Marketing prowess versus the enigma of the metaverse

Liz Miller

  • VP, Constellation Research
Liz is VP and principal analyst at Constellation, focused on the demands on today’s CMO, the evolution of customer engagement and the rising requirement for a new security posture that accounts for the threat to brand trust. A 20-year marketing veteran, Liz offers guidance on the leadership, business and technology requirements for marketing organisations and how to effectively transform to stay competitive. Liz previously oversaw research, programs and content for the Chief Marketing Officer Council. She is a skilled moderator, facilitator and speaker, engaging c-suite executives in webcasts, roundtables, presentations and panels around the globe.

Flash back to the classic film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Television-obsessed Mike insists on becoming the first person to be ‘sent by Wonkavision’, dematerialising on one end, pixel by pixel, and materialising in another space. His cinematic dreams are realised thanks to rash decisions as he is shrunken down to fit the digital universe, followed by a trip to the taffy puller to return to normal size.

Now instead of thinking of Wonkavision, let’s call it the metaverse.

Today, the metaverse feels simultaneously ominous and exhilarating. It is the modern enigma for the digital-first marketer, full of hope and possibility while simultaneously being a puzzling and unexplainable void. Digital leaders have started to outline numerous use cases and business imperatives for those willing to be early disruptors shaping the metaverse economy.

Those taking the early leap will serve as aspirational landmarks on the road into the metaverse. The truth is many will not have the willpower to be part of this advance party. Nevertheless, now is the time to start thinking about what the metaverse holds for chief marketing officers.

There are two conversations we need to have: First, what is the metaverse and second, what is our place in the metaverse economy?

Demystifying the new world

Let’s start with definitions. The metaverse is an infinite domain of shared immersive experiences in which commerce, community and currency co-exist and are co-created. By nature, and by design, the metaverse transcends defined boundaries of ‘physical’ and ‘digital’. It asks us to suspend disbelief and build anything we dare, together.

Let’s put this into perspective without referencing a video game. The metaverse is where a ride on a stationary bike is a fully immersed and connected experience. Riders don’t watch a screen to consume a static pre-recorded workout. Instead, riders and instructors all immerse, don goggles to be in the room and ride alongside their community. Currency, mined by the power generated by a bike in the physical world, allows riders to tip their instructor and pay for virtual waters for friends.

It could be argued this capacity exists today. But, in the fully realised metaverse, before class starts, riders can stop at the virtual grocery store next door to the gym, pick out some essentials and before the cooldown of their workout is over, real groceries are delivered to a real front door. They’re paid for by those sweat-equity bucks they just pedalled into existence.

Which Half is Marketing’s Half?

In the metaverse, passive campaigns, partial personalisation and half-hearted stabs at data literacy will not cut it. Customer journeys can’t be neatly created in anticipation of an obedient audience of customers dutifully following our sequenced and orchestrated directives.

A line from a report on the metaverse economy from Constellation Research posits the mandate as such: “Entry into the metaverse should take a purpose-driven and brand-led approach. Identify areas where the brand has market permission to introduce, participate, and lead.”

This is a world in which a brand needs to be willing to bring 50 per cent of a shared experience to the table. Yet somehow it feels like a trap, an eerie invitation to return to that age old question of which 50 per cent of marketing is effective and which was waste. Can brands let down their guard and co-create in the moment? Or will we wrap the same push-centric communications of Web 2.0, delivered through virtual reality (VR) goggles?

Brands won’t get a break when the one-way street of ‘spray and pray’ communications is passed off as an experience. The mere presence of digital content won’t pass as an experience. Personalisation will not equal getting someone’s name right.

Not Best Practices. Better Starting Points

Unfortunately, we are not at a point to legitimately identify best practices of the metaverse. We are just too early in a game that has yet to truly start. This means there is still time to prepare.

Define cultural values now

This isn’t to say draft a snappier mission and vision statement on your website. Now is the time to truly take that step back and articulate where and how your products, your brand, your people and your vision intersect with the world. Do not mistake this opportunity as a chance to rewrite that tagline. This is about understanding why your customers buy as opposed to what you want to sell.

Shift relationship strategies

Don’t focus on what attracts but instead look to strategies that sustain. Ask any couple that has been married for decades: Success isn’t measured in the grand gestures. Instead, success is measured in the mundane, in the problem solving, in the everyday. Think of the acts and actions every ambassador of your brand should be willing to take in order to sustain a relationship. These are the building blocks to that 50 per cent a brand needs to bring to the table. Don’t discount how important this will be.

Abandon the quest for delight

The metaverse won’t be about delight. The metaverse will be about moments of opportunity that are immediately recognised and acted upon with all parties jumping in, all at once, with millions of expectations and one shared journey. By letting go of delight as a destination, perhaps we can finally start to focus on what’s truly important and what is needed, in that moment. And yes, it could be argued that in some moments, delight is just what the customer ordered. Then so be it.

Build that delight together. Forcing every moment to be delightful is too much pressure. In the metaverse, sometimes, showing up and just saying hello will be all the delight a customer demands until you can build an experience together.

Where is the Metaverse?

Many point to gaming or Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) as a clear and present sign that the metaverse is here and already booming. NFTs are essentially a unit of data stored on a distributed ledger that creates verified and immutable proof regarding ownership of a digital object. This has provided the foundation for a new array of digital assets such as images, animations, music and digital object. Some are serving IP and copyright purpose for creators and brands, others providing an quick-return incremental revenue stream.

However, for those of us who have avoided being consumed by the world of Roblox or have yet to trade a token of a taco, there is an outstanding example of what the metaverse as applied to business will look like.

Field service. That’s right. For many organisations, field service will be the first point of entry to a shared, immersive, wholly future-forward digital experience. Today, it is already possible for a field service technician to visit a site to service and repair a multi-million-dollar wind turbine. She can pull out her iPad and leap into a fully immersive experience where she can see a 3D overlay of the problematic mega-machine, manipulate and experiment with overlaid graphics, twist and turn pieces to see where and what the problem might be. She can send out a call to experts to immediately swarm around the problem and bring everyone into the same space, just not in the same room.

And CMOs beware. You won’t be able to campaign your way through the metaverse. It will be easy to lose course and fall back into old habits. But if you want to participate in the metaverse economy, start by asking what purpose your brand has and what value you can provide. What will your 50 per cent of any shared experience be? 

Tags: metaverse, CMO role, marketing strategy, marketing leadership

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