You can’t talk about marketing in the metaverse without understanding the global political context. According to The Economist, the world is experiencing the first signs of what they call “soft intervention”, that is, the involvement of the government in the actions of companies. In Mexico it seems to me that it is about “not so soft intervention”. Everyone will be able to quickly locate the octagon placed on food products for mass consumption.
Unquestionably, world governments have decided that they will not only create regulatory frameworks (neoliberal strategy of economic control) but now they will act directly. For brands, this implies less focus on complying with legal parameters—read compliance—and more to avoid waking up the sleeping giant. Companies will look for a consumer-oriented marketing that has relevance, significance and reputation as its objective.
The metaverse could be the perfect solution, the governments of the world are just beginning to understand digital marketing, social networks and digital spaces, but they are lost on this topic. For those unversed, the “metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection; a unique and universal virtual world facilitated by the use of virtual and augmented reality headsets.” Billed as the next iteration of the internet, the metaverse is where the physical and digital worlds meet. As an evolution of social technologies, the metaverse allows digital representations of people, avatars, to interact with each other in a variety of settings. Whether at work, in an office, going to concerts or sporting events, or even trying on clothes. Not surprisingly, this is Mark Zuckerberg’s new frontier, a world where consumerism can be taken to the extreme without having to produce a single product. Let’s think of the Matrix but controlled by Skynet.
It is estimated that 85 million people used augmented reality or virtual reality in 2021. According to ARtillery Intelligence in 2022, 28 million virtual reality units will be sold globally. The undisputed leader with 75 percent of the market is Facebook.
Marketing in the metaverse
It is inevitable, young people will spend much of their lives immersed in a virtual world. Brands have already noticed and have begun to invest to have a presence.
If marketing in the metaverse is not yet part of your content strategy by 2022, you have a problem. Understanding how to market it is critical to attracting younger consumers. The metaverse will be controlled by the same tech giants looking to — in a new way — make more money as real-world resources are running out. The metaverse, as these companies envision it, is not a promising new frontier for humanity. It’s another place to spend money on things, except here the empty promise that “buying things will make you happy” is further exposed by the fact that the things in question don’t physically exist.
Nike has been one of the most visible companies investing in marketing in the metaverse. At the end of 2021, it announced the purchase of RTFKT, a company founded 12 months earlier that created digital products such as tennis shoes and uses blockchain technology to guarantee authenticity. According to Nike CEO John Donahoe: “Our plan is to invest in the RTFKT brand, serve and grow its innovative and creative community, and expand Nike’s digital footprint and capabilities.”
It’s incredible, but brands will now have to invest in products that use technologies like NFT to sell unique digital creations. The issue is not minor, through this mechanism a central problem of the digital world is attacked, copying a digital element has no cost, in that sense the goods tend to lose value quickly. The idea of using blockchain solves that problem.
However, the real issue is whether the consumer wants to spend all their time in a virtual world. Problems such as bullying, discrimination and exploitation also exist virtually. To show a button, just listen to a person interact and shout on xbox. Brands must invest in these spaces, in creating content and speeding up their participation in what will be a new medium. It will not compete with a good park but it will definitely take away Netflix and YouTube. Virtual reality will occupy a place among the new forms of entertainment and will strengthen the position of Facebook, which will now steal a share of the market from going to the movies, watching television and even a zoom meeting.
The logic against investing in marketing in the metaverse
On the other hand, there is an argument against investing money in Facebook. Brands should learn from the lessons of the past, how much money was invested in creating communities that today are deserted or require investment to be reached. Facebook was a master at convincing brands to launch their pages and promote likes and fans, only to remove access through “organic reach factors”. Will it happen again that brands like Nike invest millions in the metaverse and then have to pay to enter?