Metaverse; the new frontier for brands – by YAAP’s Atul Hegde

Atul Hegde YAAP Founder

by Atul Hegde, founder, YAAP

Straight off the bat, let’s address the elephant in the room: Is the metaverse just a fad? The truth is nobody knows the answer to this. But it is the same as when man invented the flying machine or, more recently, when Steve Jobs developed the iPod. As is the case with all new inventions, there will be enough supporters and naysayers, and only time will be the real judge of what will unfold.

So, why is it important for brands to embrace the metaverse, especially in the UAE? No country in the world has taken such a strong bullish position on the metaverse as the UAE. Until the UAE entered the fray, the support had been rather individual-driven — from visionaries such as Mark Zuckerberg — than institutional. The country, particularly its leadership, is way ahead of the world in its commitment to making the metaverse one of the most significant inventions of our time. The government has a no-holds-barred approach and is backing its vision with investments and policy frameworks. 

The vision to encourage a solid ecosystem of players who will help build and maintain the metaverse and its various activities is surely going to bear fruit. And I must say we are already seeing some early adopters both in the public and private sectors. The Dubai metaverse Strategy is a notable example and a strong statement from the leaders. Since its launch, metaverse adoption has grown steadily. The UAE Ministry of Economy launched its office in the metaverse. Also, DEWA recently launched its “DEWAverse”, becoming the first government entity in the UAE to have a metaverse presence. By embracing metaverse, DEWA, an apex body for water and electricity utilities in Dubai, has set a strong precedent for other governing bodies and institutions. 

Such an institutional adoption means that the metaverse has found an admirer in the UAE. Soon, other apex bodies could follow suit, leading to cross-sectoral opportunities in the metaverse. Several developments are pointing in that direction. We have also seen a flurry of metaverse summits and seminars recently. These act as a catalyst, galvanising the entire industry towards the race to build a robust metaverse presence. Brands must seize this opportunity, which is unique to the UAE currently. 

Here is a 5-step quick hack for brands to build their presence in the metaverse:

  1. Start now — there is no perfect time: It’s easy to procrastinate and play the wait-and-watch game, but harder to gain a competitive edge. Take the lead of brands in the lifestyle and retail space — they have all dived into this headfirst and are reaping the benefits of the first-mover advantage.
  2. Stay true to your brand: The metaverse is new, but your consumer is not. Build your brand, not just the metaverse. Stick to core brand values and bring them to life in the metaverse. Consumers relate to brands, not necessarily the mediums. Treat the metaverse as any other medium and let the brand find its unique play.
  3. Don’t build a Monolith: Start small but do start. Like all new inventions, the metaverse, too, will keep evolving at a furiously fast pace. Do not be fixated on building the most perfect or the biggest presence in the metaverse — you may fail. Identify your core proposition and build around it with abundant speed. This is the fastest and the best learning curve you will have in this space.
  4. Content versus technology: As in any form of communication, the hero in the metaverse, too, is content. Tech is just the enabler. Don’t let it overwhelm you or slow down your project. Consumer engagement in any medium hinges on how you tug at their hearts and big dazzle with tech.
  5. Hire a good partner: Since it’s early days in the metaverse universe, ensure you partner with an organisation with the right credentials — a partner who can make the entire process smooth, from identifying the right real estate platform in the metaverse to designing the tech, to building the presence. Also, associate with someone who will help you monetise, be it with NFTs or with the right usage of cryptocurrencies. To summarise, partner with someone who can guide you through the maze and fast-track your presence in the verse.

So, as you begin your journey into the metaverse, I’d like to quote Star Wars: “May the Force be with you.” The catchphrase is often used to wish someone venturing on an enthralling mission that will unearth wonders and open new possibilities. There is no better way to aptly describe the journey into the metaverse.