FORBES Council Feature: The Metaverse: A New Reality Explained
Updated: Jun 3, 2022
When Mark Zuckerberg announced the name change of Facebook to Meta, some people were perplexed. His rebranding move was a signal that the metaverse wasn’t just a dream and that technology and consumer adoption was fast making it a reality. What is this new reality, and how can companies jump in to ensure their brands have a place there?
The idea of the metaverse is something that has been kicking around in and out of Silicon Valley for years—as long as we’ve had internet, really. It has long been a staple of science fiction, with the name itself coming from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.
You don’t have to be a fan of science fiction, however, to grasp what the metaverse is and what brands can do with it. Matthew Ball succinctly sums up what makes a metaverse with a handful of characteristics. To paraphrase:
It is always active.
It exists in real time.
Participants have individual agency.
It is self-contained and fully functioning.
It crosses multiple platforms and into physical reality.
It allows and encourages user-generated content.
Let’s take a deep dive into two of these points—individual agency and crossing platforms—and the ways that three big and very different brands embraced them in the metaverse.
Wendy’s Enters Fortnite
One of the most important things to understand about the metaverse is that we’ve already been living in it, just not to the extent that companies like Microsoft and Facebook—both of whom are making big pushes into virtual and augmented reality—are talking about.
In 2018, when the popular online game Fortnite released Food Fight mode (divided up into two teams: Team Pizza and Team Burger), fast-food chain Wendy’s saw a unique opportunity to get into the game without the costly endorsement deals. You see, Team Burger kept their hamburgers in freezers. When Wendy’s saw this, they started a Twitch stream, created a character in the game and attacked the freezers belonging to the burger teams—after all, Wendy’s doesn’t use frozen beef. Using their already popular Twitter platform, Wendy’s created a buzz about the live stream and drew in even more customers than before.
Brand Opportunity: Look for organic ways that you can bring yourself into the metaverse spaces, highlight your brand ethos and strengthen your place in the market.
Last year, Gucci teamed up with Roblox—another popular online game platform—to create the Gucci Garden experience concurrent with its exhibition in Florence, Italy. The event focused on user engagement, allowing visitors to freely roam between themed rooms on the Roblox platform. Users could also purchase items that they would be able to use across the platform even after the exhibit ended.
In addition to bringing aspects of the physical world into virtual spaces, Gucci’s event highlighted Point 3: Participants have individual agency. By giving users the ability to freely roam the virtual grounds, they effectively simulated the experience of those visiting the Florence, Italy, exhibition. In addition, they made assets available for purchase, giving users the ultimate agency in being able to use the virtual artwork in their own creations.
Brand Opportunity: As you venture into the metaverse, consider the ways you can give consumers agency in how they interact with your services. Research current and upcoming mobile applications to see how you can use them with your products and services. Look at what you offer consumers and ask yourself what they would look like in a virtual world and what consumers could do with them (consider how Gucci made aspects of their virtual exhibition purchasable and usable in Roblox).
Google has become synonymous with search, whether you’re looking up information on its search engine or looking for directions with its map application on your phone. As we continue our move into the metaverse, however, Google has stepped up the game with Google AR. Its Google Lens app (available through the Google Play Store) allows you to view items around you, snap a picture and instantly search for the item. Meanwhile, in a growing number of areas, you can use your Google Maps in live view, giving you an onscreen overlay of the area that includes directions.
With Google AR, the company has embraced both crossing virtual and physical worlds as well as increasing user agency in how people interact with the world and the metaverse.
Brand Opportunity: How can you empower consumers to interact with your brand with the tools they already have at hand? Clothing and home decor brands have already been exploring augmented reality to help consumers choose clothes and home furnishings. Look for ways consumers can use their smartphones to interact with your brand in new, unique and immersive ways. Additionally, make sure your platforms are optimized for the visual search that Google AR provides users. Ensure that your photos are up to date, that you feature product images from multiple angles and that you utilize alt text to optimize your images for visual search engines.
The metaverse is still growing into the new augmented and virtual reality vision that its innovators have long sought. Here, we focused on two of Matthew Ball’s metaverse characteristics because these are, in my opinion, the most important to grasp and utilize if you want your brand to get a foothold in the metaverse, grow with it and stand out. While Google, Wendy’s and Gucci are very different companies, all three have had extremely successful interactions with the metaverse.
Following their example, as you look at how to interact with the metaverse and build your marketing platforms there, consider:
Who is your target audience, and how are they engaging with the metaverse?
What does your target audience need or want, and how can your brand provide it to them in the metaverse?
What tools does your target audience use with the metaverse, and how can you position yourself to optimize your platforms for those tools?