By Chris Perry, Director UK at Getfluence
Ever since Mark Zuckerberg introduced Meta and the company’s plans for the metaverse in late October 2021, the internet has been flooded with reactions and visions of this futuristic world. It’s not just opinions and GIFs though. A number of companies are actually investing in the metaverse – pointing to the probability that this world of augmented and virtual reality will actually be widely used in the near future.
How exactly consumers will be able to use the metaverse is still up in the air, but we do know that the first version is likely to include virtual shopping, gaming and events. This will pose a challenge for marketers as they will need to engage with their customers on this new ‘platform’.
Before we start picturing the future of marketing in the metaverse, we have to understand how present-day digital marketing works and what lessons could best inform the future.
Current state of digital marketing
High profile stories on how social media data has been leveraged for targeted advertising has raised awareness of how much personal information is out there and how many companies are using it. The last few years have shown us that this is not something consumers – or governments – are comfortable with.
With new data protection policies implemented around the world (most notably the GDPR in the EU), the general public are now getting to grips with the idea of controlling how their data is shared and used. The issue with the metaverse is that there is clearly a lot of scope for even more information to be collected and used. Some commentators have speculated that involuntary responses that betray someone’s subconscious reaction to content could be monitored and analysed and then used for even more targeted advertising.
Naturally, this will make a lot of people uncomfortable and, as a result, hyper personalised ads may be incredibly unpopular and ineffective. If that is the case the door will be open for other forms of engagement – the best of which could be brand storytelling via branded content.
Branded content is on the rise
The branded content market has grown rapidly recently. This has in part been driven by increased use of ad blockers, greater opting out of targeted advertising, and the oversaturation of quick burn content on channels such as social media. Many companies now realise that it is faster, easier and more effective to create engaging and informative permanent branded content. It may be counterintuitive given the belief that we now possess shorter attention spans, but the most impactful content tends to be long form articles. Companies are now much more inclined to run thought leadership campaigns on issues beyond what their business does. Direct promotion of a company’s offering is giving way to providing knowledge, insight and opinion on topics close to their customers’ hearts.
With the knowledge that ‘traditional’ targeted ads could be unpopular on the metaverse, and that consumers are increasingly hungry for branded content, it makes sense for businesses to consider this marketing route first when it comes to designing a metaverse marketing strategy.
What will marketing in the metaverse look like?
What will make creating a strategy exciting is the scope for innovation. We can see scenarios such as ‘choose your own adventure’ where people directly influence the branded stories that then play out based on their behaviour – perhaps something similar to what Netflix applies to their interactive TV shows such as Black Mirror. There could be immersive experiences for example taking people to historic times and locations, or to the setting of your brand. For instance, if you’re selling olive oil, the content could take you on a guided tour of the olive tree fields of Italy. After all, we know that some of the best branded content is driven by great graphics and imagery – imagine what can be done via virtual and augmented reality.
There’s also scope for many organisations to come together and collaborate. We’re starting to see companies partnering to produce branded podcast content that tells a story while promoting a particular brand’s position. We may have a scenario where a number of small businesses spread the cost of building a metaverse experience by promoting their complimentary brands in one coherent store front. For example, a number of independent boutiques in a particular part of a city tell the story of their location and how their companies fit into the history and social fabric of that location.
The choices are limitless and the metaverse sandbox is the perfect place to innovate and rewrite the rules of marketing.
Current trends show us that branded content delivers a much higher ROI and is less intrusive than other forms of personalisation. Coupled with the fact that storytelling is one of the most powerful weapons for a marketer, could the future of marketing be all about immersive brand stories?