The Metaverse is Here: 5 Concrete Ways It Will Impact Brands
by Courtney Chauvenne
Preparation for the new age of social can (and should) start sooner than you might think.
When we heard rumblings of a “Facebook rebrand,” we were skeptical but curious about what that could look like. It was hard to imagine a company as mighty and influential as Facebook to go all in on a full rebrand—which is why it’s not super surprising that that’s not exactly what happened after all. In a move similar to Google’s when they introduced the Alphabet as a parent company for themselves, Facebook pulled the curtain down to reveal a self-created parent company of their own: Meta. And this one’s got some pretty big plans for the future. Like building an actual metaverse big.
First things first, Facebook is not inventing the metaverse. The metaverse has been building for some time now and is essentially a new iteration of the internet—one that supports the creation of digital, 3D worlds. And hey, if you’ve ever played Fortnite, you’ve already explored a corner of the Metaverse. Facebook entering the arena, however, definitely changes the game. Any major changes to the world of social ripples out into new opportunities and challenges for brands planning their social strategies around the current platform landscape. And Facebook is the largest player in that space. While this new announcement does not include any immediate changes to Facebook as we know it, brands won’t want to be caught flat-footed when the age of the metaverse begins. Here’s what we expect to see as Facebook’s plans are rolled out and how brands can be proactive in their responses.
Fuel for rapid innovation
A fun and exciting announcement in the wake of not-so-pretty privacy concerns within the app? Seems like an excellent opportunity for Facebook to steer away negative publicity in protection of their shareholders. However, the fact is that a company with as many resources as Facebook making the metaverse a priority is going to incentivize rapid tech innovation in a big way over the next five years, regardless of their motivations.
The current state of technology isn’t prepared for a fully immersive metaverse experience to become a part of everyone’s daily life. But with Facebook’s foot on the gas (and ⅕ of Meta employees now dedicated to Facebook’s Reality Labs), the tech industry is going to see a quick re-prioritization of development initiatives with an emphasis on AI and VR. We can expect to see more of these functionalities tested in both new and existing products—and brands that haven’t currently entered this space might want to consider what kind of value AI and VR experiences could bring to their business and how plans for experimentation might factor into their budgets for upcoming quarters.
Early adopters will land on top
Despite the fact that Facebook’s functionalities won’t see an immediate shift as a result of this announcement, getting on the ball now is the only way to be prepared for that rapid innovation. Don’t just take our word for it—brands like Dunkin’ and Chipotle joined TikTok early and became some of the first brand strongholds of the app when it took off, allowing them to set the tone for brand partnerships as the app evolved.
On the other hand, brands that didn’t join Facebook until the past few years, also know the power of early adoption. Building and maintaining a social following today is much different than it was in 2007 or 2014. And the brands that joined early reaped the benefits. The same will stand true for the metaverse—getting smart now is a responsible investment in your brand’s future ability to be nimble and act fast when the moment strikes (because it will—Meta is reportedly hiring an additional 10k people in the EU to support metaverse development). Nike will be a brand to watch as this unfolds, as their recent trademark filing indicates plans to sell virtual shoes and clothing conducive to a metaverse market.
A more centralized social ecosystem
“Seamless experience.” It’s becoming an increasingly buzzy phrase as a digital-native Gen Z becomes a bigger and bigger contributor to our economy. Younger generations will adopt early, and they’ll be expecting digital experiences that are optimized across all platforms—and Facebook knows this.
The introduction of Meta creates a whole new structure for a company of previously separate social platforms: Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Whatsapp, and any of their other (or future) owned channels. Now, we should expect them to prioritize giving Gen Z that seamless experience by making their family of apps as centralized and connected as possible. Brands should stay vigilant about changes to create uniformity across the apps in areas such as analytics, targeting capabilities, and campaign management. It will be vital to know the features, functionalities, and opportunities in each, as new integrations across this digital ecosystem are likely.
A second reinvention of community
Back when social media originally rocked the world, we saw a total reinvention and redefinition of what the word “community” even means. When geography and physical contact are no longer requirements for community gatherings and company cultures can flourish fully remotely, community gains a whole new layer that is less tangible and more of a feeling.
An emerging metaverse essentially means round 2 of this idea—meeting human-looking avatars in digital spaces that feel physical redefines community as a hybrid experience of physical and digital. We haven’t abandoned brick-and-mortar sales strategies (in fact, “digital brick-and-mortar” may not be an oxymoron for long), but we also haven’t ditched digital as the pandemic has slowed. Brands will need to consider this for a successful future in the metaverse. Hybrid optimization is key as this new landscape takes shape.
New branding opportunities
In the real world, we have a 1-to-1 3D physical spacetime we interact within—meaning there is only one billboard at the West End and Broadway split (for all you Nashville natives), one Times Square, and one Super Bowl. The metaverse, however, opens up an infinite amount of digital ad landscape. For example, Zed Run is like a digital Kentucky Derby where you buy NFT racehorses to race for money. Stella Artois designed branded custom horses…and they’re selling for 100x a normal horse. NASCAR teamed up with Zed to make a racetrack for the horses that looks like a real NASCAR-branded track.
Fortnite’s concerts are another great example, as they put on shows that would be impossible in the real world (we’re talking Godzilla-sized holograms, floating avatars, and high fidelity 3D spatial surround sound). The emergence of a popularized metaverse would create an entirely new realm of ad real estate—changing the meaning (and typical pricing) of OOH to include digital outdoor spaces and opening a literal new world of opportunity.
The bottom line? While Facebook’s announcement doesn’t include changes that will affect your social plans for the coming days, there’s a change brewing in social media land that your brand shouldn’t try to fight. Getting ready for an emerging metaverse looks like experimentation with new platforms and innovative features, and it should be planned for sooner rather than later. Interested in chatting it out? Drop us a line—we’d love to dig in. And stay tuned as we continue to explore this new frontier.