While researching for this article, I spent some time watching the November 27, 1995, episode of the Late Show with David Letterman. In this episode, Letterman invited Bill Gates (then 39) as a guest. During the interview, Gates tried to explain the internet to Letterman, and the exchange was hilarious! Gates failed to explain why the internet was needed in a world with an ample number of magazines and devices like radios and tape-recorders. In 1995, for most of the world – it was impossible to fathom the power of the internet. For insiders like Gates, however, the promise of the internet was not unrecognized. “It’s wild what’s going on!” he had famously said during the interview.
It’s been 27 years since 1995. It took decades for the world to understand and integrate the internet into their day-to-day lives. If we consider the Gartner Hype Cycle, the internet today is at the blessed steady state of the “Plateau of Productivity” in the 1990s; it was on the rise towards the “peak of inflated expectations.” The dot-com bubble burst between 2000 and 2002 was about correcting “inflated expectations.”
Why do such corrections happen?
In the case of the internet, getting to today’s state of online access for all – required decades of intense R&D by the top brains of top companies across multiple industries across the globe. Getting the network infrastructure for high speed in place, ensuring that we all had devices to access the net, and finally getting us ready to adopt – wasn’t easy.
It took time.
Let’s keep this in mind when considering the metaverse in 2022. What exactly is the metaverse?
Let me try to explain it in the simplest way possible. We could call the metaverse the future of our online experience. Today, when we are accessing the net, we are, at the end of the day, viewers. We can connect to websites, read or watch content, buy stuff, play games, and whatnot.
Imagine an online world where you are not just a viewer but a participant. You participate in the form of your avatar. It’s like a first-person video game. just that it’s not just about firing guns or racing cars. The possibilities are endless: buying groceries, visiting concerts, meeting someone special, going on dates, buying gifts, buying property… and let’s leave the rest to your imagination. You can live a virtual life in the metaverse!
So comes the million dollar question: as marketers, how can we prepare ourselves for the metaverse?
My advice: take it slow!
Regarding the metaverse, I am pretty sure it’s wild what’s going on. However, for us, the marketers – it’s not the wilderness that matters. Instead, it’s about trying to answer a simple question: Is the metaverse ready with a community big enough to go after?
As of 2022, it’s a No.
For the metaverse to be community-ready, loose ends must be tied up first. So what are these loose ends?
First, let’s talk about devices. When accessing the internet, we use our PCs or phones. In the case of the metaverse, we would need more devices, such as VR headsets. The availability and cost of such devices are still inhibitory to mass adoption.
Secondly, it’s the identity crisis. What we have today is a bunch of independent apps that provide virtual experiences. You have apps to buy virtual property, apps to attend virtual concerts, and even apps for virtual dating. However, each app is a universe of its own, and your avatar is limited within the app. In a metaverse, your avatar would be your identity that remains constant. We are far from there.
Third, the adoption of crypto continues to struggle. In the metaverse, blockchain-based transactions would be critical. There is still quite a bit of confusion with respect to crypto and blockchain. While some do recognize it as the currency of the future, for the rest, it’s at best a fad and at worst a Ponzi. Governments across the world are also pretty confused when it comes to having discrete policies about crypto. This haze surely needs to be cleared.
Fourth, there is, and there will be, friction in adoption. Even when tools and devices exist, behavioral changes are needed to adapt to a new normal. Think of this – there have been tools and devices for remote work available for quite some time. Yet, it took a pandemic to get the world to accept remote work as a legitimate option!
As marketers, we do not decide on behaviors. On the contrary, our work fits behaviors that are already set. Consider digital marketing. Digital marketing didn’t become famous because marketers liked it that way. Instead, people had to first get comfortable with the online world, let online information help their decision-making, and finally be comfortable enough to buy online. Only then did digital marketing become a real job.
The same would apply to metaverse marketing too. We must be open to ideas and look for the latest developments. It will definitely be a thing of the future – but the future may not be too near.
So, as marketers, what should we work on if we still want to prepare ourselves for the future? Here are some ideas:
- Content & Experiences: The metaverse opens up more possibilities for content types. There will be new ways to tell a story. Technologies supporting immersive content have been around for a while. We could use the same to create VR content that stands out. On the experience front, virtual events are becoming quite popular. More could be tapped on that front too. There are also brands today creating omnichannel hybrid experiences using immersive technology.
- Advertising at virtual events: As virtual events become more mainstream, we will see a surge in advertiser interest in such events. As of now, most of this in-event advertising happens through direct partnerships. We can look forward to a future where we can advertise at events using programmatic networks.
- Streamlining the path to purchase: Especially in B2B, for most products above a certain price-point, marketing can, at best, book qualified meetings for sales teams to finally close the deal (making use of demos, etc.). It is possible to streamline some of this process by using virtualization and data science in tandem.
About the Founder:
Anirban Sengupta is the Founder of NoNirvana Digital, a Strategy and Digital Marketing Consulting agency that offers marketing solutions to tech companies, especially early-stage startups. With more than ten years of experience in marketing, analytics, and technology, Anirban works to drive impact through digital marketing. He can be reached at [email protected]