The Metaverse: Max Gethin, Client Development Lead looks into where we're actually at with the Metaverse and how it will impact events.
The Metaverse, as the vision that Mark Zuckerberg set out almost a year to the day ago, does not exist. Why? To put it simply, we do not have the technology to facilitate this vision yet. But let’s start from the beginning: what is the Metaverse? This is a challenge in itself when there isn’t a formalised definition; however, one thing hat is clear is that it will be the next evolution of how we use the internet. The best definition I’ve been able to establish for the Metaverse is:
The Metaverse is (or will become) a persistent, interoperable shared 3D virtual space, which is enhanced by VR/AR and underpinned by a number of existing technologies, such as blockchain (as well as innovations yet to be created). Boiling that down, it’s a 3D virtual world wide web filled with avatars of users that can jump seamlessly from one experience to the next, regardless of the platform.
However, the truth is nobody really knows what this will eventually look like. Globally, we’re still in development and it will take years, not months, and not without its hurdles. Take, for example, Meta’s valuation having dropped 60% from October 2021 - October 2022 or Decentraland’s recently reported 38 “active users” over a 24-hour period early in October (despite the $1bn valuation).
Matthew Ball, VC and author of The Metaverse: And How it Will Revolutionize Everything says “there will be no clean before Metaverse and after Metaverse” and I 100% agree. As tech improves and humans adopt this new way of interacting, we’ll see the Metaverse gradually impact our lives across so many touchpoints.
But what does this new frontier look like for the events and marketing industry? With an estimated global market reach of $344.7bn by 2027, it’s certainly a place for brands to watch. It will enable and challenge us with new ways of connecting with our audiences, both virtually and at real-life events. And the possibilities are potentially endless, limited only by our imagination.
I am a firm believer that the Metaverse will enhance our IRL experiences without replacing in-person human events. We will still travel and connect with the people that matter to us and if anything, the Metaverse will unlock many new possibilities. For example, imagine delivering a keynote during a B2B conference with the entire audience in AR glasses and all your supporting slides, props, graphs etc. appearing in 3D.
It will also vastly enhance virtual events and experiences, which are currently limited by poor graphics, stale formats and impersonal human interaction. We can already see potential applications from the likes of Accenture, on how the Metaverse could enhance internal comms. During the pandemic, the company onboarded 150,000 new staff members in the company’s ‘Metaverse campus’ - a revolution in employee experience. We’ve also seen some poor applications (naming no names here), which have lacked a real understanding of what the possibilities are and importantly what audiences want, by essentially recreating the real world in a stale virtual one.
From a consumer perspective, we’re already seeing a huge number of brands experimenting with our current technologies. NIKELAND on Roblox, for example, connects consumers with the brand through online competition as well as selling digital Nike products for avatars. Coca-Cola launched its inaugural NFT campaign back in July 2021. Or even Heineken, who delivered a tongue-in-cheek campaign to highlight the importance of real-world connections by launching a metaverse beer in Decentraland. The Heineken Silver launch played on the irony of a non-existent virtual beer that you can’t actually taste, poking fun at the metaverse, engaging Gen Z and picking up four silver Cannes Lions along the way. Or a personal favourite, which though dated demonstrates a creative and memorable piece of marketing in the form of Wendy’s on Fortnite, who galvanised players to eliminate all frozen burgers in the game, because Wendy's doesn’t do frozen beef.
We’re still scratching the surface of what’s possible within the space from both a technology and creative point of view. Over the coming years, we’ll see innovations, behaviour changes and global adoption of new Metaverse tools and experiences that will enhance our event, marketing and communications strategies, revolutionising how we think as an industry. It’s an exciting space to watch and the opportunities for brands will need to be considered, creative and carefully executed, always with the audience front of mind - I can’t wait to see where we go.