How is the metaverse relevant to marketers and brand strategists? For one, there is already an obvious transition of real-life commerce to the metaverse, with the likes of Nike, Vans, Gucci, and Balenciaga (to name a few) creating digital presences.
Looked at optimistically, the metaverse is an opportunity for a branding reset. Because of its experiential and immersive nature, the metaverse is an opportunity for brands to connect to consumers in a new way.
Tell a story to ease your customers' metaversal misgivings
We like to feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. This is because our brains recognize patterns in our surroundings and assign meaning to them. In other words, we have a narrative bias. It helps us feel more in control, predict others' behaviors better, and plan ahead, and we need this to lead happy, productive lives.
Brand strategists can harness this bias towards narrative creation. In the metaverse, most consumers will be newcomers. By having an overarching continuity between the two worlds, 'stories' will help ease consumers' metaverse apprehension, solidifying your brand image in both worlds.
Not only that, but thanks to the anchoring effect (where we tend to rely a little too heavily on the first piece of information presented to us when making subsequent decisions), if your brand's first metaversal move makes consumers feel more comfortable, they'll remember it (and act on it) for a long time to come.
Stella Artois' partnership with Zed Run, a digital horse racing platform, is a classic example of this kind of parallel marketing. The beer giant is known for its sponsorship of sporting events in the real world, particularly horse races. NFT horses that can be bred, raced, and traded therefore seem like an organic metaverse entry point. It's new, but not too new, and strengthens Stella Artois' brand associations in the minds of consumers.
Give "fake" things away to make your customers feel exclusive
We like to stand out in the real-world, and the metaverse isn't any different. This desire is well documented in the gaming industry. For example, while Fortnite Battle Royale is free, the average player ends up spending $84.67, with almost 60% of that on character outfits or the characters themselves.
This need for uniqueness is an innate human motivation. We like to feel special and different from others around us, and this feeling continues even when we, and others around us, are digital avatars.
Successful metaverse branding will play into that. Limited edition product launches, exclusive access tokens to events, one-of-a-kind collectibles that can be displayed to other avatars (e.g., by wearing them) are all ways to give consumers a unique social identity in the metaverse. They will feel special. And when we feel special, we come back for more.
For example, "The Collectors' Room" - a part of the Gucci Garden Experience on Roblox - allows users to collect limited-edition, digital Gucci items that exist only in that metaverse. From just their initial sales figures (from selling things that are literally not real) Gucci made over $3.5 million. This is the power of other-worldly exclusivity.
Deliver novel experiences and delight customers
The most exciting aspect of the metaverse is its anything-goes structural make-up. Not even the sky's the limit. No more time and space limitations. This is a chronically turned-on world that can be built from the ground up to match a brand's wildest imagination. Use it well, and you've struck gold.
Traditional marketing strategies are bounded by concerns about feasibility, cost-effectiveness, path dependence, scalability, to name a few. In the metaverse, these become all but irrelevant.
Take shopping for clothes. The traditional shopping experience is laborious for both brands and consumers: wrong sizing; endless trips to fitting rooms; dead stock; wasteful turnover; refund/return headaches; limited audience reach. It is outdated, tiring, and, perhaps most importantly, a drag for everybody involved.
This goes against the very emotions required to drive consumer behavior in the first place. We need consistent novelty (and its dopamine rush) paired with diversity of choice (and the sense of control it brings with it) to lead the kind of consumer behavior brands are looking for.
So, how can brands use the metaverse to elevate this consumer experience? Take Dimension Studio as an example. Entering their studio, you get volumetrically scanned by 106 cameras that create a realistic digital human version of you (novelty: check). Try on whatever you like, at any size, however many times you like, at a press of a button, and in a fraction of the time it'd otherwise take you in-store (choice: check).
It seems to be working for them. Dimension Studio doubled its revenues to $6.5m in 2020-2021 alone.