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The metaverse was already a contender for the top buzzword in 2021, but when Facebook announced it’s changing its corporate name to Meta to signal an increasing focus on the metaverse, things jumped to a whole new level.
Facebook’s rebrand is yet another signal that brands need to move quickly to capitalize on the opportunity within the metaverse, because technological advancements across hardware, software and connectivity are helping create more believable human interactions and highly immersive experiences than ever before. That, coupled with behavioral changes and greater dependence on digital infrastructure in our daily lives, brought on by the pandemic, create endless possibilities for brands to dive in.
But it’s still unclear for many brands what they can do right now to start small and introduce the metaverse into their marketing plans. Here are a number of ways that brands are jumping into what will likely become the gateway to most digital experiences, in no order of priority.
1. From virtual fashion to virtual real estate and in-game accessories, people are paying serious money for virtual possessions. As games and social apps support more creativity and design variation, people are paying for virtual items that help signal their character and values, just as they would in the real world.
For most brands, the most immediate opportunity is to create wearable items for in-game or social experiences. The biggest opportunities involve partnering with games like Fortnite, Roblox or League of Legends. These platforms are extremely selective and will work closely with you to create something that contributes to the gaming experience in a native way (e.g., luxury fashion house Balenciaga teaming up with Fortnite). But you can still create branded skins on platforms that have open marketplaces, like Skater XL, The Sims and Animal Crossing.
Additionally, brands can create mesmerizing, virtual-fashion augmented-reality (AR) lenses on Snapchat, which has the best full-body tracking capabilities. Dept launched our first virtual fashion lens back in 2019 for the online fashion store ASOS and its Gen Z brand Collusion. When the lens recognized items from the gaming-influenced clothing collection, we animated the clothes in AR.
2. As society spends more time online, we value digital assets more and express this through the acquisition of virtual ownership. The most popular form of virtual ownership is non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which give us a way to transfer ownership of virtual assets between people and companies and creators.
Some brands have launched limited NFT editions, most notably NBA Top Shot which has driven over $700 million in NFT sales since its launch. Coca-Cola, Pringles, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Microsoft and Nike have also launched collections.
Many brands are unsure where to start with NFTs, which is why we recently launched the first open-source, white-label solution for launching an NFT marketplace, built on top of the Algorand blockchain. The new marketplace makes it easy for you to build and launch your own NFTs in a matter of days.
3. You can build fully immersive, 3D virtual venues, worlds, spaces and places from the ground up. One of the most immediate opportunities for brands in the metaverse right now is creating virtual venues, worlds and spaces to host events and experiences. It’s a creative opportunity akin to the first branded websites.
With the pandemic preventing mass gatherings, Eurovision needed to create a virtual version of its annual song festival. Together, we created a groundbreaking virtual experience for 500,000 visitors that captured the atmosphere of Eurovision and the host city Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, with fresh content and 3D experiences every day.
Brands can also partner with existing virtual worlds to host events within them, like Gucci within Roblox and Coca-Cola within Decentraland. Fortnite also continually releases new areas to the Fortnite map in partnership with brands like Disney (for Star Wars) and Marvel (for Captain America, Nexus War and Deadpool).
4. The line between digital and physical experiences is rapidly diminishing, creating new forms of entertainment and extended reality experiences. These new experiences are often interactive, experienced “together,” add a visual layer to reality or transpose traditional IRL behaviors into digital platforms.
These experiences are most commonly experienced through mobile-based AR, but Snapchat’s latest glasses are a big step forward. Unlike previous attempts, these lenses overlay AR directly on top of the view through the lenses rather than augmenting footage retrospectively. Snapchat also released connected lenses, where you can co-experience AR with someone else using a different phone, which introduces a sense of physicality into the digital experience.
Other brands are experimenting in this space with live events. Amazon Prime launched the world’s first real-life gaming experience played out live on Twitch for the premiere of the movie Without Remorse. The event was programmed like a theater show, had the interactivity of a game, was filmed like a commercial and broadcast like a sporting event.
5. If people can’t come physically to you, create a virtual store or exhibition. As the world locked down in response to the pandemic, retailers rapidly invested in digital replicas of their in-store experience. If people can’t come physically to you, you have to take the 3D experience of your brand to them.
We saw Animal Crossing stores from Net-A-Porter and Fila, virtual reality experiences from brands like Dermalogica and a swath of beautifully executed web-based stores and exhibitions. Fashion brand Ganni has reimagined how to engage its B2B buyers with an immersive store experience, which includes a 360-degree lookbook of every item’s fit, style, shape and texture.
As you can see, there is no one way to start experimenting in the metaverse. You might not have the technical resources of a household name brand, but any brand has the ability to start small. Determine your brand’s “why” for the future and do it now. And don’t be afraid to be playful, because the metaverse will be defined by many rather than a few. And you don’t want to be left behind.
DEPT is a pioneering technology and marketing services company that creates end-to-end digital experiences for brands such as Google, Diageo, Philips, Audi, Twitch, Patagonia, eBay and more. Its team of 3,000-plus digital specialists across 30-plus locations on five continents delivers pioneering work on a global scale with a boutique culture. The company is committed to making a positive impact on the planet, and since 2021 has been climate-neutral and B Corporation certified.
In this article:
Isabel is director of technology at Byte (part of Dept), a martech agency that combines creativity and technology to solve brands‘ problems through ad campaigns and emerging technology. Isabel leads a team that creates AI chatbots, AR, dynamic advertising and metaverse services. Before moving into the marketing industry, Isabel was a Shanghai-based architect, having graduated in the subject from Cambridge University.