Everywhere you look, there are rumblings about the metaverse. Everyone has an opinion, but it’s hard to sift facts from fiction. What does it mean? Why do we need the metaverse? Should your brand be taking action now to prepare?
The Prefix That Made Headlines: What’s Meta All About?
“Meta” is a prefix derived from a Greek word that means: “alongside; on top of; beyond.” The metaverse concept has been around since Neil Stephensen’s 1992 speculative novel Snow Crash. The term received a signal boost in the 2011 movie remake of the sci-fi novel Ready Player One.
In this context, the metaverse is a reality that exists alongside our physical reality. It’s layered atop the world we know, and in many respects, it goes beyond our “primary reality.”
Step Into the Meta Revolution
Companies of all sizes are eager to jump on the “meta” bandwagon. With its Meta rebrand, Facebook made “meta” the 2021 buzzword. Microsoft followed by acquiring Activision Blizzard and introducing avatars into its virtual collaboration software.
What Do We Need to Know About Meta Reality?
We’re still in the earliest stages of the metaverse, so there’s no universally agreed-upon definition yet. However, here’s what all the current descriptions have in common:
- It encompasses all AR and VR immersive technology.
- It spans the virtual and physical worlds across multiple platforms.
- The metaverse never “pauses” or “resets.” Just like the physical world, it continues indefinitely.
- People can have complete virtual identities with the agency for peer-to-peer interactions, world-building, and transactions.
- It has a fully functioning economy, typically built on cryptocurrency and digital assets.
It’s often mistakenly likened to things we’re already familiar with. Venture capitalist Matthew Ball says that these can be part of the metaverse, but they aren’t the actual metaverse:
- AI-driven virtual worlds
- Virtual spaces
- Video games (The metaverse can include gamification and actual games, but it is not a game)
- User-generated content platforms (This isn’t the “new YouTube”)
It’s a Meta Moment — Don’t Miss the Potential For Your Brand
A recent Accenture survey notes that 71 percent of respondents believe the metaverse will positively impact business. Forty-two percent think it will be transformational.
Here are a few examples of how:
1. Digital-only products
The metaverse will function as its own reality. This means people will want everything they have in the real world (and likely more stuff we haven’t thought of yet).
The opportunities to develop digital-only goods and services are nearly limitless. For instance, Gucci sold a digital Dionysus bag last year for $4,115 (more than the physical bag costs!).
2. New avenues of interaction
Companies are constantly looking for new, better ways to interact with customers. Metaverse platforms can transform how early adopters connect with their audiences.
For now, brand goals within the metaverse should primarily be promoting loyalty and raising awareness. The experiences should reflect these goals.
For example, skateboard retailer Vans launched the “Vans World” Skatepark Experience within the Roblox metaverse. Hyundai debuted its Hyundai Mobility Adventure for Roblox gamers’ avatars to experience current and future mobility projects in a new way.
3. Risk-free innovation
One of the biggest risks of developing and implementing new ideas is a failure. Digital twins within the metaverse can potentially solve many of these innovation-related problems.
Tech startup Cityzenith is using this idea to help solve the issue of carbon emissions. It’s building a metaverse that hosts urban data from entire cities. This tool has the potential to assist governments in determining where and how to most effectively limit carbon emissions without investing billions into infrastructure that may or may not work.
The Metaverse Might Sound Futuristic, But It’s Unquestionably the Future
The metaverse is still in its infancy, so it’s easy to dismiss it as far-fetched or science fiction. Remember that most people in the 1990s felt the same way about the internet!
One thing we knew then is still true now: Everyone is flocking to this new technology, so there’s no time to waste. Now is the time for those in marketing and leadership roles to start thinking outside the box and flexing their storytelling capabilities.
Businesses need to get ahead of the curve. First, stay educated about the metaverse, starting right now. Second, this is the golden hour for experiencing everything the metaverse offers. Explore, learn and invest now. Third, stay flexible. Build the metaverse into your future business plan, but remember that it will experience growing pains like unpredictability and lack of standardization.
As with anything new, the metaverse has enormous potential for both risk and reward. We should be excited about this chance to develop the most spectacular experiences of our careers.