The Metaverse: What is it and how can brands use it?

Two people with VR goggles on.

If you Google ‘Metaverse’ you’ll get about 2.5 trillion results. Not all of it is easy to understand, and quite a lot of it is difficult to digest. It’s a nebulous term defined in many different ways, and for some it can even be a stressful idea, as they imagine it refers to a time in the future where we will live in virtual worlds and only interact through a virtual reality headset.

But there is another way of thinking about the metaverse that makes it much simpler, more immediate, and more interesting. When you look at its true purpose, the metaverse is about making the time we spend online more immersive, interactive, and fun. What’s more, you’re arguably already in it.

So, the real question is, how can your brand take advantage of the next set of opportunities?

How we define the metaverse at Torpedo.

The idealistic version of the metaverse is one where we are immersed in a connected digital reality with a true feeling of presence. You’ll interact with family, friends and colleagues in a virtual environment, where you build your own avatar and travel to an innumerable number of digital worlds. And while we spend more time in these spaces, our real world will be similarly augmented with informational experiences that further blur the lines between our virtual and physical realities. That’s the picture painted by tech leaders like Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg.

“We hope to basically get to around a billion people in the metaverse doing hundreds of dollars of commerce, each buying digital goods, digital content, different things to express themselves.”  (Said in a recent interview).

For us at Torpedo, it’s a bit more straightforward. The metaverse is about experiencing the internet in a new/different way. If we think about how the internet was even 10 years ago, our world today is much more connected, more image-driven and intensely intuitive. This next phase of the internet will be all about evolving that even further to make the time we spend online more immersive, experiential, and interactive while augmenting the physical with the digital – which is where the metaverse really begins to take shape as we blur both realities.

If we look at Zuckerberg’s vision, the metaverse just does not exist, and probably won’t for a while. Which means less of an opportunity for businesses now. At Torpedo we like to take a more open-minded view, so we can start having constructive conversations about all the opportunities that new and emerging technologies, worlds and experiences can offer us today.

The word metaverse simply embodies the natural progression of reimagining what the internet can be – transforming the way we live our digital lives. And there’s huge opportunity there for brands to take advantage of the latest technologies, making lives easier, practical, and more enjoyable – or simply being associated with other brands that share your values.

Nike trainer

Let’s look at some examples:

Digital concerts. There’s a growing market in concerts that happen inside games. The most famous example of this is Ariana Grande, who performed a series of concerts inside the game Fortnite. For the artist, it’s an opportunity to reach millions of engaged players – in a previous Fortnite gig, Travis Scott played to 12 million people. And without the confines of a physical space, the artist in the game can build an incredibly creative and boundless performance.

Product announcements. At the end of 2021, BMW announced the release of its M240i model inside the game Rocket League. The game, which is car based, has a natural audience for BMW, which made its new model available for play as soon as it was released. BMW also sponsored a freestyle tournament within the game, adding to its brand positioning.

Public relations. Disrupting how we interact with brands – KFC created their own avatar of the Colonel in Animal Crossing to play hide and seek with gamers, a new way to reach and leave an impression on their audience.

Digital products. Nike, always at the forefront of brand innovation, had a patent approved a couple of years ago for what it called ‘CryptoKicks’, (pictured above, image credit: Nike). These are physical sneakers that have digital capability – identifying the owner, for example – to integrate the owner’s physical and online experience of the brand.

What’s the background?

Essentially, the metaverse is the internet. If you remember the advent of the internet, you’ll know how exciting it was just to be able to find information online and to connect with people who were geographically distant.

Jump forward 30 years, where advances in technologies and programming languages and innovations from technology entrepreneurs have led to rich online experiences and a truly connected world. Users can make and share their own content quickly and easily and information and reactions are immediate.

Can it get any better? Absolutely…..

The metaverse: a timeline of disruption.

  • Email and real-time news – disrupting written correspondence and traditional tabloids
  • Ecommerce – disrupting how we purchase goods and services
  • Online games – disrupting how we play games with friends, going from local to remote
  • Social media – disrupting how we socialise, share our lives, and ultimately present ourselves to others
  • Dating apps – disrupting how we find partners and date
  • eSports – disrupting the concept of what sport is, and how and where we watch it
Ariana Grande

Brands and the metaverse.

Brands have historically been fantastic at adapting to and exploiting the changes we’ve seen in the online world. Where it was once unimaginable that all the online technology we have today would ever exist, it’s thriving.

If we’re thinking of the metaverse as a progression towards more immersive experiences, more joining up of the physical and online worlds, and more opportunity to reach a bigger, connected, engaged audience, what should brands be looking out for?

Here are our top eight ways that brands of all shapes and sizes can start taking advantage of metaverse opportunities:

  1. Product placement and advertising. Simply having a brand presence in the metaverse is a great start. Did you know you can advertise on arena hoardings in sports games, for example? As people spend more time in the metaverse, there’s huge opportunity for product placement, billboards, hosting events and traditional-style advertising.
  2. Sponsoring events and concerts. We’ve already used the examples of Fortnite hosting performances by Travis Scott and Ariana Grande (pictured above, image credit: Epic Games). Minecraft has also used this tactic, with Massive Attack attending one of its events. The Metaverse is a new channel for fans to interact on and experience music and entertainment – and it creates great opportunities for profitable partnerships.
  3. Digital only products. Develop and sell digital products in the digital world – it’s less sci-fi than you think. Anything that people own in the real world may be something they want to buy in the metaverse – homes, cars, clothes. Why not give your customers the opportunity to try your product out in virtual reality? Help them to be completely confident of their purchase before they part with their cash.
  4. Remote working. The metaverse isn’t just about entertainment and shopping – advances in technology are relevant to any application. The metaverse allows you to create immersive working environments, meeting rooms and simulations – and it’s potentially great for training purposes. Eventually, lots of events, conferences, trade shows and networking will happen digitally – and that can reduce costs and increase reach.
  5. Games. Never dismiss the gaming industry. Not only is it huge – worth over £180 billion – it’s also where a lot of the technology and creative innovation comes from. If you’re not a gamer, you’ll be amazed at what can be done in a current virtual reality or massively multiplayer game. Millions are playing – and that’s a dedicated, engaged and demanding audience that’s used to being among the first to experience ‘metaverse-like’ environments.
  6. Metaverse services. Just as the internet has spawned completely new jobs over the years, the metaverse needs businesses who are going to help and support organisations as they move into this arena. In the same way that a business may now be outsourcing social media management, creative resources or digital infrastructure, they’ll want to outsource metaverse activity too.
  7. Metaverse hardware. Although we’ve said that the metaverse won’t necessarily mean you’re constantly in a VR booth wearing a headset, there will be hardware developments needed to help people interact. This might include communication devices that are lighter, easier, cheaper – more like glasses and probably eventually like contact lenses. There’s also active research and testing happening in haptic suit development, and we can expect to see suits in testing very soon.
  8. Improving business operations. Digital twins are a good example of how the metaverse can help organisations become more efficient. For example, if you create a digital replica of your business, office or manufacturing site, you can run simulations and try new approaches to see if they improve performance, without disrupting your day-to-day operations.

 

Where to start?

Hopefully the concept, reality and opportunities of the metaverse are a bit clearer, so the question remains is there a place for it in your marketing strategy? To determine this, you probably still need to address all the same questions that you would with a regular brief:

  • What are you hoping to achieve and why?
  • What unique value you might add or use to differentiate your business?
  • Does it align with your brand values and does that association make you stronger?
  • Who’s the primary audience?
  • How do you reach that audience currently and are they shifting to the metaverse?

And so on… to see whether there’s a metaverse strategy or opportunity that’s right for you, we recommend just having a chat with us first. We can then help you determine the best forms of digital activation in the metaverse that we feel will be effective, and plan how to implement, measure results and gain good return on investment.

Look out for future articles in which we’ll continue to explore the metaverse in more detail, including its opportunities for brands and the underlying technologies that will power this new era of the internet.

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