Chris Perry, Director UK of adtech platform Getfluence discusses how branded content could be a key marketing tool on the metaverse
Over the last year we’ve seen scores of companies from across the world lay out their vision for the metaverse. Whether you are an ardent skeptic or a full on evangelist, it’s clear from the amount of money that is being poured into these projects that we are going to see connected augmented and virtual reality worlds come into existence very soon.
While we can’t really say what the metaverse will eventually look like and how consumers will use it – we do know that the first iteration is likely to mostly take the form of virtual shop fronts and experiences which avatars can navigate via technology such as virtual reality headsets. For many businesses the question will quickly become how can they most effectively engage with their customers on this new ‘platform’.
To answer this question we need to think about the current state of digital marketing and what lessons could inform the best approach. First, the last few years have seen a cultural shift in how people view the personalisation aspects of marketing. High profile stories on how social media data has been leveraged for targeted advertising has raised awareness of how much personal information is out there and how many companies are using it. Many people were shocked when they found out just how clever algorithms have become and the number of companies exploiting information they thought was confidential.
With the advent of GDPR the general public are now getting to grips with the idea of controlling how their data is shared and used. The issue with the metaverse, outside of the credibility of companies like Meta, is that there is clearly a lot of scope for even more information to be collected and used. Some commentators have speculated that involuntary responses that betray someone’s subconscious reaction to content could be monitored and analyzed and then used for even more targeted advertising.
Naturally, this will make a lot of people uncomfortable and, as a result, hyper personalized ads may be incredibly unpopular and ineffective. If that is the case the door will be open for other forms of engagement – the best of which could be brand storytelling via branded content.
The branded content market has grown rapidly recently. This has in part been driven by increased use of ad blockers, greater opting out of targeted advertising, and the oversaturation of quick burn content on channels such as social media. Many companies now realise that it is faster, easier and more effective to create engaging and informative permanent branded content. It may be counterintuitive given the belief that we now possess shorter attention spans, but the most impactful content tends to be long form articles. Companies are now much more inclined to run thought leadership campaigns on issues beyond what their business does. Direct promotion of a company’s offering is giving way to providing knowledge, insight and opinion on topics close to their customers’ hearts.
With the knowledge that ‘traditional’ targeted ads could be unpopular on the metaverse and that consumers are increasingly hungry for branded content, it makes sense for businesses to consider this marketing route first when it comes to designing a metaverse marketing strategy.
What will make creating a strategy exciting is the scope for innovation. We can see scenarios such as ‘choose your own adventure’ where people directly influence the branded stories that then play out based on their behaviour. There could be immersive experiences for example taking people to historic times and locations. After all, we know that some of the best branded content is driven by great graphics and imagery – imagine what can be done via virtual and augmented reality.
There’s also scope for many organisations to come together and collaborate. We’re starting to see companies partnering to produce branded podcast content that tells a story while promoting a particular brand’s position. We may have a scenario where a number of small businesses spread the cost of building a metaverse experience by promoting their complimentary brands in one coherent store front. For example, a number of independent boutiques in a particular part of a city tell the story of their location and how their company’s fit into the history and social fabric of that location.
The scope for creative branded content is much bigger than other means of marketing. Not only is branded content inherently less intrusive than other forms of personalisation, it has, in our ‘current reality’, been shown to deliver a much higher ROI for businesses. Put simply, the future of the metaverse might be all about telling great immersive stories.