Since gaining major notoriety when Facebook changed its name to Meta, the metaverse has become a popular topic for retailers and consumer products brands, and this channel will be important for marketers to consider going forward. Metaverse marketing is certainly an innovative opportunity for businesses to stay ahead in our digital world. Defined as an online space that exists in real time, is always active, has players with individual agency, is self-contained, and functions with user-generated content, the metaverse is essentially a virtual universe where users can do anything. This might mean buying virtual clothing, connecting with coworkers in a virtual office, or even flying in a simulated spaceship.
Today, the metaverse is largely supported by gaming platforms, but various developers are creating more generalized formats. Browser-based free roam worlds like Decentraland and Roblox, a popular online videogame, are particularly appealing to marketing divisions because of their ability to reach huge consumer bases with engaging advertisements. Roblox alone has over 200 million active users with over $1 billion spent just on in-game currency called Robux.
This new generation of interactive and game-like advertising is something that existing firms are eager to explore. Below we outline a few ways that companies are already taking advantage of the metaverse and some important considerations for marketing in the metaverse moving forward.
Marketing in today’s metaverse tends to skew toward certain demographics. Especially within gamified settings like Roblox and Fortnite, users are typically younger, with an average age of 27, and skew male with 59% of current gamers. Companies with Gen Z and millennial target demographics can access millions of these consumers in one place. While older generations are not fully represented, the space may change, similarly to how Amazon and other internet age technologies have been embraced.
Gamified advertisements have pioneered much of the excitement for metaverse marketing. With major KPIs for the metaverse revolving around engagement, companies have been able to record millions of users engaging with their meta-advertisements for far longer than traditional channels like social media or television hold them.
Metaverse platforms like Roblox allow companies to develop customized marketing spaces in the form of interactive games. Partnering with Roblox in 2021 to launch a virtual skate park, Vans gave users the chance to play games, purchase and wear in-game apparel, and explore with others. In the first three months since opening, the skate park had been visited by over 48 million users — a marketing figure only made possible through broad engagement channels like the metaverse. Vans is also generating revenue from the sale of in-game apparel, although they currently lack the ability to sell physical products in the metaverse.
In a similar vein, Nike also launched a Roblox-based virtual park called Nikeland that allows users to play games and showcase brand apparel. With a huge proportion of sportswear and skateboarding consumers being teenagers or younger, Nike and Vans are capitalizing on a marketing platform with immense reach and engagement that appeals to that specific demographic. Other firms with younger demographics should certainly take note of how effective gamified metaverse marketing is, even if not done to the scale of retail giants.
Immersive Experiences in Metaverse Marketing
Compared to Roblox or Fortnite, metaverse platforms like Decentraland offer companies an appealing way to advertise without games. These platforms engage slightly older demographics because of their focus on experience rather than youth-centric gaming. Decentraland allows users to freely roam an online world and interact with structures, other users, and landscapes. While advantages of free-roam worlds, like the immense user base and endless customizability, are synonymous with metaverse gaming platforms, their true potential lies with immersion.
Pernod Ricard’s Absolut brand, the official vodka of the popular music festival called Coachella, and Miller Lite have created some of the more recent examples in this space. In connection with the 2022 Coachella festival, Absolut used Decentraland to create a three-story Absolut bottle called Absolut.Land, which allowed users to interact with different brand elements. The first floor hosted a virtual bar where branded clothing and wearables were handed out. The second and third floors displayed former Absolut advertisements and rewarded users with additional in game merchandise for sharing the promotion on social media.
Significantly, a digital advertising platform like Absolut Land at Coachella allows easy data collection for engagement KPIs like interaction by floor, users in the building, time spent in particular booths such as at the bar, or anything else that the company wants to track.
While it may seem counterintuitive that beverage companies are in the metaverse, brands such as Heineken, Jose Cuervo, and Miller Lite are becoming common fixtures in the space – proof that purely physical products still have a stage. Anheuser-Busch’s exclusive deal with the NFL forced other brands like Miller Lite to become creative with their Super Bowl advertising.
Opening a virtual bar in Decentraland, Miller Lite was able to steal some of the spotlight away from traditional TV advertisements. Within the bar, the company gave out virtual brand merchandise and displayed their own advertisement. Significantly, Miller Lite was able to measure KPIs like retaining strong numbers of virtual visitors for an impressive average of 20 minutes per user.
The immersive experience of a metaverse advertisement can attract and retain consumers if created effectively. While different from games like Roblox, Decentraland and other free roam platforms offer just as much appeal to consumers and companies alike.
The metaverse is still in its early phases as a marketing channel and still contains some gray areas. Tech giants like Meta and Microsoft are fighting to establish dominance in a space with little existing regulation. Some individuals are data privacy optimists with hopes that this is the chance to provide users with far more protection. Safer tracking methods within existing channels like contextual marketing, or providing users with ads relevant to them, could be developed as cookies are thrown to the curb.
Any firm that decides to dip their toes into metaverse marketing has the potential to disrupt a delicate balance of trust that the platform currently maintains between companies and users. Prospective advertisers must understand that until legislation is properly written, they should treat user data carefully and partner with marketing experts. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some information about privacy in the metaverse, but it’s still just a speck of understanding in a vastly unexplored marketing space.
Looking Ahead at Metaverse Marketing
With what are ultimately low budget, easy-to-access marketing channels, metaverse platforms like Roblox and Decentraland offer nearly every company an opportunity to reach millions of targeted users. Important insights for any consumer product or retail companies include relevant engagement KPIs, translating in-game product favorites to the real world, and the ability to generate revenue from virtual sales and potentially physical sales as well. Some may have skepticisms in the same way that many doubted the longevity of the internet or online shopping, but for now, marketing in the metaverse is a rising star.
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Contributions from Jake Park-Walters