’s Auction House recently re-imagined itself by entering the NFT domain with extremely successful digital art auctions.

With growing concerns over privacy and the likes of Google and Apple starting to limit the ability to track users, the Metaverse gives brands an alternative opportunity to start forming meaningful relationships while building first party data.

Max Pinas, Executive Creative Director at Dept

A new universe to explore

Thanks to NFTs, the Metaverse has paved the way for real economies, meaning brands have access to an entire new universe for engaging people and doing business with them, just as brands would in the physical domain. It’s predicted that, in the end, these Metaverses will exceed the economy in the physical universe. 

With growing concerns over privacy and the likes of Google and Apple starting to limit the ability to track users, the Metaverse gives brands an alternative opportunity to start forming meaningful relationships while building first party data. This will, undeniably, be a necessity when it comes to doing successful business in the (near) future.

How to take action in the Metaverse

If you’re a marketer dazzled by the possibilities that a nascent sphere like this brings, you might ask: “what do I need to do with my brand in the Metaverse”? The answer is to start with the basics: investigate what's out there, have a hard look at your brand's DNA, and find what suits you best.

And don’t forget that the Metaverse is still ultimately populated by (real) people who give your brand new ways to grow and stand-out. So stay in the loop and don’t wake up one day wondering where everybody went.

See you in the metaverse!

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