Metaverse - fad or the future?

Should you be including the metaverse in your marketing plans for the year ahead?

November 18, 2022
David Gough
A young woman in an orange top wearing VR goggles
November 18, 2022
David Gough

With a YouGov report revealing that more than six in 10 people are unable to ‘confidently’ describe the metaverse, you might be forgiven for not considering it part of your marketing plans for the year ahead.

But this stat doesn’t tell the full story. Especially when the metaverse market is expected to reach $800billion in 2024. No wonder Kinsey’s ‘Value creation in the metaverse’ report claims that the metaverse is ‘too big for companies to ignore.’ And it seems that many are following this advice, with a number of food brands taking advantage of, or at least experimenting with, the opportunities the metaverse may provide.

Coca Cola launched a limited edition product, Byte, in the game Fortnite before it launched in real life; Wendy’s launched a virtual fast food restaurant; and McDonalds held a virtual version of a real life event, complete with a scavenger hunt for imagery that could be used to collect digital prizes such as smartphone wallpapers.

Recently Frito-Lays kicked off (pun very much intended) their FIFA World Cup campaign with a ‘unique’ digital fan experience. Fans who scan an on-pack QR code can have their face featured on a giant digital soccer ball to cheer on their team during the tournament, play daily games and challenges, as well as have the chance to receive a limited NFT with their image on.

And it looks like more brands will follow, with a number of them including DelMonte and Kraft Foods registering trademarks, a necessary requirement for trading in the metaverse.

It is not just the major brands that are entering the metaverse though. Plant based brands Huera and Honeybee have both launched new burgers via the metaverse.

But what exactly is the metaverse?

Virtual reality.

A 3D version of the internet.

An integrated network of 3D virtual worlds.

A virtual world where users can share experiences.

An expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, history, payments, and entitlements.

A parallel reality where avatars are a representation of the human self.

All of these are attempts to describe the metaverse.

In their report, YouGov defined the metaverse as ‘virtual worlds where you can create an electronic version of yourself and interact in these worlds.’

What are these worlds though? Popular ones include Roblox (a space for kids that ‘brings people together through play’), Decentraland (focused on virtual real estate),  Efinity (a space for artists to turn their digital artwork into NFTS), and Horizon Home, Meta’s metaverse homebase.  There is also of course Minecraft, but this is subject to opinion if it is a metaverse or just a game.

Food even has its own dedicated foodverse – OneRare, a place to ‘interact with top culinary talent and food brands as they whip up their signature dish NFTs and create unique virtual food experiences.

A man wearing VR goggles at a virtual desk with virtual people

And what are the metaverse benefits for brands?

The key word in YouGov’s description of the metaverse is interact. While these interactions are often in the form of play or socialising, they can also be for work, and, crucially, can also be with brands from the ‘real world’, like the examples given above. A merger of the ‘virtual’ and the ‘reality’ you might say.

Awareness, talkability, data capture, and the chance to reengage with the consumer are all potential benefits. At a recent advertising conference, one panellist explained: “You have this notion of this experience that you’ve taken part of in a virtual plan that now results in an emotional experience and an ongoing dialogue with the brand that is positive — value is on both sides.”

The word dialogue is an interesting one – five years or so ago it was the buzzword we all used when promoting the importance of social media for brands; a concept that has perhaps got lost, or at least diluted along the way, as the established social media platforms increasingly became focused on advertising, and new players like TikTok entered the market with a focus on entertainment.

And the metaverse has other potential uses too. Kraft Heinz, for example, have been using it to solve supply chain problems, teaming up with Microsoft to create ‘digital twins’ in the metaverse that allow them to product solve virtually.

So should brands be considering entering the metaverse for 2023?

It comes down to that key marketing concept – define your audience and, where possible, have a presence where they are. PepsioCos’ SVP of media, sports and entertainment summed it up when he told “As people live their lives in the metaverse on a more daily basis over the next few years … it’s critical for brands like ours to make sure that we are where those consumers are living their lives.”

For now, the jury is still out on the full potential of the metaverse. Rob Foster from The Observatory International, writing for the World Federation of Advertisers blog, says brands need to think twice before entering the ‘metaverse’. But perhaps don’t think too long about those decisions – if you do you’ll give advantage to your more forward thinking competitors.

As long as we have emerging technologies there are always games, places and platforms that allow us to step away from reality (look at the success of The Sims, Championship / Football Manager, or even, if you can recall a decade ago, Farmville). Should the metaverse reach it’s potential though, the ‘virtual’ and the ‘reality’ will be blended together closer than ever before – and that’s an exciting prospect!