While Metaverse has been in existence for a few years now, it’s only with Facebook rebranding itself to Meta that a FOMO gripped Indian marketers, forcing them to dip their toes in the Metaverse with brand activities, including branding in weddings, opening virtual stores, in-game branding and launching NFTs. Brands have been making a beeline to claim the ‘first-mover’ spot in the Metaverse. According to a report by GlobalData, globally, the mention of the term Metaverse rose by over 135% in companies Q4 2021 earning calls.
In the first story of the three-part series on brands and Metaverse, BestMediaInfo.com touched upon the basics of Metaverse and how it came into existence. It also mentioned the kind of conversations that are developing in the board rooms of brands.
This second story delved 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.
But as the brand activities on Metaverse increase, it is also not everyone’s cup of tea. The third story is around the challenges that Indian brands are facing while navigating the world of Metaverse.
The biggest roadblock for the brands is to understand their positioning in the Metaverse, how they can differentiate within games, virtual stores, and NFTs. Also, brands need to adjust marketing strategies, said, Prashant Sharma, Co-founder, Plutoverse.
According to Siddharth Bhansali, CTO Zoo Media and Co-Founder, Noesis, the largest challenge is to be able to think strategically about this, to just wrap their head around what Web 3.0 is today and what it can be in the future. “Executing a well-defined and planned Web 3.0 project is the easy part, the tech and tools exist, and the know-how exists - thus answering the why/what a brand should do (versus the how) is the larger challenge.”
“The problem with brands is that they don’t understand what Metaverse is, but want to be a part of it. There is a lack of education curve about what is Metaverse,” said Krishnan Sundararajan who claims to have developed India's first Metaverse gamified app, Loka.
Raising awareness about the capabilities and possibilities of Metaverse and NFTs seems to be the biggest challenge not just among brands but also among the general public.
Jai Prakash, Co-founder and CEO, VRXtream, said that there is a thriving community that is already quite active but it's important that the general public is able to get involved through the dissemination of information and offerings of the Metaverse. “Convincing people that they can trust and, more importantly, feel safe when partaking in any Metaverse deal and NFTs can be counted as one of the biggest challenges,” he said.
Metaverse is still in a nascent stage in India. As of now, nothing in the Metaverse is certain; be it legalities, brand safety, measurement metrics for brands, which Metaverse platform one should associate with in the long-run, consumer behaviour, and more such things. Currently, the Indian brands that are already in the Metaverse, are the ones who want to experiment around how it can benefit them and be the first ones to do something in Metaverse.
Bhansali seconded, “Metaverse today is still primarily a brand only/innovation play and it will take more time to assess how it can fit into brand’s performance-based marketing objectives. The conversations with brands today are primarily more about understanding these concepts and exploring what the roadmap for each brand's journey across Metaverse will look like.”
In the real world, brands are more interested in conversations with agencies and platforms which position them as unique, the ones who offer something which is exclusive to them and give maximised reach and ROI. But according to Sundararajan, it’s not easy to do in the Metaverse.
He said, “Brands want to somehow create an exclusive experience in the world, which can’t happen because it is an open market. There are brands who say why can’t you build only our store. It’s like going to Amazon and saying, why don’t you just serve our products?”
He further said that brands keep on asking that if they collaborated withing the Metaverse how many views and the audience would they be able to reach in a month. Currently, there is no answer to that question.
While measurement on Metaverse is one challenge that will take some time for brands to overcome, another daunting challenge in Metaverse is to figure out the real consumer behaviour or the real consumer behind the digital avatar.
A senior marketing professional shared his concern that in the metaverse it will be difficult to know whether a person’s Avatar reflects his/her real identity and behaviour or not. Therefore, targeting audiences or engaging with them basis their Avatar look and behaviour will always remain a challenge. For example, a male adolescent can use the Avatar of a female fashionable adult and one will never find out his real age group, behaviour and needs.
“That’s why we aren’t engaging with many brands consciously because they take Metaverse as an earning source. It is an earning source, but first, let it develop in India,” added Sundararajan.
An important and large aspect of the Metaverse world is NFTs. Brands have started building NFTs of their own which consumers can buy and use for various brand experiences in the Metaverse and the real world. For one to even buy an NFT is a task in itself.
Akshay Gurnani, Co-Founder and CEO, Schbang, said that while several people are buying crypto in India, the number is still very small in comparison to the other investment assets in which people have put in their money currently. Even for Indians to buy an NFT is not a very straightforward way.
Gurnani further said, “To buy an NFT, one has to link the crypto wallet to an international crypto-exchange. After that, he/she will have to transfer cryptocurrency into that wallet and from that one will have to transfer into the concerned NFT marketplace. The person will lose money every time while jumping platforms. Like this, it becomes very expensive for Indians to buy crypto and purchase an NFT as he is transferred from 3-4 different routes to finally reach the NFT exchange.”
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, 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 spoke to BestMediaInfo.com under conditions of anonymity.
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.”
With more than 500 million cricket fans in India, and Bollywood and regional cinemas swaying over the Indian populace, the NFT marketplace for just cinema and sports in India has the potential to cross $1 billion in value in the near future (subject to conducive regulatory policies), according to TMT (Technology, Media, and Telecommunications) Predictions 2022 report by Deloitte. But when it comes to brands, only the ones with a massive brand love or the ones which will provide utility in the Metaverse through NFTs can make a space for themselves in the Metaverse.
Gurnani added, “While Amitabh Bachchan’s NFTs will become collectibles with huge value in the times to come. For Indian brands, we still have time to crack what will the NFT do for them. It’s a game for brands with cult followings. Unless the NFT is adding value to the avatar in the Metaverse and until a brand is giving some utility, people won’t buy the brands’ NFTs. From a brand’s standpoint, to make someone buy its NFT is going to be a big challenge.”
For a brand to start its Metaverse journey, it should be clear about what objective it wants to achieve as it’s an expensive affair. Therefore, Sharma of Plutoverse suggested that brands need to partner with experts who understand NFTs, (keeping in mind that everyone is still learning, nobody is an expert) or you can simply ask them what is in their wallet? To know whether they have expertise in this.
Bhansali said that when it comes to brands launching NFTs, it is less expensive to launch it than marketing. “But if one wants to create something highly immersive like a 3D experience accessible via the Oculus or similar hardware it will be much more expensive and will require more planning,” he added.