Credit: Illustration by Tam Nguyen / AdAge

Why metaverse marketing is bullshit — a Gen Zer explains what brands are doing wrong [Ad Age op ed]

The buzzword can’t come before the value and quality for the audience

[This article was first published in a bit shorter version on Ad Age, read it here]

The marketing industry loves chasing buzzwords. Everybody knows at least one campaign that had awful ROI, didn’t have great reach yet won tons of awards because it sounded sexy.

The newest obsession of the marketing industry is the metaverse, and most often, it has nothing to do with the metaverse. Here’s why:

The metaverse does not yet exist

Here is my favourite definition of the metaverse:

“The Metaverse, is a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications and payments.”
Matthew Ball

While VR, Unreal/Unity engines and 5G will be used in creating the metaverse, none of them are the metaverse itself.

The same is true for Gen Z’s and millennials’ acceptance of digital identities, online friendships and spending time in digital space. Read more about it here.

To put it simply, the metaverse does not exist yet.

We need agreement on definitions

Here are mine:

  • A metaplatform allows you to create your space — like a Facebook fan page or Wordpress blog.
  • A metaspace or metaworld — like a profile or website — is your space in 3D.
  • The Metaverse — is like the Internet — the universal standard and network connecting metaplatforms.

Your brand might be entering the nascent metaverse by creating a metaworld — not the other way around. It is confusing because while websites and platforms came after the creation of the internet — worlds, games and platforms are preceding the metaverse.

NFTs and blockchain are just technology layers

Making an NFT is not entering the metaverse; it’s employing blockchain, NFT technology and perhaps Web3.

Blockchain and NFT technologies can solve some metaverse challenges, especially decentralization, payments, verification, standardization and royalties, yet we can also live without them.

The metaverse is not Web3

Web 3 is about the decentralization of ownership and content distribution. The metaverse is about spatial internet — a second universe. Both are branches of the future of the Internet, can coexist and will intertwine. However, they are separate ideas.

VR is not the metaverse

Just because you’re on a roller coaster ride in VR does not mean you are creating the metaverse. This is just a VR experience. VR is a technology that will be used to access the metaverse.

Gaming and virtual spaces are not the metaverse

A favorite way of so-called metaverse marketing is reclassifying a three-year-old gaming campaign as the metaverse.

But Fortnite, Roblox or Minecraft are still games. VR Chat, Sandbox or Decentraland are still virtual platforms; very similar to games, but often of lower functionality.

Creating an experience in Roblox, a map in CS:GO or a concert in Fortnite all are gaming campaigns. And don’t get me wrong — they can still be great campaigns. But some — like a stand at a conference with nothing but a chair and logo — offer nothing of value to visitors. If such campaigns focused more on the gaming aspect of their digital space, they would have more impact on the consumers.

The metaverse will emerge from these platforms and the way people use them. It’s OK to say they are the proof of concept of the metaverse but selling them to clients as the metaverse is dishonest.

Side note: I believe there are ways to do a gaming activation that plays more to the metaverse vision and can be deemed “metaversal” in its nature. I wrote about it here.

The evolution of the metaverse has begun

Games will evolve into metaspaces. Platforms will become more open and decentralized, allowing for independent creation. VR hardware will be cheaper and easier to obtain. And we will make a massive leap in haptic devices and networking speed and reliability.

It’s up to us to educate clients on this journey.

Every buzz-generating term contains a grain of the future

Communities and fandoms. Interactive experiences. Appreciating niche creators and fandoms. Freedom of creation and monetization. Expanding of digital life, including how we work, play, love and what we own.

While still new for brands and most consumers, these are all part of a cultural shift that brands need to be aware of. While not the metaverse themselves, they might become a part of it. Marketing in these areas, if done right and with the focus of the core audience, will work without the need for buzzwords.

On the contrary

I wouldn’t be myself if didn’t play devil’s advocate.

If you run a campaign on Facebook — that’s digital marketing.

If you create an app — that’s mobile marketing.

So, can using a thing that is a part of the future metaverse be considered metaverse marketing?

This is probably the way I will need to discuss this with clients in order for them to get what they want and for me to get business. Once there is time, I will go into greater detail about the building blocks that will help create the metaverse.

In the end, I’m not your mum. I won’t tell you what to call your marketing campaigns.

However, as a representative of Gen Z that is targeted with most of them — and cringes a lot because of it — I want to ask for one thing: The buzzword can’t come before the value and quality for the audience.

Good, value-based marketing experiences will always defend themselves — and, hopefully, win you awards too.

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What do you think about “metaverse” marketing? Excessive buzzword chasing or good for mass recognition and adoption of future technology?

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Ps. If you liked this article, follow me here (or on LinkedIn) for more stuff like this :)

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Wiktoria Wójcik

Wiktoria Wójcik

co-founder of inStreamly, Genki.me & Streamcoi. Writing about GenZ, metaverse and gaming — especially from the angle of marketing.