Digital Essays 2021: Rethinking our reality: marketers join the metaverse, by Fusion5’s Elie Haber

By Elie Haber, co-founder and managing partner, Fusion5.

What seemed incomprehensible even a few weeks ago is beginning to become a little more concrete in our minds – well, as concrete as possible given the virtual, Matrix-like thing that the metaverse is.

Making our heads spin, one-by-one big brands are announcing their whole-hearted venture into the metaverse.

Most notably, Facebook just changed its name and branding to Meta in preparation to lead in immersive technologies. Microsoft just announced Microsoft Mesh, launching in 2022, which has mixed-reality capabilities and allows people in different physical locations to join shared holographic experiences. To encourage customer loyalty and demonstrate their digital creativity, McDonald’s gave away NFTs to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the McRib. Nike ‘just did it’ and filed a patent for virtual clothing. The patent protects its marks on digital products, including “downloadable virtual goods”.

To illustrate how real this is (pun intended), Photoshop is gearing up to launch a ‘prepare as NFT’ option. Adobe is also working on an anti-theft feature called Content Credentials for NFT art.

So how will this affect marketing agencies and how they operate?

Simply put, the metaverse is an online, 3D, virtual space connecting users in all aspects of their lives. It promises to merge the physical world with new technologies that will transform how people entertain themselves, interact with others, shop and engage in regular activities.

The industry agrees that conventional online and offline advertising methods in physical stores, on billboards and other traditional advertising channels will take a back seat. Even traditional digital marketing will not cut it against exciting immersive experiences – exactly what the metaverse will provide for advertisers. The key difference with traditional advertising spaces is that this space is more grassroots, led by communities, each with its unique voice, experience, and interests.

Every brand and organisation will want a metaverse strategy and marketers will need metaverse-related skills to support their businesses. Getting into the metaverse, agencies will need to ramp up on hiring tech-related specialists, digital content creators and digital community managers. Facebook is planning to create 10,000 new jobs to build the metaverse, including highly specialised engineers. Agencies will need to source experts in augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, virtual event managers – even digital fashion designers to dress the avatars.

A metaverse marketer will need to have their finger on the pulse of a fast and ever-changing internet culture and imagine brand stories in 3D. Brands will be building ‘worlds’ and marketers will need to figure out how to get their audiences to find and explore those worlds in the metaverse.

Agencies will need to source creative talent who can devise strategies that will bridge between real-life brands and their audience in virtual spaces. To buy billboard real estate or brand visibility, marketers will need to get on platforms like Discord and insert themselves into games like Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite. Gucci recently sold a virtual handbag on the Roblox platform for $4,115. Balenciaga dropped their fall 2021 collection in Fortnite in Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, a closed gaming environment. Luxury beauty brand Clinique launched its first NFT in a social media competition that offered entrants a chance to win NFTs for one of its flagship products. We envisage that professional blockchain trend-spotters have never been as important as they are now and will be in the future.

Digital marketers must also become tech-savvy and be kept informed of the latest tech innovations, including understanding the potential of the metaverse. Marketing needs to connect and build on what a brand represents in the real world in parallel with what it will do in the metaverse. Rather than an afterthought, a metaverse strategy will become part of the genesis of an idea.

The metaverse will not be built overnight

For those of us still wrapping our heads around the whole idea of a metaverse, it’s a little comforting to remember that the internet took 40 years to build and it’s still evolving. The metaverse is not one product or one platform that any one company can own or build alone. Some estimate it will take 10-15 years to build the metaverse and, like the internet, it will always be a moving target as new technologies develop. This means that there’s no better time to experiment and create new ways of existing in the metaverse.

Dubai recently hosted the World Blockchain Summit, in which 1,500 experts took part. MetaDubai, is building a virtual version of Dubai with blockchain, which will have a complete digital economic system and decentralised governance. Viewfin, a blockchain research and development firm with corporate offices in Toronto and Shanghai, announced a metaverse cooperation project with the government of Dubai. Metaverse enthusiasts can also connect with other fans in Dubai’s own Metaverse Blockchain Meetup Group.

While new skill sets and competencies are needed in the metaverse, the goal will remain the same: attract the attention of customers, deepen the relationship with the brand and inspire users to make transactions. Media agencies will continue to guide strategies on building touchpoints to connect real-world traditional media, digital communication and the metaverse.

Meta means ‘beyond’ in Greek. To the team at Fusion5, metaverse means preparing for products, services, and trends beyond what we imagine today in a space that makes anything we imagine possible. See you in
the metaverse.