Chances are you’ve heard the word “metaverse” popping up in mainstream media and general conversation in recent months. Meta’s creator, Facebook, has even rebranded itself with the “Meta” moniker in a move designed to solidify branding across its global channels (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsUp, et al.). It sounds exotic and important…but what exactly is the metaverse? The textbook definition (if you can find a textbook that includes the term) is akin to a virtual space with a unique identity where users can interact in real-time.
We need to build upon what we already understand about the internet’s history if we want to understand Meta. It’s reasonable to say that the internet has been built in “layers” and the metaverse is a new layer of our current internet. So far that layer has a lot of lumps. Virtual land grabs, stock market thrash, and frenzied activity around new cash-for-assets classes led at least one industry big-brain to use a more colorful metaphor to describe Meta’s debut.
Mark Zuckerburg’s vision of a cohesive space that connects all other virtual spaces together is akin to the shopping malls of the 1980s and 90s, which brought together food, entertainment, and shopping under one roof. If that’s the idea, how it might work comes with a hefty dose of TBD.
Should You Jump In?
Brands and businesses are already hanging their shingles in the metaverse, with entertainment, gaming, and fashion companies leading the charge. For companies still unsure, it is important for each brand to find its place and weigh the risks. The revenue possibilities and marketing applications of the metaverse are even more attractive because of the recent popularity of buying products and services directly from social experiences, known as “social commerce.” When it comes time to plan your budget, consider risk & reward. Meta is new (risk), and it has tremendous potential (reward). But don’t charge into the metaverse thinking there’s easy money waiting to be had. Few brands are positioned to capitalize on the opportunity Meta represents (in this case, “few” is in the context of Facebook’s 10,000,000 active advertisers, of which a large number are SMBs). If you have cash to burn now, you’ll likely see a reward – but it’s a long game. If your short-term goals include moving product through your Amazon Store, or supporting your brand on-shelf in Target – Meta isn’t likely to help you meet them. Not yet, anyway.
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