The Reality of Metaverse
Tyronne O’Callaghan
Vice President, Strategy, Global Activation

Mark Zuckerberg’s recent decision to rename Facebook Group as Meta has drawn global attention to the world of ‘metaverse’; but is it simply the next marketing buzzword? A fad? Why should brands pay attention if they are not doing so already?

The metaverse is essentially a digital reality where people socialise, work or play. It is personalisation on a digital scale – a place where you can create an alternate digital ‘you’, a place to express yourself; but one that can be separated from reality if you so desire.

Many of us don’t realise that we are already part of the metaverse in one way or another. Just think about those times during lockdowns where you changed your video call background to something that better reflected you. Star Wars, a New York loft apartment, or any place you would rather be on that day – perhaps the Almafi coast or Aruba – are all backgrounds that we have probably witnessed.

So how did we get here?

While many brands have been focused on e-sports over the last decade, others have been planning for the age of metaverse. This was recently highlighted by Nike and their partnership with Roadblox. Nike has expressed their ‘intent to make and sell virtual branded sneakers and apparel’ in the metaverse. They are not alone; Gucci has been doing something similar in various digital communities.

It’s clear that consumer brands are open to the potential of metaverses as part of a path-to-purchase. But what about the world of B2B marketing?

The pandemic has fundamentally changed B2B marketing. In many cases, due to being traditionally anchored by events and meetings, there was a rush to move virtual. However, brand and audiences are often left with a vexing question – would this be better live? This has led to a lot of discussions around a hybrid events future.

Experiential marketing was already embracing new technologies and forms of engagement before the COVID-19 crisis hit. It is accurate to say that we will also embrace an Metaverse future.

That is not to say that live is better than digital. Each has their pros and cons. Our view at Pico is that blending live and digital channels is a natural approach that reflects the advanced digital world we live in. It not only provides accessibility, but a way to manage and provide different and deeper forms of engagement.

The metaverse will allow us to create engagements that we can only begin to imagine now. It is not just about technologies; it is about providing different forms of engagement. For example, visiting tradeshows can be overwhelming for some. Do you have enough time to visit every exhibitor? Do you really want them to know who you are? How do you deal with cultural nuances such as language and customs?

Most people agree that avatars will be a core part of the metaverse experience. For live product demonstrations or digital twin activations, avatars provide an option not just for expression, but also discretion. Learning from gaming is also a frontier that we are eagerly exploring, such as using digital tribes to create communities and engage professional segments that reflect shared values and beliefs.

Let’s not forget the fun factor. We are already seeing metaverses being built around trade and industry engagement. Persistent digital platforms that you not only visit, but from which you can teleport to different spaces and places in entertaining ways.

With the likes of Microsoft being an active player, the creative opportunities are exciting. The metaverse is the new frontier for audience interaction. Get ready.

The article above was first published on Asian Federation of Exhibition and Convention website on 10 Feb 2022.