9 October 2022

The Metaverse

Grace Tucker
Account Director

The Metaverse – the next frontier of marketing?

The Metaverse – the next frontier of marketing?

There’s no denying that the marriage of influencer marketing and social media has been a happy one
From 2016 to 2021, the market soared from a $1.7 billion valuation to $13.8 billion, and is projected to reach the dizzying heights of $16.4 billion this year. Inspired by short video formats prevalent across TikTok and Instagram, and fuelled by lockdowns that saw us glued to our screens, the cult of the influencer matured into a corporate machine that appealed to Gen Z, millennials and boomers alike.
Long-term partnerships began to pop up left right and centre – look no further than the cast of Love Island for an easy foray into how influencer marketing expanded outwards from social media to TV. If you look close enough at the latest #spon (sponsored) post of your favourite influencer, hiding in the background you might spot the shadowy figures of c-suite brand execs rubbing their hands together.
But as the old adage goes, there can be no love without trust – and that trust is experiencing a swift decline. Millennials are exhibiting healthy scepticism towards influencers and questioning their integrity: the scandal and ensuing backlash that embroiled Love Island alum Molly Mae following her seven-figure appointment as Creative Director of Pretty Little Thing springs to mind.
Equally, is the barrage of adverts that clog up the feeds detracting from the escapism users hope to find in their favourite influencers’ profiles?
Either way, sentiment appears to be tottering between apathy and cynicism among many users. Rather, though, than wallowing to mourn this loss, brands are acting fast as this mistrust festers and looking instead towards the new kid on the block at the vanguard of marketing: the metaverse.
While still in its relative infancy, the metaverse offers brands an entirely new approach to their campaigns – and without a certain amount of overheads.
Blending experience and technology, the freedom of user identity in the metaverse is one of its strongest assets, which offers brands the opportunity to embrace the hyper-experiential facets of the virtual to tap into new markets in innovative ways. Whereas the behaviour of millennials suggests they are becoming desensitised to influencer marketing, brands are tapping into the demographic tailwind and opening communication with Gen Z, whose saturated exposure to the internet and gaming from a young age renders them more likely to become metaverse natives as opposed to their (admittedly only) slightly older counterparts.
Gucci is a key example here: their metaverse brand activation of the Gucci Garden as part of the Roblox gaming platform (right) yielded 19 million visitors, which far exceeds expectations of a physical campaign activation.
The lack of geographical distinction among virtual spaces transcends international borders and makes exclusive brand events accessible to brand lovers the world over. And it isn’t just luxury brands. By tapping into the behaviours of gamer metaverse demographics, pizza franchise Dominos has joined Decentraland (where, incidentally, the world’s first metaverse Fashion Week was held) to offer virtual ordering of real pizza, delivered to your door. Talk about marketing, eh?
With the average person spending 8 hours online a day, the expansion of the real world into virtual spaces irrevocably shapes how we consume and, therefore, how we ought to respond as marketers.

 Taking advantage of the geography of virtual worlds, whether that be in popular games such as Fortnite, or, following in the footsteps of Pokemon to celebrate their 25th anniversary and teaming up with Selfridges and clothing brand Charli Cohen to launch a metaverse retail concept, will prove critical to affirming brand positioning and provide opportunity to reach a wider target audience.

What this lack of trust in influencers has inadvertently brought about is an irrevocable shift in how marketing functions. This isn’t to say that Piccadilly and Times Square will go dark, no longer shimmering with digital ads that beam down at us in some kind of dystopian (or perhaps utopian?) blackout and be replaced by living walls.
What it does suggest, though, is that new ways are cropping up by means of which PRs can engage with previously untapped markets in digital spaces.
A brave new world that comes with its own unique set of challenges? Surely. The infancy of the metaverse alone ought to tell us the speed at which things are likely to change as we learn more about these nascent technologies.

But it isn’t a case of reinventing the wheel entirely. That said, adding a few shiny new spokes and pushing the envelope of the industry has much to offer.

The vast investment in the metaverse from leading global firms and recent marketing activations from brands such as Gucci, Dominos and Pokemon show us that this shift is occurring across industries and there are high potential returns for investors and marketers alike. Though things will of course continue to fluctuate as digital landscapes evolve, PRs are set to explore this exciting new frontier of marketing and start building their avatars.
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