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Successful brands will be an organic part of metaverse communities: Essence report

The global data and measurement-driven full-service agency has unveiled its worldwide report on the metaverse titled ‘Manifest Metaverse’

Successful brands will be an organic part of metaverse communities by providing relevant solutions to actual problems and meeting in-world needs or real-world needs, as per a report by GroupM’s Essence.

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Essence’s global report on the Metaverse, ‘Manifest Metaverse,  dives deeper into this new frontier, including a look at consumer sentiment, marketer activations, sustainability, and the next steps.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the global market for the metaverse is estimated at $478.7 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $783.3 billion by 2024 at a CAGR of 13.1%.

The report says that currently Metaverse remains tethered to its gaming roots and is simply the continued fragmentation of the media ecosystem. It’s a viable media channel for brands with diverse tribes of youth, early adopters and tech affinity actively participating in today’s metaverse.

Most of the action takes place in somewhat conventional games like ‘Fortnite’ and ‘Roblox’ and ‘Play To Earn Games like ‘Decentraland’, ‘Sandbox’ and ‘Axe Infinity’ where players can earn digital currency or collect NFTs with real ones that Have value.

“Roblox” reported 54.1 million daily active users for the first quarter of 2022, while “Fortnite” daily active users number 24.2 million so far in 2022, the report states.

The report further pointed out that for those who remember the first decade of the new millennium, it should be pointed out that “Second Life” currently has 200,000 daily active users.

For comparison, Twitter has 229 million daily active users, and Facebook has 1.93 billion. None of these games requires pricey augmented reality or virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets to play. That said, during the pandemic, sales of augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) headsets exploded, with an estimated 6.4 million consumer headsets sold in 2020. According to the IDC, headset sales nearly doubled (92.1% YoY) in 2021, with shipments reaching 11.2 million units.

Even the brands have been piling into this gaming version of the metaverse. A very incomplete list of companies with activations includes Nike, Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, Adidas, Chipotle, McDonald’s, Walmart, State Farm, Hyundai, and Gucci. Numerous ad agencies have also set up their offices there.

As per the report, the metaverse isn’t being built for GenX or even Millennials. It is being built for GenZ, Generation Alpha, and whatever comes after. If one is at all concerned about future growth and for those who aren’t experimenting in the metaverse it is a good place to start.

What about Web3, the blockchain, and cryptocurrency?

The report states that things get extremely complicated, as well as fractious, when it comes to Web3, the blockchain, and cryptocurrency.

According to some definitions of the “metaverse,” the blockchain will be its foundation. It will exist in a Web3 world beyond the current URL-based world wide web or soon-to-seem primitive social media apps. Just how this world will be accessed is unclear.

However, Forrester believes the metaverse “won’t require Web3 technologies like blockchain and won’t depend on crypto-economic systems to operate.” Even within the ranks of Essence, there is disagreement about how fundamental these will be to the metaverse. Some very passionately believe they’re key, others not so much.

“We also aren’t near broad consumer adoption of cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Both strike the average consumer as confusing, speculative, and possibly dangerous,” the report noted.

Moreover, at this time crypto is experiencing a very bad PR cycle as part of the collapsing market.

For the average consumer who isn’t a leading-edge technophile, there are also matters of interoperability, accessibility, ease of use, and other barriers to entry. From a brand’s point of view, this is a fairly easy “wait-and-see” decision, the report noted.

However, NFTs have resounded with early adopters in the tech, celebrity, and branding worlds.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported that the NFT market was flatlining, with daily average sales “experiencing a 92% decline from a peak of about 225,000 in September, according to the data website NonFungible.”

This prompted the paper to posit the question, “Is this the beginning of the end of NFTs?” It’s entirely too soon to tell. Everyone should remember that the QR code was consigned to the dustbin of history until the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed business needs and consumer behaviour.

For certain brands, there’s no reason not to experiment with NFTs. But they should do so with caution. When McDonald’s created an NFT drop tied to the McRib sandwich last year, someone included a racially insensitive message as part of a transaction. As CoinDesk wrote about the incident, “It highlights the risks involved with public companies working with blockchain, where almost anyone can post a transaction for all to see. And posts on the blockchain are forever.”

What about brand safety?

Apart from audience size and the familiarity of gaming, there is another reason brands are piling into things like “Animal Crossing,” NBA 2K, and “Roblox”: brand safety.

“Roblox,” as a walled garden owned by one company, is relatively safe. Built primarily as a kid’s game and with over half its audience under the age of 13, the universe operates accordingly. It has a fairly thorough set of community standards and machine screens 100% of chats. But it remains a live environment and the company can’t monitor 100% of the content.

The only moderation of human content comes into play if a complaint is filed and a truly open metaverse will be largely user-generated and unregulated. In some cases, users do not want their areas to be monitored.

Interoperability is achieved, it will be so much trickier if not downright impossible. Gaming platforms are already home to vulgarity and harassment. Throw politics, dating, and poorly gated adult-only content into the mix and, well, it’s a lot like the real world.

As the metaverse expands, there will be some corners more fit for brands than others. As in the real world, companies will have to consider their products, their target audience, potential partners, and the context before venturing in.

After all, some brands might find even current metaverse-type games a little too risky. “Fortnite,” for example, might be seen as too violent. The abundance of children in “Roblox” might make it a no-go for others.

Moreover, businesses also need to consider what consumers are concerned about. According to Wunderman Thompson data, among those who know what the metaverse is, their top concerns include privacy, data protection, children’s safety, and bullying.

“If we don’t start experimenting now, you’re not going to build up a body of learning so that when it does become more substantive you’ve at least found a role for the brand in this sort of space. You’re coming into the space behind everyone else. … Better to run some experiments and embrace failure,” as per Jon Gittings, executive VP of strategy, Essence.

The metaverse may seem small. It may be overhyped. It may seem alien or dangerous. But it — or some version of it— is likely to be a fundamental part of the future landscape. According to YPulse, 57% of GenZ have created an avatar in a video game, 48% have created an avatar on social media, and 27% have followed a virtual person on social media. On top of that 32% report having purchased virtual or digital goods.

This could go as deep as helping bring the metaverse itself to life by developing the technical tools that will power the metaverse or perfect the end-user experience. For most, focusing on how the brand and its consumers exist within the metaverse probably makes more sense.

A Wunderman Thompson survey found that, among those who know what the metaverse is, 82% said it will be a place to socialise, 70% said it will be a place to shop, and 68% said it will be the future of e-commerce/online shopping. 60% said brands should be manufacturing and selling digital products alongside physical products.


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