n an announcement that shook the world, Facebook recently announced that its holding company’s name has changed to Meta, and that the company will be pioneering a virtual reality universe, which will be accessible to all of its users and brands.
While cynics have been quick to suggest ulterior motives, when a trillion-dollar company makes a move like this, it’s time to take note. Even more importantly, to ask the question: does this mean for the future of marketing?
What is a metaverse?
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a metaverse, let me bring you up to speed. The metaverse is a persistent virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users in real time. This is the future iteration of the internet, made up of shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perpetual virtual universe. This persistent reality is now connected to overlayed with technology allowing for digital ownership of virtual assets.
While this space used to have niche appeal, typically the realm of gamers and tech enthusiasts, it is now a broad access area that is attracting mass appeal. This new domain is being widely embraced by forward-thinking sectors of industry that are monetizing its various opportunities including fashion, retail, banking, art and motoring. Brands are pouring billions of dollars into the metaverse as a new space to do business, and you need to be there.
There is an metaverses that cater for various interests and lifestyles, such as television show metaverses, skills based metaverses, art based metaverses, industry based metaverses or music metaverses. Some of these make for obvious places for brands to be present. Meta is planning to be the all-encompassing multiverse that will house all of these communities and we are likely to see Microsoft Mesh, Apple and Google enter the arena shortly.
Cathy Hackl, who is widely regarded as one of the top voices in tech, recently wrote “marketing and communications professionals need to pay attention to the metaverse because it’s the next frontier for online interaction. Just like social media revolutionised the online marketing landscape, so too will the metaverse”.
Where it started, where it’s going
Stanly Weinbaum, a visionary of the metaverse, wrote the seminal Pygmalian Spectacles, which was probably the first comprehensive and specific fictional model for virtual reality. It opened up the understanding that we now have of the potential for telepresence in virtual reality, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, due to the acceleration and convergence of various technologies such as virtual reality, robotics, computation and blockchain, the metaverse is a booming hub for business.
The metaverse is the new hub for online shopping. Virtual fashion, avatar ‘skins’, and virtual real estate are all becoming highly-sought after possessions. Just like in real life, fashion plays a big role in conveying your character in avatar form. Because identity plays a role in the metaverse, this opens umpteen opportunities for virtual fashion brands and designers. A pair of Gucci NFT shoes recently fetched an incredible value in a metaverse.
Already today, there are many metaverses available and they are lucrative businesses. Second Life was one of the first metaverses of this kind to launch, and now has an estimated value of $ 500 million. Axie Infinity, that accommodates an estimated 2.7 million daily players, has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and has already achieved $33 million in daily transactions, with a total volume of over $3.2 billion.
The Sandbox which is only launching in 2022 already has over 11 200 individual landowners, made up of massive cryptocurrency whales and big brands such as Snoop Dogg, Smurfs, Care Bear, Gemini, The Walking Dead, Binance, Atari, Bored Ape Yacht Club, and Crypto-Punks, all of which have a presence in this remarkable environment.
Back home, Mann Made recently launched Africarare, Africa’s first metaverse. The debut NFT collection of 52 digital pieces from world renowned local artist Norman Catherine sold out within 12 days, fetching approximately R750 000. Africarare will showcase Africa’s creativity in a way that enables local artists to exhibit their works to the world, and as of 2022, enable users to purchase land and more.
New developments are enhancing the experience in metaverses all the time and opening this stage to forward-thinking bands. Companies need to start directing their marketing thinking towards how they are going to operate in this shared, virtual economy. It’s time to start gathering insights through market research on this new frontier.
We do know already that how people act and what their preferences are in the metaverse could differ from how they behave and what they shop for in real life. A good level of understanding will put brands in a good position to not only operate in the metaverse, but also be play a role in shaping it.
In the far future, the metaverse will be almost identical to physical reality. It is equally likely that virtual reality will disrupt reality too. Thanks to the convergence of various exponential technologies including gaming, virtual reality and blockchain, the metaverse is redefining the future of commerce. The job creation possibilities are endless.
I’m particularly excited about the potential for South African businesses to become part of the new global economy with less risk and investment due to the lower barriers to entry and less discrimination. Everything in the metaverse is based on value, not on colour, race or social stature.
We are living through the most exciting changes we’ll ever experience as a species. Nothing in the Metaverse is bound by geography. There are so many new connections and opportunities. Everything we know about reality is about to be upgraded. Don’t get left behind in reality…