With Facebook rebranding as Meta and rearranging its grand strategy entirely, the company is banking big on advanced technologies. Zuckerberg and Co. appear to be putting all their chips in virtual markets, augmented reality experiences, and (most importantly) the Metaverse, as a revamped part of Facebook’s innovation strategy.
There are a plethora of reasons the company is making this drastic change. From an expected year-on-year decline in interest for their prize platform to an era of abysmal PR damage, they need a fresh start. There’s even talk of the US government splitting all of Facebook’s subsidiaries by force, so an overhaul may be necessary. But is this new direction really the way to go?
In this article, we’ll look at what Meta will bring to the table and what it means for online marketing.
What is the Metaverse: Facebook 2.0 or something else?
While Facebook has been interested in emerging tech for a while (most famously by purchasing Occulus in 2014), there has been limited implementation on their part. With the move towards the Metaverse, it appears to be a full-force commitment to virtual spaces. The plan is to create a playground for a whole bunch of cyber innovations.
Meta is taking a stab at a number of technologies that have been at the periphery (in terms of profitability) so far. While enthusiasts tout Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality as already successful, there are a number of reasons the technology is still lagging behind. The most prominent one is a lack of companies fully investing in the technologies, keeping them in a state of infancy where no one knows what approach to take.
Currently, most VR games are more expensive yet still inferior to most computer and console versions. Furthermore, with little application, consumers are left with limited reasons to invest their time and money. This creates a cycle where both sides of the market have little interest, waiting for someone to do the groundwork.
Meta wants to be the first to go in wholesale and create a virtual world, pushing it outside of the traditional VR target market. But considering the cost and risk, there may be another factor at play.
Why Bother Investing in Metaverse?
As one can probably imagine, this particular gambit is a costly one for Meta. It’s a hefty price tag for a rebranding strategy. There’s a lot of work going into building a never-before-seen platform from the ground up, with AR VR coding on top. Practically, it will be a costly, new form of cyber-space adjacent to the Internet we know. But that’s precisely why Meta is betting on this particular horse.
Despite the company’s noble-sounding aspirations about unique social experiences, they are a business. The calculus at Facebook is geared around escaping the existing cyberspace dominated by Google and Apple. Some argue that Facebook wants its own sovereign continent outside the clutches of search engines and mobile companies. Mark Zuckerberg all but confirms that notion in the Metaverse demo.
Simply put, cyberspace is already oligopolized, so Facebook is headed elsewhere. In fact, Meta has been adamant that they will need the help of other companies to populate the metaverse. This is an open invitation to buy digital real estate on their platform. Here, Facebook’s outreach strategy is positioning itself similar to Amazon: hosting businesses on a massive platform but with VR property marketing.
This trend is a natural result of the company’s evolution. After all, think of the Facebook Marketplace and marketing options, and how they began to dominate the platform as sales spaces.
Social Technology Innovations & Virtual Marketing
While the Metaverse seems to be distancing itself from the standard social media aesthetic, the roots are still there. Think of it as Facebook merged with VR chat and it makes a lot more sense. A platform where companies, people, sub-communities, and advertisers all interact (this time in VR).
The real innovation is one of scale and functionality, requiring millions in investment to make it all gel together. No company has done VR in social media at this scale, offering malls, interaction, and virtual reality arcade games in one place. So far, the platform looks like it will leverage all the existing benefits of VR technology and merge them with social media.
As the Metaverse demo shows, Facebook is rolling their apps like messenger and WhatsApp into the virtual space, along with games, fitness programs, event live-streaming options, and a lot more. This is their chance to integrate all the subsidiary companies and technologies in one place.
Naturally, this has some implications for companies signing up.
Metaverse Business Applications
From what we can gather, the business applications of the Metaverse include (but are by no means limited to):
- Augmented reality clothing shops.
- Live performances such as concerts and parties.
- Digital advertising.
- Sports and physical recreation.
- Remote work.
- Interactive Facebook or Instagram posts that take users to different spaces.
- Education, galleries, and museum spaces.
- Movies and art.
Metaverse VR Marketing Examples & Applications
Metaverse and Metaverse-like concepts are already being tried by various companies. The most famous foray into interactive virtual spaces is still the game “Second Life”. Other such projects have also been lucrative, however, they have had limited application. Recently, a lot of virtual projects have mostly amounted to the sales of digital assets and NFTs.
Here are some prime examples:
Gucci and Roblox already made a launch of virtual items.
The Gucci Garden is a virtual space to sell clothing and other items that both brands were sharing.
Not to be left out of a virtual opportunity, Coca Cola joined in with the help of 3D creators at Tafi. The companies hosted an auction for special-edition virtual ‘loot boxes’ of NFTs, which took in over $1m.
This was also a digital auction for clothing wearable in Decentraland, a game platform hosted on the Ethereum blockchain. The event was a bid on various lootboxes that contained a range of prizes.
Similarly, Louis Vuiton got into the NFT game on the metaverse.
Metaverse Marketing Potential
In terms of marketing, it’s easy to see how a digital ad space can be beneficial. Unlike a traditional mall, the advertising may be based on user behaviour, much like Facebook ads. In this sense, each person’s experience of the Metaverse could be different and individualized. It may also present the advent of far more interactive Facebook posts (and other Facebook-umbrella social media) in the Metaverse for companies to utilize.
Similarly, companies like Epic Games are signing up for the program. This may give them a chance to create new games for the program or market their games with immersive trailers. Imagine being able to walk through a game trailer as opposed to watching it in a 2D plane.
The ability to create events already offers some major opportunities for promotion. One can also imagine that it’s much easier to get people to show up to an event they don’t physically have to walk to. Album launch parties for musicians could be far more inclusive and easier to organize with these tools.
All of this also has ramifications for data collection. With actual body movement data, the company could potentially gather some intimate details. This could range from the layout of your room to your precise reactions and stimuli. It’s a can of worms Facebook has already been criticized for.
Virtual Reality Marketing Research
VR presents new avenues of expanding social media for technology companies, especially when the traditional space is saturated with monopolies. Incidentally, this might be the reason Apple has outright rejected the Metaverse concept, pushing for its own VR systems. However, VR’s ability as a social media disruptive technology is still up for debate.
The research shows that the technology is still uncomfortable for people. Getting people on board will require facing this hurdle. Similarly, there is still a lot of monetary investment for VR technologies at a basic level. Not every consumer can shell out nearly 1,000 dollars for an adequate experience. That’s not even counting that we have no idea what hardware specs the Metaverse will require and how the average PC measures up.
Poor user experience is one of the major barriers, but it’s to be expected with any growing technology. Despite all this, the industry is showing yearly growth and more applications are being developed every year. Whether this crosses over into a viable consumer market, is yet to be seen.
Is the Metaverse All Hype?
As far as branding and rebranding strategies go, this one is perhaps one of the most drastic in history. The visuals and depth of concept have come a long way since Facebook’s VR announcement. However, they might be biting off more than they can chew.
The company has ambitious plans but tech giants like Apple and Google are not complying. Will they allow Meta’s applications on Macbooks and Chrome books? How much loss of potential customer segments will that amount to?
Similarly, VR has a long way to go to overcome its current reputation. Add to that Facebook’s own tumultuous PR history, and one has to wonder if the strength of concept alone can save the day.
The tech demos might be enticing, but they probably won’t look anything like the finished product. This happens in the games industry all the time, where the trailer has a significantly better presentation. If the company wants to salvage its reputation, a disappointing launch is hardly the way to go.
Only time can tell whether the Metaverse is a dream worth living in. For now, it seems like a tall order.