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The metaverse is big news throughout the game industry, and for brands overall. The question is becoming, how can brands get traction in the metaverse as it starts to take hold in the real world? On the first day of GamesBeat Summit 2022, three brand experts and metaverse converts took the stage with Brett Sappington, VP at global consumer insights company Interpret, to discuss this and other big questions as the promise of the metaverse looms larger.

“It’s important for brands to partake now, because that’s where our audiences are going,” said Angelic Vendette, VP and head of marketing at Alo Yoga, the Los Angeles-based premium yoga apparel company. “As all good marketers would tell you, you want to meet your audiences where they are.”

Brands should jump in now just to test and learn as the community and technology evolves, right from the get-go, growing as it grows, but authenticity is key.

“A lot of the rules for engaging with people in games are the same for engaging with people in the metaverse,” said Gabrielle Heyman, head of global brand partnerships at Zynga. “Authenticity is extremely important. Being additive to the gameplay. Making their experience better. You see a lot of the activations in the metaverse, the current Web 2.0 metaverse, are giving value to consumers.”

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History has shown that if you were early on in social media, you disproportionately benefited from that. At the early stages of any network, there’s less competition, it’s easier to stand out, and it’s easier to learn, added Samuel Huber, founder and CEO of Admix, the prominent games monetization platform.

“We see the metaverse as, effectively, a new channel to reach an audience,” he said. “And whether it’s Roblox or Sandbox or Decentraland, they all are effectively different channels that have different audiences and different tools to create content in different ways. Being early, being able to experiment and make mistakes, understanding the platform ahead of your competitors, that’s always a valuable thing.”

Web 2.0 vs Web3

Heyman pointed out that there are only two predominant metaverse platforms, Roblox and Fortnite, but Web3 is a completely different ball of wax, because cryptocurrency is involved, and losing and making money is a very concrete proposition for the consumer.

“The average [crypto] wallet of somebody in Web3 now is $21,000,” she said. “It’s a high-value consumer in that space. I don’t think we’ve quite figured out the perfect cocktail to engage there.”

But brands are realizing that Web3 is the next phase of the internet, Huber pointed out, and that it’s a trend that’s bigger than any brand. It’s very important for brands to get in and not only experiment, but also continue to signal their relevance, in this new online culture — take Bored Ape and Adidas, for example. In Web 2.0, Adidas is a huge brand. In Web3, Bored Ape is the biggest brand.

“To come together was a smart way [for Adidas] to say, we’re also relevant in this new phase of the internet,” Huber said. “The Web3 metaverse is the ultimate playground to showcase that… I see the metaverse as the user interface of Web3. It’s where all these activations will come to life. That’s why brands are jumping in.”

When you have big cultural shifts like Web3 and decentralization, a new way to power the creator economy, and so on, it changes the way consumers think about the economy, and brands.

“Maybe something like a luxury brand is not really cool anymore because they don’t represent the interests of a new generation,” he added. “I think Web3 really embodies that new culture, going against the establishment, the decentralization [where] you can own digital items. Being able to associate your brand with that is a very strong signal.”

Vendette said the notion of co-ownership with brands can be a powerful one for players, but brands can’t worry too much about trying to be cool or relevant — their involvement still needs to be authentic, and you need to be creating an experience or utility that’s meaningful to your consumer, whether that’s in a 2.0 or 3 universe.

“Realistically, Web 2.0 metaverses are definitely the gateway into what we know now as Web3 metaverses,” she said. The yoga brand’s timing with New York Fashion Week saw a brand activation in Roblox, offering an island dedicated to mindfulness, mindful movement, and yoga in the metaverse — and where consumers could also pick up digital fashion items. There was no monetization, but it ended up launching about 27 million items of digital fashion worn in the metaverse right now, she said.

The biggest misconceptions about the metaverse

Basically, when it comes to expectations, Ready Player One has a lot to answer for.

“Generally there’s a misconception about what the technology can actually do,” Huber said. “Getting 10,000 people in the same instance in a live concert in VR, the technology cannot do that. Not even close…There’s a discontinuity between the dream of the brands, when they finally understand the power of the metaverse, and what you can actually do today.”

Vendette said that brands want to jump in because they see other brands jumping in, or see it in the press, but don’t understand the space in any meaningful way. You have to be part of the community, she said, which is why she invests and creates in the metaverse, in addition to her brand work.

If you’re not exploring and testing, and continuing to study as things evolve, you risk stumbling big time. “The space is changing — it changes every day,” she said. “There are no experts in the field.”

Heyman points out that you can’t jump into a metaverse strategy until you know what you’re trying to achieve, and whether the audience you want to capture is the right audience for that objective. She points to Gucci’s activation in Roblox, where only 5% of the audience is over 25. Heyman unlocked some Gucci swag for her own avatar — but her kids weren’t really very impressed.

“Maybe they’re trying to reach the consumer of tomorrow — but there are other places in gaming that have maybe more of who their consumer aligns with,” she said. “Understanding what your objective is, who you’re trying to reach, what the purpose is, and not just being the shiny object of today. What are we really doing here? What’s our true objective and ROI?”

Launching a metaverse vision

How do you get started, and what’s important for a metaverse strategy? Vendette noted that testing and learning are always essential, because there isn’t one right answer now, and there will be even more choices in the future. And on top of that, get educated, and experience the metaverse as a consumer and as a user yourself before you bring your brand into the space.

Heyman said that authenticity is key, so if you don’t have your own crypto wallet and Decentraland account, find team members who do.

“And then trust your partners, people like us who are in the business and building these environments, about what will resonate and not have backlash with the audience,” she said.

For Huber, it’s clear that Web3 is the next phase of the internet, driven by the adoption of blockchain and crypto, 300 million people a day using it daily.

“This is happening one way or another,” he said. “The sooner you can get in, the sooner you’ll become relevant.”

For the full conversation, check out the video on demand here.

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