The Metaverse is coming soon to a screen, or lens, near you.  To get this post started I’m going to recommend that you take a few minutes (or even the full 77 minutes) to watch this year’s 2021Facebook Connect Keynote where we all got learn about Meta.  As this space is still very much in it’s infancy I figured now would be the perfect time to put together a post on Metaverse Marketing.

I’ll try to keep this post fun, fast moving, sprinkled with predictions and somewhere in there I’ll also be weaving in my own observations based on previous cycles (web 1.0 and social media in particular.)  But before we dive into Metaverse Marketing we should probably start with a short overview on Meta, the newly branded name for Facebook and all other Facebook related properties, so in their own words:

The metaverse is the next evolution of social connection. Our company’s vision is to help bring the metaverse to life, so we are changing our name to reflect our commitment to this future.Meta

Metaverse Marketing: Getting Ready to Ride the Wave

First Mover Advantage will be real, it will be palatable, likely it will also offer some profitable opportunities, but a first mover Metaverse marketing advantage will likely not be sustainable.  I see this space at least initially moving pretty fast with a good deal of ‘follow the leader’ happening as people, creatives and business all try to figure out what works so yes, going first will be great but there will also be a good deal of copy cat marketing happening.  So while it might be hard to make a Metaverse marketing MOAT (despite all the openness jargon, I think its safe to assume the only MOAT will be held by our friends in Menlo Park) I still see a good deal of value in going first.  Perhaps even more so in what is likely going to be a very choppy start as by going first any marketer will be gaining a considerable advantage around ‘how to play the game.’

So… while the first mover advantage does not provide a lifetime annuity (and it rarely ever does) it is still a worthy pursuit.

That said, if we’ve learned one thing from social media’s early days, audience acquisition costs are considerably more affordable during the early days of any new social network, and the network effect in a smaller ponder is considerably heightened.  Going first matters, particularly for brands.

Make the Investment.  Metaverse marketing will rely on many traditional marketing skills BUT there will also be a need to learn and develop new skills.  Even basic concepts like physics and motion might or might not apply in the Metaverse.  So in order to wrap your marketing brain around the new rules you are going to need to make the investment.  Some of it will be a time investment.  Some will most certainly be around bringing on new people with very unique skill sets (game engineering seems to be a sweet spot based on what I have seen so far from our friends at Meta) and some investment will be cold hard cash.  Fake it till you make might get you through the door, but as the Metaverse moves beyond it’s infancy, imposters will quickly be left behind – I see the authenticity curve being a little less forgiving than the one we currently have in place for social media, where the volume of experts has exploded across the marketing landscape.

Don’t worry, if you are serious, the Meta team has already set up a $150M fund to help creators learn, embrace and innovate in this space.

Build on Early Wins.  As compared to the First Mover Advantage outlined above, building on early wins is essentially a focus on understanding what is working, and adding those ingredients to your own Metaverse marketing cake.  Not necessarily making the same cake (each brand and business of course will find their own way) but rather keeping an eye on what is working and exploring how to either partner with others or roll your own.  And yes I get it – some features are going to be very unique but most are going to be commonly used and recreated – for example… how many different ways can you create a fade in, and can anyone really lay claim to inventing a fade in at this point no matter what the medium?  That said, some design competencies will emerge and you’d do well as a marketer to understand what is working in the market and build from there.

Get to Know the Neighborhood.  Community | Creator | Developer or People | Creators | Businesses.  Figure out where you fit in and how you play.   For social media I see People that Create for Business often get sideways.  In this space the vertigo factor has the potential to be considerably larger so marketers be warned….  And then again, perhaps in a virtual world, just like the rules of physics are merely a coding decision, perhaps so too will the ‘rules’ of brand marketing be subject to change.  Regardless, I would not suggest treating this space as a big experiment when it comes to your brand.  Influencer marketing rules would not apply here : ).

In addition there will be rooms, houses, spaces and worlds all at your disposal as an active Metaverse Marketer.  For brands this will open up an array of possibilities and considerations.  Roll your own, rent space or simply buy inventory?  I’d anticipate a ton of new and exciting possibilities, but the early days are probably going to challenging.

And speaking pf the neighborhoods… as computational power increases so too will the ability for neighborhoods to evolve.  As a marketer this will require ongoing investment (much like a website or a social media page.)  What worked today might feel dates tomorrow and I suspect that the audience expectations to be pretty fast moving.

And more on this below but who is to say Meta (Facebook) has it right?  It is possible (likely) that for business that plays in this space you might be looking at creating and supporting multiple spaces if a walled garden as opposed to open framework takes shape.  Think about today for example where you might have a unique strategy and supporting content to play in a range of social media ponds such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.  For marketers and brands this is tough stuff as your marketing organization will be forced to prop up yet another department with a mix of both traditional and new skills.

Metaverse Marketing: Dollars and Sense

Money.  People | Creators | Businesses will all have a role.  I don’t see barter and trade taking hold any time some, but certainly both real and virtual currencies will have a plays.  In addition points systems of varying degrees will likely mature and could be a very active marketing space.  Think of this like individualized, hyper localized currencies (unique NFT blockchain markets that essentially become commoditized).

Speaking of blockchain – Facebook has spent a good deal of time and investment on Diem – a digital currency of their own make and design.  Whether this materializes into something substantial or not remains to be seen, but I suspect it was less about Diem and more about an ambition to gain a deeper understanding around how digital currency works, and more so how digital currency competencies might play out in a virtual (or augmented reality) world such as the Metaverse.

eCommerce.  Things you buy will in an open Metaverse will likely be available across the entire Metaverse – this was a particularly sharp focus from the Meta 2021 Keynote.  In contract, in a closed ecosystem what you buy will only be available for where you buy it.

Digital and physical products will play in the same sandbox.  And the rules for each might not be the same.  Digital only goods might be focused on more traditional gamification models whereas physical goods will continue to focus on the transaction.  With these rules you might find that physical goods could flood the digital market in the pursuit of brand awareness, thereby blocking out digital only players.  And conversely, digital brands might realize a strong monetization path by lending their brand name to physical products in the same way that many social media influencers have now begun to launch their own unique product lines as opposed to collecting sponsorship dollars.

Mastering the world of Metaverse Marketing will be likely require a good understanding of how both real and virtual currencies work in order to purchase both real and virtual goods and experiences. 

Influencers (keeping this one short). Metaverse marketing influencers that are able to embrace Metaverse physics will likely benefit considerably from a first mover advantage (and you thought some of the influencer YouTube videos were nuts….)  Influencers are going to influence.  Influencers are also going to monetize their reach.  There might be a new breed, some of whom might not even have physical world recognition, but in some way, shape or form the cost to leverage influencers is something to consider, and I’d anticipate that the influencer network will present itself much sooner in the maturity cycle, building off of the momentum and deal structures already in place via social media.

Adverting will still be the main game in town.  I don’t care what the medium, the advertising market it the most mature one that we currently have to monetize and support media. I’d anticipate plenty of display options, as as this space matures we’ll see an explosion of inventory units.  Pricing will still be a sticking point but I’d anticipate the overall market to work somewhere between the way the television market works and traditional digital markets with a splash of new on top of it to truly make it unique.

Sponsorships will also have a big role, probably more so in the vein of traditional television or possibly even billboards, but again with a massive potential for extremely acute localization.  Serving a digital billboard in a digital space will open up a world of possibilities.

Personalization is going to be a massive game of risk/reward.  What will cookie tracking look like?  Lots of talk about privacy as a core innovation principle.  This will be a big item as safety will continue to be a big consideration while commerce will also be real.  Going even further, if for example you can take your good with you, does that mean that the creator of a good can maintain a view on how their creations travel.  And by the way, are marketers optimizing for the avatar experience or the real world one?  I suppose it will ultimately depend on the goals of the marketer but you can imagine very different and wildly unique display units competing for the same moment of attention.

Bottom line is money in the Metaverse is going to be bonkers, and Metaverse marketing will similarly be nuts, possibly to the point that many will sit out V1 to wait for a little more maturity rather than taking on the risk.  Of course there is that tricky little first mover advantage to consider…

Metaverse Marketing: New Frontiers

As a marketer in the space today, I try to maintain a strong line of sight on the various tools and technologies that are potentially available to me.  In the early days of social there were a group of social media publishing tools available, and quite frankly not all the early players are still around today.  Some remain stand-alone, others were acquired by bigger outfits and others didn’t make it (although their people did and they continue to provide massive value.)  Today there are new spaces that are starting to firm up such as programmatic and even more recently data driven intent monitoring tools and technologies.  Again, some will make it and maybe even somewhere in there we are possibly looking at the next Salesforce.  In the Metaverse things will be no different.  I’d anticipate a pretty robust ecosystem to run a similar maturity cycle as just described.  Some will be focused on the publishing aspects while other providers will concentrate on media and likely somewhere along the way we’ll find a few that might show some promise to ‘do it all.’   Early day tools will be particularly important to watch as a tool that cannot financially sustain itself is probably not addressing the market correctly…

And beyond new tools, perhaps even more importantly will be the need to play well with legacy solutions.  When it comes to Metaverse marketing, until this market is fully proven, the bulk of the money will remain in all the other markets and that likely means that in order to find a strong path to survival integrations will be key.  Suddenly the entire concept of a CRM might move exponentially as you’ll need to have profiles for a range of people, both virtual and real, and many of whom might be entirely independent in terms of your existing customer database.

Zero sum versus multiple game players.  A Metaverse or perhaps a series of multiverses?  At this point it is impossible to say who has this right.  Maybe an open standard will rule the day, or maybe it will be a more ‘app centric’ world with a number of unique platforms all competing for our attention driven by a series of operators (today mobile seems to be driving the bulk of the app ecosystem) dictating the rules and collecting fees off of the top.  And while its great to consider things as they are presented, if you listened to the 2021 Meta Keynote is was impossible not to miss the fact that the Meta team was clearly in favor of a concept not dominated by a few businesses but rather through the adoption of an open web concept (think Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to Web 3.0).  On the other hand there might be more at play on this one as it could be more about sandboxes colliding and disrupting established (legacy) markets to the tune of billions of dollars per year in lost revenue.

And I’d like to close us out with what I see as the most challenging aspect of the entire Metaverse – and that is the idea that there will be likely virtual bots in the Metaverse that are entirely driven by AI.  Going further, there will likely be virtual bots interacting in the Metaverse that are created by AI bots.  Literally of machine, by machine.  Go ahead and try to lead score your way through that one.

And the fun begins.

Featured Post Photo by julien Tromeur on Unsplash