Welcome to the first installment in our 4 part series on the metaverse, and how it’s already affecting brands in some profound ways. If you’re sick of hearing about the Metaverse, I’d encourage you to find and replace all “metaverse” references in this article with Cat Cafe.
The reality is, a lot of people are talking about the metaverse these days. It seems we’re entering the metaverse era without fully understanding what it actually is. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the pace of innovation increase at such a rate that we are building a whole new digital world faster than we can even define it.
What is the Metaverse
The Metaverse isn’t a single platform, technology, or community. And, it won’t be built or owned by one company. Instead, it’s a somewhat loose concept that encompasses the latest and future innovations in computer hardware, internet connectivity, virtual platforms, digital currency, and content.
Some might define it by the level of immersiveness in a VR virtual world - something like the virtual world and namesake for the Metaverse envisioned by Neil Stephenson in his 1992 sci-fi novel, “Snow Crash.” Or, like the limitless Oasis from Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One.” Others would say we are already in the metaverse - that the amount of time we spend in the digital realm, from virtual meetings over Zoom to chasing around AR Pokemon characters in mobile games, is enough to classify us as metaverse residents today.
I believe we’re somewhere in between. While the metaverse might be an apt initial title for our current digitally enhanced lives across work and play, I also think the innovations coming over the next few years will clearly define what it can become and will really propel us into the “age of the metaverse.”
The mechanics for building the metaverse span a wide range of tools and technologies. We’re not going to focus on all of them for this series. But, the 9 part series, “The Metaverse Primer” by Matthew Ball is a great place to start if you want to really understand all of the ingredients for a fully realized metaverse. In his series, Ball lays out the 7 categories that serve as ‘core enablers.’ All of them are moving at warp speed into the digital future as we speak.
Image from Matthew Ball's Framework for the Metaverse
While each spoke in Ball’s core enablers of the metaverse is important, we’re going to spend the rest of this series highlighting what’s happening right now and what’s right around the corner within 3 of these spokes. Those are ‘content, services, and assets,’ ‘payment services,’ and virtual platforms.’
Understanding Commerce in the Metaverse
Payment services are key to the foundation of the commerce layer. While e-commerce is a very common concept to most internet users, the idea of digital currencies that can be used across any metaverse platform, with nearly instant access, to purchase digital goods, and without the need of a traditional banking institution, feel like magic to many or like a scam to the most pessimistic among us. There will be a place for both traditional payment forms and digital currencies within the metaverse. But, blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies are fundamental to metaverse commerce, and brands who want to do business in this space should really begin to understand them.
Content, services, and assets are as old as commerce itself, but entirely new systems for content ownership, IP creation, and fandom are emerging out of digitally native, and thus metaverse native, creative projects and asset creation. Most of these projects and assets are built on NFTs, and should be considered a fundamental part of our digital futures. We’ll take a deep dive into this in part 2 of the series. Traditional brands need to really pay attention to what’s happening around NFTs in particular unless they want to be left behind as new players emerge with an NFT first positioning and an army of hungry online consumers looking for metaverse content.
(Read more about commerce in the metaverse here)
Building a Community
Virtual platforms draw the clearest line to the metaverse that we know from books and movies, and they’re taking all sorts of forms, from simplistic two-dimensional spaces for gathering liked minded fans to fully realized VR meeting spaces and games. They’re already starting to redefine community on the internet, and along with imaginative NFT projects, they’re building stronger communities than can be found across much of the internet today. We’ll look at communities and how brands can leverage these emerging communities in part 3 of our series.
In the final installment of the series, we’ll take a look at several examples of how brands are entering into the metaverse already, some timidly and some with seemingly wild abandon. We’ll explore what is working and what other brands can do to plant their flag in the metaverse before it's too late to make an impression.
We may not know what the mature metaverse will look like or how brands will maximize their place in it, but one thing is for sure, practically every brand in existence will be affected by the Metaverse in the same way the brands were affected by the original emergence of the internet. There’s no time like the present to jump in and take a look around!
(Read more about community in the metaverse here)