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Curiouser and curiouser – by MCH Global’s Uli Stanke

MCH Global’s Uli Stanke journeys down the rabbit hole of experiential’s next chapter, the metaverse

Uli Stanke, head of experiential innovation, MCH Global

By Uli Stanke, head of experiential innovation, MCH Global

When I first heard the term metaverse, I distinctly remember a familiar sceptical feeling. Over the years our industry has seen its fair share of ‘next big things’, with annual reports shouting about everything from artificial intelligence to life on Mars as the next big thing in marketing.

With this slight hint of scepticism, I set off on a magical, Alice-esque journey to learn and understand as much as I could about our latest industry buzzword.

I wanted to appreciate better what the true a-ha moment is when it comes to the metaverse. What is its magical draw, the thing that attracts younger audiences in droves? Why do people spend longer and more concentrated periods of time in these vast worlds, spread over a loosely (if at all) connected universe. For an increasingly grey-haired father heading towards 40, it was a struggle to appreciate even a superficial attraction to this new frontier.

One thing became clear quite quickly: I needed to first understand Web 3 to better grasp the promise of the metaverse. Web 3 is the underpinning technology that will ultimately realise the full force of the metaverse as a principle, and  Web 3 ownership protocols and community-focused cohorts will push brands to offer deeper and more meaningful experiences for their audiences, either in the real world or a virtual one. 

Along this journey of discovery, I saw many brands rushing to execute ‘in the metaverse’ with experiences that fall into the trap of being a three-dimensional branding touchpoint. Granted, they are explorable and present visual experiences with an avatar, but for the most part they aren’t very exciting and are not something many users would revisit. How can brands design and deploy experiences in the metaverse that not only look good but also offer an impactful experience through interaction and content? How can they build a presence in this new world that offers true value and will stand the test of time? Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), ownership and the decentralised nature of the next generation of web experiences are key to unlocking the potential the metaverse presents.

Many brands had historically adopted a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality for their marketing experiences. The emergence of decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) and community-powered value has flipped that to a ‘bring them and they will build it’ reality.

An initial question that many brands miss is the ‘why’. Why are you doing this, what are your objectives, and who are you trying to talk to? Where will it live, how will you drive traffic there and what keeps people invested over the longer term? How will this complement other marketing efforts, and is it integrated into the bigger picture?

As hardware and software develop, the level of immersion will improve. Spatial audio, haptic inputs and even seemingly simpler things such as believable eye contact will foster and support adoption. The intrinsic questions from users will still be the same: Why am I here, do I enjoy it and what reason do I have to invest in this?

We were investigating if our metaverse should be public or private, centralised, or decentralised. Do we need high-fidelity graphics or scale of users? Always-on or one-and-done? With so many questions, it’s easy to feel lost in such a confusing landscape.

As I continued through the maze of metaverse experiences it became clear there are many formats that constitute a metaverse experience. The word metaverse itself feels like a misnomer, in that it suggests a singular place. The metaverse currently sits as a series of worlds within one – still unconnected – universe.

As I explored more and more, across multiple worlds, I began to understand the draw and appeal of the metaverse. We concluded that the only way to understand or explain the benefits of a metaverse experience is to experience one. With that in mind we set out to create our very own metaverse.

As an experiential agency, we wanted to focus on the part of the metaverse that we can actively comment on, the experience itself. With a pedigree in real world spatial design, journey mapping and content integration, we found that applying these skillsets to the design of a metaverse were surprisingly apt.

Arcadia is MCH Global’s very own metaverse experience, designed with the aim of onboarding and showcasing the potential that this exciting new medium presents to our clients.

We soon learned that the three-dimensional freedom a metaverse presents is actually quite daunting when designing an experience. Once we surmounted that learning curve, we focused on the journey.

We looked for different ways to engage our users once they arrived in Arcadia, from host-led presentation moments to audio experiences, environmental controls, interactive content and our own NFTs, linked to a real-world utility. We partnered with the team at Spaceto.io, who focus on building and creating exciting metaverse spaces, to bring our vision for Arcadia to life.

Arcadia will serve as a learning centre for clients, a collaborative platform for our global teams and a space that will continue to evolve, hopefully at the same pace as the agency itself.

The Arcardia metaverse experience can be found here.