In the collective minds of businesses and consumers alike, the immersive virtual reality-powered world known as the metaverse is primarily associated with the gaming industry. While this notion is certainly rooted within reality, the question still remains — is the metaverse marketing channel reserved exclusively for companies within the gaming industry?
By breaking down the profile of the metaverse’s target market and detecting potential marketing strategies within this virtual world, we can determine whether or not this emerging technology can act as an effective marketing channel for companies beyond the gaming space.
Considered one of the five most impactful emerging technologies in 2022 by Gartner, the metaverse is backed by experts to become a major source of value from both a business and a recreational perspective in the coming years. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, this emerging technology has the potential to amass a market value of $5 trillion by 2030.
With such a significant growth potential, the metaverse seems to be an appealing marketing medium due to its projected extensive audience reach. What still needs to be determined, however, is whether products and services beyond the gaming industry can resonate with these metaverse users.
This issue was widely addressed at the IAB PlayFronts show, a conference on advertising and partnership opportunities. Zoe Soon, vice president of the Experience Center at media company IAB, revealed that 46% of U.S. gamers are female, while 71% of mothers across the United States play games. In addition, 80% of Gen Z consider themselves to be gamers, Soon stated.
Such figures indicate that, rather than being a single market demographic, the gaming audience in fact consists of multiple overlapping demographic groups, thereby increasing the likelihood that gamers in general would exhibit a wider range of tastes than initially expected.
Brand and product placement in the metaverse seems to be a move that will be warmly received by gamers. According to an October 2021 Comscore report on the state of US gaming, only 18% of survey respondents said that they would rather see fake brands appear in video games as opposed to real brands. This implies that the majority of gamers would be open to product placement in video games.
Given the diversity of modern gaming audiences as well as their perceived openness to product placements, it appears that there may be an opportunity for non-gaming brands to tap into the metaverse as a marketing medium. All that’s left to discuss now is how this can be achieved.
As a universe where gaming and virtual reality collide, the metaverse provides a wide array of marketing opportunities, both legacy and new.
Starting with traditional gaming marketing strategies, there are multiple avenues that companies will be able to continue to follow in the metaverse. This includes simple techniques revolving around in-game advertising. There are three main versions of in-game advertising that can be used to reach gamers via an approach they are familiar with.
Firstly, there is static in-game advertising. Here, advertisements are placed within a game in a way that cannot be changed. This approach is especially popular in sports simulation games, where real products are placed on advertising billboards around the stadium in a technique that mirrors real life.
Dynamic In-Game Advertising (DIGA) is more interactive and customizable than its static counterpart. Considering that many games today use an internet connection or are mobile games, DIGA enables brands to place ads in games that can be updated to be more relevant. As a result, DIGA can appear more targeted to gamers.
Advergaming is another approach, whereby the game almost serves as an advertisement itself. This has been a popular approach with Lego, a company that has partnered with popular movie franchises such as Star Wars, Batman, and Harry Potter to release video game collaborations. In fact, Lego is actively pursuing the advergaming approach in the metaverse as well, partnering with Epic Games to develop a kid-friendly metaverse.
Aside from traditional video game advertising, the metaverse provides a range of new digital advertising opportunities that were never before possible.
These include ad placements, whereby products appear on billboards, bus stop signs, and even clothing as they do in the real world. There is also the possibility for brands to sponsor metaverse events such as music concerts; an idea that has grown in popularity since Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert in the middle of pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Metaverse users’ avatars (the character they use to interact with the virtual world) also present a unique marketing opportunity. With consumers looking to create avatars with platforms such as the Genies app, there is a lucrative opportunity for companies to sell branded apparel which metaverse users can use to dress their avatars. Cheetos has already jumped on the bandwagon by collaborating with Genies to release a line of Halloween-themed avatar apparel.
For a deeply immersive user experience, brands could consider building their own metaverse experiences or partner with other brands to do so. Both Gucci and Vans have taken this approach, creating their own worlds on Roblox.
While the Gucci Garden Exhibition is a place where users can explore different rooms with their avatars and receive new fashion designs, Van World allows players to design their own skateboards and shoes while also competing in games and hanging out with friends.
Brands could also consider developing their own metaverse games, as Louis Vuitton has done. In celebration of its 200th birthday, the high-end fashion label released Louis the Game, available to play on mobile devices. The game sees users take control of Vivienne, a character tasked with finding 200 birthday candles while also learning the history of the brand and collecting fashion accessories along the way.
Play-to-earn games are also gaining traction in the metaverse. Based on blockchain technology, these games reward players with NFTs and crypto rewards upon completing certain in-game objectives. Often, the rewards that the players earn can be used to unlock further prizes or traded on digital marketplaces.
The players are not the only ones being rewarded, however. The game developers (in this case, the brand in question) also generate an income, either through transaction fees or in-game ad revenues.
If game development happens to not be your brand’s specialty, then there are several companies such as Award Pool that assist brands in developing NFT experiences for their fans, among which are play-to-earn games.
Considering the widespread appeal of the metaverse, the diversity of its audience and their openness to brand placement, metaverse marketing certainly doesn’t seem to be limited to gamers alone. As a new technological space, the metaverse could present promising marketing opportunities that are cheaper than many established channels. With this in mind, now is as good a time as any to enter the metaverse and leave your mark.