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Can you imagine visiting a shopping center, meeting friends or drinking tea in a coffee shop in virtual reality? Well, that future is quickly becoming a reality. The notion of shared, interoperable and persistent virtual worlds that make up the metaverse have taken the (real) world by storm. Between tech titans such as Facebook and Microsoft throwing their weight behind the concept to major investors buying up virtual land, the metaverse is now estimated to become a $1 trillion revenue market across advertising, digital events, and hardware.
It’s perhaps no surprise then that we’ve witnessed an influx of brands such as Burberry, Coca-Cola, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Selfridges scrambling to enter the metaverse with their own digital offerings — typically in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs represent unique digital assets that convey holders’ verifiable ownership over digital or physical items, a notion that tightly correlates with the ideals of the metaverse and Web3.
Brands are starting to awaken to the potential NFT technology holds, allowing them to take their advertising to new levels and launch new, engaging promotional campaigns. At the same time, embracing NFT is opening up a new generation and demographic while still serving existing customers.
Already a hugely popular franchise in the meatspace, Coca-Cola is keen to remain relevant in this new digital frontier. Teaming up with Tafi, a Decentraland avatar creator, the soft drink manufacturer produced its first-ever NFT collectibles to celebrate International Friendship Day last year. A reimagining of Coca-Cola’s iconic vintage vending machine, the friendship NFT box contained a Coca-Cola bubble jacket, which can be worn in Decentraland, a Friendship card, and a sound visualizer to capture the sound of opening a bottle of Coca-Cola. The campaign not only brought fresh eyes to the drinks brand, but also raised money for Special Olympics via the auctioning of the NFT.
Retailer Macy’s has also been dabbling in digital collectibles and — similarly to Coke — placed a charitable spin on it. To celebrate the 95th anniversary of the brand’s famed Thanksgiving Day parade, Macy’s gave away 9,500 NFT artworks featuring balloons from the Parade’s nine-decade legacy. Macy’s also set aside 10 Ultra Rare NFTs for a special auction that saw 100% of the proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Moreover, harnessing the inherent programmability of NFTs, the digital collectibles were hard-coded to perpetually donate 10% of every secondary market sale of the NFT to Make-A-Wish.
Whether it’s accessing NFT airdrops or exclusive collections, such as the one with the McLaren racing NFTs, campaigns stand to be far easier and cheaper in the metaverse than through traditional avenues. Producing virtual clothes, for example, is far more affordable than doing so in the real world as it removes the need to spend on physical supplies or source labor and equipment. COVID-19 has also highlighted problems that arise with supply chain complications; however, with digital offerings, brands can avoid distribution issues.
Not only that, but NFT giveaway campaigns can be designed to instill the feeling that consumers are receiving something for free while helping to build positive associations with a given brand. This is particularly true when those freebies are tied to a tangible asset such as outfitting avatars with wearables, access to events, or discounts.
Stepping away from the norm
In-game advertising is another area where brands can leverage the metaverse and virtual game worlds. From stadium ads in a sports game to fully blown real-world adverts played on virtual billboards. The sky is no longer the limit for advertisers. Brand ads can move beyond their typical staticity to a new and engaging aesthetic, enabling additional functionality such as mini-games with NFT prizes for following specific steps.
Product placement in VR games has been an enormous hit, as illustrated by the popularity of Pokémon Go, which used the game’s creatures to attract more people to a specific location.
With the ability to create immersive ad experiences, brands are devising their own micro metaverses. We see this with the likes of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, who launched a new digital NFT experience for fans. Dubbed “My Cav Locker,” the experience enables fans to collect in-venue-only NFTs when they attend home games, including digital t-shirts and varsity jackets. The experience represented a unique way of introducing fans to NFTs and digital collectibles while gamifying their real-world experiences.
Joining the physical and digital worlds, NFTs and the metaverse are changing how we see the advertising industry. With plenty of interest and appeal within the industry, the promises for brands using this technology remain untold. The metaverse will undoubtedly impact every industry, yet those who take the plunge now will be better positioned as the space matures.
Tom Mizzone is the CEO at Sweet.
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