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In-depth: How can brands navigate the tricky Metaverse landscape?

This story delves into how brands can create immersive consumer experiences using Metaverse in the times to come and the checkpoints to keep in mind before beginning their journey in Web 3.0

Marketers are always on the eternal quest to engage with consumers at every possible point of contact. The time has come where Web 3.0 is giving the opportunity to brands to use technology to its full. Be it in FOMO (Fear of missing out), or otherwise, many brands in India are already on their way to make the most of the marketing opportunity the world of Metaverse has in store for them. The hype is REAL!

In the last story, touched upon the basics of the Metaverse and how it came into existence. It also mentioned the kind of conversations that are developing in the board rooms of brands. 

This story delves into how brands can create immersive consumer experiences using Metaverse in the times to come and the checkpoints to keep in mind before beginning their journey in Web 3.0. 

Opportunities for brands in the Metaverse

In order to succeed in the Metaverse, brands will have to do a lot of unlearning of traditional advertising and learn how to build immersive engagements with consumers without being interceptive at all. Perhaps, to the extent they have never been on any other platform. It might sound very risky, but at the same time can be super rewarding if done authentically. 

Earlier in 2021, Ferrari 296 GTB was first launched on Fortnite, while it is actually going to launch in 2022. The list of automotive brands experimenting with Metaverse is long which includes the likes of Hyundai, Lamborghini, Audi, Ford Motor, BMW and others. 

The same goes for clothing brands, which include Nike, Adidas, Burberry, Uniqlo, H&M and other luxury clothing brands, which are marking their presence in the Metaverse. 

Last year Domino's opened its centre in Decentraland. One can order the Pizza in Decentraland and get it delivered in real at his/her home. Samsung was one of the first brands to launch its store in the Decetraland.

  • Creating immersive consumer experience
Prashant Sharma

Prashant Sharma, Co-founder, Plutoverse, said that the benefits of having a presence on Metaverse are enormous for brands. “They can build a new and lasting relationship with consumers. The interactive form of content (nothing passive like present 2D videos and pictures), virtual shows, any and every product can be brought into a virtual experience. Consumers can try things virtually right from cars, makeup, jewellery, houses and many more. Brands can provide real-time personalised customer support to many on a global scale.” 

A recent case of brands in India experimenting with Metaverse was, Abhijeet and Sansrati’s wedding in a 3D Metaverse. While ITC Fabelle gave discounts to the guests at the wedding, and Coca-Cola got the opportunity to build brand recall among the guests at the wedding through hoardings in the Metaverse. The association of ITC Fabelle and with the wedding was facilitated by the media agency Wavemaker India.

There was another Metaverse wedding, that of Dinesh Kshatriya and his fiance Janaganandhini Ramaswamy, on February 6, which was sponsored by CoinSwitch Kuber. 

  • Bringing in NFT utility into play

The Metaverse also opens the gates for NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) to be put to use, where the brand NFT holders get privileges that others don’t have.

Siddharth Bhansali

Siddharth Bhansali, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder, Noesis.Tech, said that NFTs can be used as tools to create “programmatic” digital communities, which can be given access to exclusive online and offline experiences either created or curated by the brand. 

Giving an example, he explained, “A brand may tie-up with other metaverse experiences or communities and do something for holders of that community or a brand may create its own community and collaborate with artists/experience designers to have them create exclusive experiences for the brands’ token holders.”

In December 2021, Adidas launched its NFT collection, created in collaboration with Bored Ape Yacht Club, the PUNKS comic team, and crypto investor Gmoney. Adidas NFT holders will be able to gain exclusive access to Adidas Originals experiences and products, including virtual wearables for The Sandbox, a blockchain-based gaming world, where the brand recently purchased land in.

Like this NFT holders can be segmented and targeted in much more meaningful ways than “followers” which is what a brand currently defines its community as today, said Bhansali. 

He also emphasised that it’s important to build immersive virtual and real-time experiences for consumers holding a brand’s NFT because it’s not a metaverse experience unless it's social. He said, “If it’s just a 3D experience, like being able to play with a 3D model of a product or walk through a 3D store on your own - there’s nothing meta about it.” 

  • Scaling virtual concerts in Metaverse

There are many virtual events platforms like VRXtream in India that have forayed into the Metaverse and are designing a number of virtual spaces that are tailored for certain events and are packed with features that make it simple to organise, administer, and interact. 

The scope of creating gala concerts by brands at scale in the Metaverse is so huge that it cannot be fathomed. Most notably, Ariana Grande’s October 2021 performance in Fortnite was attended by around 78 million Fortnite users. Travis Scott raked in $20 million for a Fortnite performance in 2020. 

In fact, when Daler Mehndi hosted India’s first metaverse concert, it was attended by over 20 million people across the globe. These numbers speak a lot about the potential eyeballs brands can get through hosting virtual concerts. 

Jai Prakash

Jai Prakash, Co-founder and CEO, VRXtream, added, “In addition to utilising virtual reality technology, VRXtream converts all digital assets into NFTs using blockchain technology that is safe, tradeable, and provides buyers with true ownership control. Also, VRXtream facilitates user engagement with the platform. The 3D virtual environment is entirely immersive and feels real. Within the virtual world, users can engage with other users and have full dialogues.”

  • Hyper-targeting gets personified in Web 3.0
Krishnan Sundararajan

Krishnan Sundararajan who claims to have developed India's first Metaverse gamified app, Loka, said that hyper-targeting and customisation is another benefit of the Metaverse world. If a person sees a certain brand on a hoarding in Metaverse, the other person might see another brand at the same spot. “If someone sees a KFC hoarding in the Metaverse, the other person could see a Decathlon on the same hoarding, and the third person could see a Lakme.”

  • Brands can buy their own virtual lands

In an expensive but another means that brands can stand out, in the Metaverse world is by possessing lands in the Metaverse. Sundararajan commented, “It is the concept where brands can buy a piece of land and choose to create whatever it wants to create on it. It’s like brands creating a sub Metaverse inside another Metaverse.” 

For example, the Caribbean island nation, Barbados, became the first country to create a digital embassy on the metaverse platform Decentraland. Snoop Dogg bought a piece of land on Sandbox. Nike is building its own Metaverse inside Roblox, which is an exact replica of Nike headquarter.

Checkboxes to tick before brands begin their Metaverse journey

Even before one jumps on the Metaverse bandwagon they should tick off some checkboxes. 

Sharma of Plutoverse suggested that brands must first research and spend some time in Metaverse spaces like Sandbox, Roblox and Decentraland to understand the behaviour of the audience on the Metaverse. “There is no one way for your brand to enter the Metaverse. Before entering the Metaverse space one should obviously do some research on brands’ target audience and behaviour patterns in the Metaverse and basis that brands can create their launch strategy accordingly,” said Sharma. 

Once the brands have a clear understanding of the Metaverse ecosystem and what can be done on the platform, they must define the objectives they want to fulfil from the Metaverse universe, pointed out Bhansali of Noesis.Tech. 

The objective could be consumer research, an extension of offline products to the Metaverse world, creating experiences for consumers, building brand loyalty and engagement. Before entering the space, they should ask themselves what marketing problem it would solve.

In the current scenario when laws around cryptocurrency are not clear, brands must consider the operational and financial implications as most of the Metaverse world relies on cryptocurrency. 

Vishal Jacob

Vishal Jacob, Chief Digital Officer, Wavemaker India said that brands must also consider associated risks, especially around NFTs and transactions in the metaverse which may involve crypto assets/currencies.

“What if someday the government cracks down on cryptocurrencies? How will it impact brands relying on cryptocurrencies? People need to think all these things through. Operationally and legally, it is not that easy and simple,” said an agency expert, who wanted to keep his identity private. 

Giving an example, the expert explained, suppose an Indian shoe brand launches a new line of virtual shoes in a certain Metaverse. But the shoes could only be bought through cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Solana. “For this to happen, they will have to create wallets on a corporate account on an international crypto-exchange followed by more such processes before one gets their hands on the virtual shoes. All this can have legal implications from the Government’s end.”

Only after proper research and clear objectives are in place, brands should get down to the execution part of the game. Bhansali said, “One should have an agile approach that takes a shorter time to market, based on performance and user feedback. Brands must also have a catalogue of 3D brand assets that can be reused across different Web3 contexts.”

Sundararajan said that one of the biggest myths about the Metaverse is that only cryptocurrencies function in the Metaverse. He said that some of the biggest Metaverses like Roblox and Fortnite, don’t even use crypto as currency. Explaining the same Sundararajan said, “There is a difference between tokens and decentralised tokens. Tokens are the currency of any world. For example, I name the Loka currency Lokans and put an exchange rate of one rupee, which is equal to 10 Locans. Then people will just have to convert it into Lokans and start shopping in my world and there is no decentralisation, cryptocurrency or blockchain. It’s just a simple conversion.”

Cost of association with Metaverse platforms

The cost of associating with any Metaverse platform depends on the type of metaverse and the traffic it generates. The global Metaverse platforms are expensive because their audience base is large. Another technology expert told said, “On Fortnite, which has an audience base of more than 60 million people, it costs $500,000/week for brands. But it is still cheaper if the brand aims to reach a 60 million audience base through traditional ads.” 

Talking about brand collaborations with Indian Metaverse platforms, Sundararajan said that it is hard to fix a cost at this point in time because the Metaverse base is small. “Fortnite is expensive because it has a base of 60 million people that was built over 5-7 years. Although, given the population in India, for any Indian Metaverse platform to reach 60 million will be much faster than them. Currently, it’s very nascent.” 

Currently, the major brand collaborations happening on Indian Metaverse platforms are related to brand building and they charge around Rs 1 lakh for an audience base of close to 25 thousand per week, said a digital marketing specialist.

Category of brands and target audience present on Metaverse

Sundararajan mentioned that the Metaverse audience falls in the age group of 9-30, the primary target audience lies in the age group of is 9-15. 

He further said that the audience of Metaverse is much richer than any other platform. “For example, on platforms like YouTube and Twitch, one can measure Live and concurrent audience, while in the Metaverse, one can measure Live+Concurrent along with the audience which is inside the Metaverse.”

There is still time to gauge which brand categories will flourish the most with the growth of Web 3.0, but currently, brands in the categories like fashion, retail, jewellery, travel and entertainment brands have several opportunities to leverage Web 3.0 at their doorstep. Some categories like BFSI and FMCG still have time to figure out how they can make the most of Web 3.0.

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