No doubt there has recently been a moment – during a CXO strategy session, a marketing meeting, a visit from the consultants, a performance review with a bright young thing – where you’ve been asked: 

What are we doing about the metaverse?

Because the metaverse is, of course, the next big thing, it was the talk of CES, it’s the number one topic in Silicon Valley, the big-name venture firms are going crazy for it, and everyone who is anyone is of course going to be in the metaverse, so we should be, too. I’ve been working worldwide at the intersection of technology, retail, and consumer goods for some 22 years.  Those with similar experience know this:  we’ve seen this before.   Which means we should have the experience (and wisdom) not to embrace nor dismiss the metaverse, but to carefully separate the nonsense from the value.

Here are three thoughts to help you start the conversation.

  1. Determine how much – right now — you can afford to strip from existing marketing and IT budgets for the sake of appearance, of being cool, of “getting it.” Your PR and investor relations people may want to toss a “metaverse” phrase into the next quarterly report or pitch deck.   Truth be told, markets generally think it’s better to be cool than to be seen as a dinosaur. 
  2. Get educated. For instance (and despite the new name and assertions of a big US social media  firm), we will have hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of metaverses, all formed from differing combinations of 13-15 overlapping elements.  Think of a metaverse not as one thing, but as a Venn diagram of digital and immerse elements – a Venn diagram that overlaps with an endless number of other Venn diagrams, with users weaving in and out according to interests.  For a quick and clear education, I love Gartner’s recent paper ‘What is a Metaverse?’ authored by Ashutosh Gupta.
  3. If you’re driven to pay a “cool tax” this year or next, invest it in the handful of metaverse elements or current consumer activity areas that can drive greater direct customer connection for your brand.   For instance:  one of the driving forces of metaverse conversation and investment is today’s huge consumer participation in digital gaming.  It’s estimated that some 95 billion humans on this planet will play a digital game of some type this year.  (That’s more than a third of all humanity.  Yes.)  Of that number, more than half are estimated to be in Asia Pacific.  
  4. In North America, roughly 42 percent of the participants – a market of roughly 88 million – are women. If that gender split number holds true in Asia Pacific, we’re talking about a female gaming cohort of more than 600 million.  They mostly play what are known as “casual” games, and on smartphones.   (No, not all gamers are  young men playing shoot-‘em-up in their mother’s basement).     

The bottom line for today:

  • Is this a topic full of hype? Of course.  Will it transform our lives tomorrow?  Heavens no.  Will the business collapse if you’re not “doing metaverse” (or doing something at the bleeding edge, like doing crypto transactions or purchasing virtual real estate?)  No, no, no.
  • Is it heading our way?  Yes it is.  And it will be driven by consumer behavior that is increasingly digital (in financial value, in personal-work-entertainment experiences), increasingly immersive (gaming, and with huge impact on entertainment), increasingly peer-to-peer (we’ve just started with social media) and increasingly acoustic (i.e., driven by natural language processing and generation.). 
  • Who should worry about this? Entertainment moguls, first and foremost.  Sports executives.  And then, e-commerce and financial services execs.  Brand managers and product marketers of all types. 
  • What do I do now?  Understand the component elements and the trend lines of the ever-shifting consumer behaviors.  Map those to a) important and/or emerging consumer constituencies, and b) the means (gamification, voice, immersive experience) to reach those constituencies.