Successful brands have a long history of using content to drive emotional and behavioural change, and with the next wave of technological advancement upon us, and the scale of the metaverse, businesses have a unique opportunity to build more emotional capital than ever before.
Today, the metaverse is virtually (in its very literal meaning) a blank slate. And, by definition, a universal network of virtual worlds, with a specific focus on social connection, interactions, and experiences.
But for brands and marketers to succeed in this new technological and often transactional era they must leverage the metaverse’s potential to merge the real and virtual worlds together, its ability to reshape the way we think about product amplification, and its ability to deliver engaging and immersive experiences.
To win, brands must balance the budding technological opportunities the metaverse represents, with emotive, authentic, and frictionless connection with their customers.
As the metaverse emerges as a new forum for engagement and opportunity, brave companies are already embracing the idea of leading with emotional connection, while simultaneously testing and learning. But those that have seen success – and will continue to see more success – understand the basic human motivators and prioritise the role these emotions play in building long-term loyalty. Loyalty, which is crucial to maintain, as businesses test and introduce new concepts and content consumption models for their customers.
Instead of creating a transactional relationship with technology, smart brands will continue to move the needle through a blend of emotion and technological innovation, especially as the world undergoes major societal and cultural shifts, with consumers looking for more authentic experiences that reflect their values and are considered “worthy” of their time and energy.
While the path to connecting with the consumer may look different in the era of the metaverse, the foundations remain the same.
The sports industry is already making headway with this, and the NBA’s Utah Jazz is a perfect example. The franchise created the inaugural NBA metaverse experience in the world of professional sport, with the sole purpose of helping fans connect anywhere in the world and experience a level of intimacy that could only be reached by leveraging the possibilities of the virtual world. To do this, the prominent NBA team gave fans exclusive access to connect in the “Jazz locker room” to meet one-on-one for a Q&A with the team owner, all via the metaverse. Even if a fan couldn’t be physically at the game, they still managed to deliver a brand experience with The Jazz that was both exclusive and engaging.
The same can be said for Nike, a brand built on deep emotional relationships that remains rooted in its authentic persona and relentless pursuit to offer new product experiences tailored specifically to the rapidly changing expectations of its customers through technology.
Nike is on track to have 50 per cent of its business represent digital direct to consumer compared to 25 per cent pre-Covid-19 pandemic. While the digital transformation of a somewhat traditional business has been ongoing for several years now, Nike is still nimble enough (remember they are a $44bn company) to recognise this shift, and while not having the immediate capabilities to enter the metaverse directly themselves, chose to acquire RTFKT (which creates virtual sneakers and collectibles for the metaverse) to serve as the catalyst. This effectively redefined Nike’s traditional product innovation model to deliver products and experiences in a new, and virtual way. Not only did they acquire RTFKT to deliver the next generation of virtual collectibles and product or to merge culture and gaming, but the iconic sports company teamed up with global gaming platform Roblox to create a virtual world, Nikeland, where users are able to dress up their avatars in Nike-branded apparel and sneakers.
Meanwhile, many major gaming titles such as Fortnite have already normalised playing and engaging with people in virtual settings.
Just like Nike and Utah Jazz, so many organisations have a similar appetite to be in the metaverse, but struggle with both the courage and the lack of talent and skill sets, technology and infrastructure, or capital, to begin. This is why we’re seeing a huge demand and a premium for metaverse-skilled talent.
There are many avenues to step into the new world realm of the metaverse and the seismic shift from real-world experiences to virtual experiences and as Nike showed, partnerships or acquisitions can be one of many potential solutions.
But for brands waiting on the sidelines, why not consider a strategic framework that allows early experimentation and is aligned with your broader channel mix and media strategy. Analyse how your target market is spending time in the metaverse and investigate whether it gives your company the ability to not only try new things but accelerate your long-term goals.
In short, for brands to rise to the transformational moment the metaverse presents, they must continue to underscore the importance of customer relationships and the role emotional connections will play in driving how technology, products, and services are adopted as the gap between physical, digital, and virtual converges.
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