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Sony is the latest global technology firm to announce its intentions in the metaverse, announcing last week a more focused interest and investment in new meta-based experiences. Epic, maker of the game Fortnite, are part of the new initiatives.

The news comes as brands – with big tech, luxury goods, and gaming leading the way – are betting big on this future of immersive online experiences.

Consumers are taking notice. The term “metaverse” is tweeted more than 500 times per hour on Twitter. Google Trends shows a dramatic increase in search interest in the term ‘metaverse’ over the last six months, with a spike in October 2021 in response to Mark Zuckerberg outlining Meta's vision of the metaverse  at its annual Connect conference.

In his speech Zuckerberg said : “We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, we’ll be able to feel present – like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are.”

This is, without doubt, an exciting vision of a new digital experience made possible by innovative and advancing technology. A future where we spend more time in virtual worlds than the real one has been imagined in books such as Ready Player One or Snow Crash (where the author Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse” back in 1992). It also brings with it concerns around privacy, security, mental health and wellbeing, and broader social and political influences.

Think about the possibilities for advertisers, targeting ads and content to individuals based not just on ‘old school’ data like age, gender, location, and job; introduce a physical layer of personal data based on body language, responses, interactions, and behaviors. It could be hugely powerful – but also highly intrusive.

So, a potentially transformative & immersive online world looms. What does this mean for us in marketing and communications? And in B2B financial and professional services, do we even need to think about it right now?

Yes. eMarketer found approximately 85 million users will experience AR or VR at least once a month in 2021. We might not be in Ready Player One quite yet, but AR and VR technology is getting better and adoption is increasing.  

Here are our initial ‘marketing in the metaverse’ principles to start thinking about:

  1. If ever there’s a time to think outside your usual, it’s now!

The metaverse is an opportunity for brands to create a fully encompassing experience for audiences. For retailers, this means personalizing the shopping experience, ‘trying before you buy’ clothes, make-up, or furniture. For many fashion brands, it’s about creating digital clothing and accessories gamers and others in the metaverse can buy and own – completely virtually. In finance or professional services, this may mean reimagining how you engage with clients, prospects, and employees. Could you bring new interns together from around the world in a metaverse fun day – vs. the usual online trainings, local office sessions, and Zoom calls? Is there an opportunity to personalize your product’s sign-up journey for new clients with interactive content and a 1:1 consultation in the metaverse, aiding consideration before the point of purchase? Can you reimagine your annual client event or conference with a virtual experience that can be attended, and personalized, from anywhere in the world?

  1. People want to engage with people

This is not new to the metaverse. We see across all channels that people- whether retail consumers or senior B2B decision makers- are looking for personal and more human marketing and sales experiences. It’s the blurring of B2B and B2C (remember B2B2C or B2H – at a fundamental level it’s all about the individuals!). In the metaverse humanizing your brand will take on a whole new dimension, such as UBS’ Swiss Chief Economist who gives personalized investment advice to HNW clients in the metaverse, wherever he is travelling in the real world. It will also make influencer marketing, true collaborative partnerships, more important than ever before in establishing trust with new and existing audiences.

  1. Metrics matter

It’s easy to jump into the latest and greatest technology, but it’s important to not lose sight of the fundamentals: ‘what does success look like?’ Marketing succeeds in any reality when it aligns what you want to say with what your audiences want to hear to create human and valuable experiences. This means putting your audiences at the heart of any metaverse experiment; if you’re not doing it to meet a need or enhance an experience then ask yourself- are you thinking metaverse just because it’s the metaverse?

  1. Don’t get left behind

There’s an increasing number of brands announcing plans for further activity in the metaverse, and plenty of experimentation taking place, but still many unknowns. Despite these, with so much opportunity at play it’s time to start learning now- even if you’re not quite ready to start experimenting. Metaverse marketing should feel like other touchpoints with your brand, on and offline, so start thinking about those moments where a virtual world could extend and enhance the audience experience.

Over the next few months we’ll be exploring marketing in the metaverse in more detail, from the companies jumping in and exploring this new world, to how brands are using NFTs, practicing PR in the metaverse, and the metaverse influencers you need to know.

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Jade Bestley is head of digital in Cognito's New York office.