The metaverse is frustrating, isn’t it? One day, it seems you’ve become a dinosaur – left behind as other brands bravely step into Web3, and your junior analyst didn’t show up because he made $100k last night minting SmurfCoin. The next day, your brand’s NFT drops 90% in value. What gives?
The truth is, so much of the metaverse promise isn’t here yet. Bits of it are, while others are half-baked. Some feel like they may never get here, and some never will. What’s a brand to do?
The thing to keep in mind is that some version of the metaverse will be here to stay and it will materially impact our lives. While we don’t know exactly what form it will take (quite possibly, none of today’s platforms will be relevant), it’s important for brands to understand and experiment in this space to help shape and accelerate its future.
At dentsu, we often get asked what this future will look like. But a better question is: what should brands be doing to learn and build muscle memory today, to be successful when the end model that defines the Web3 era finally arrives? Or more importantly, how can they help shape that future so that the metaverse delivers on its promise – not just for our brands and our customers, but for society, too.
That’s why we’re experimenting. We’ve built Dentsu NXT Space in Moon Valley – a secure metaverse platform – and we’ve teamed up with Microsoft to test and learn collaborative, purpose-built spaces that’ll meet a range of use cases. At the most basic level, it’s a platform for immersive education – helping our clients understand what the metaverse is and what we can shape it to be. But like the metaverse itself, that’s just an early part of the maturity curve.
From here, we can create digital twins of executions that clients can experience as their customers will, bringing a greater sense of discovery and engagement in the work. These lead to more immersive spaces to hold events and innovation sprints. Combining the outputs of those innovation sprints with our own capabilities and learnings, dentsu NXT Space will increasingly be used as a sandbox for clients to experiment. Perhaps that sandbox becomes its own commercial platform offering one day.
The point is, we’re thinking of the maturity curve; how quickly we can move up as the technology that underpins it evolves with us.
Irrespective of technologies, the common saying is that the metaverse of the future needs to tick these boxes:
1) It needs to be immersive and feel real
2) It needs to be persistent, continuing as a parallel world when you are not there
3) And critically, it needs interoperability, moving across channels platforms. It is critical, and it’s hard, with both legal and technical challenges to bridge.
If the better part of the metaverse is in the future, what is the bar for it currently? It has to provide something unique and better than the next best option. Metaverse platforms have plenty of advantages, but the key is to recognise and utilise what aligns with and reinforces your brand experience.
Because current platforms also have limitations, it’s worth thinking about some of the trade-offs we face today.
Earlier this year, Decentraland hosted a fashion week. Many brands had a presence, and the event was largely deemed successful, if a little clunky. The ability to accurately represent garments is limited, so brands needed to produce more fantastical, imaginative garments which perhaps showcased their creativity, but not their wares.
The other challenge is engagement. As I write this, there are 542 users in Decentraland. That’s globally… despite its billion-dollar market cap. Fashion brands looking for more audience and better technology (albeit not decentralised) are turning to gaming platforms which offer bigger, more engaged bases and more powerful graphics engines, but still face trade-offs in terms of experience, audience, and control.
Photo-realistic fashion experiences, on the other hand, tend to be pre-rendered experiences you watch, more than share. But they look and feel closer to the real world in execution. So, what’s the right answer?
It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish and learn. Events and launches in Decentraland can work. Brand executions in Roblox can be engaging; and immersive experiences that are not technically “metaverse” but feel like it can engage customers in new ways. Ultimately, brands need to think about their strategy and the experience and value they want to deliver their customers.
Let’s not just dip one toe into the metaverse. It’s time to think about your ambition maturity curve, and how it links to technology’s.
Think hard about objectives, what platforms and executions are right for your brand, given your unique trade-offs. How important is it for your brand to be decentralised, or are you really just looking for an immersive, 3D experience?
As you experiment, you’ll discover, just as we have, that there are numerous use-cases to explore. New and emerging technologies offer powerful new ways to engage with new audiences, as long as the strategies that underpin them are aligned with brand strategy and the executions offer something more than the next-best-option. Yes, it can be intimidating and confusing, but your customers are as keen to explore as you are. Success comes from navigating the curve together.
So, see you in the metaverse… after my bike ride outside. Unless it’s raining, in which case, I’ll see you on Zwift.
Chris Bower is CEO of Dentsu Solutions, Australia & New Zealand.