On Valentine’s Day this year, we got a glimpse of what romance in the parallel universe would look like when Mondelez India’s brand, Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk, hosted a dinner party in the Metaverse. More recently, the chocolatier used virtual reality to integrate new recruits and offer them a cultural tour of the company.
This new IPL franchise, Lucknow Super Giants, took fan engagement to even more immersive levels when, with the help of Gigabyte Technology, it launched into the metaverse. Fans could meet and greet the avatars of their cricketing idols and get a glimpse of Lucknow’s legacy.
AD Singh led Olive Group was one of the first restaurant brands to foray into the Metaverse – or the Olivere as he calls it – and offer non-fungible tokens (NFTs) paired with unique virtual experiences to customers.
From FMCG companies to restaurant chains and fashion and cosmetics players to sports franchises, brands have started making their first bets on the Metaverse in the country. Brands such as ITC, Nestle India and Tata Tea have started experimenting with the Metaverse. At the same time, movie stars, sports franchises and cricket stars are all launching their NFTs.
Shared virtual space
While metaverse is the buzzword right now, the definition itself is hotly debated. Experts believe that the metaverse in all its glory will be a world parallel to our physical world, decentralized and not owned by any company. The applications could be endless. Imagine donning digital avatars to attend events, learn forensics, or hug your loved one from around the world using technology. It is an interactive, immersive and hyper-realistic shared virtual space. It will include augmented reality, virtual reality, or 3D worlds rendered on the smartphone, in addition to a custom avatar and digital assets.
It is imperative that brands move now. Because, as a recent JP Morgan report put it, “Metaverse will likely permeate every industry in one way or another in the coming years, with market opportunities estimated at over $1 trillion. dollars in annual revenue”. Globally, brands have been making their Metaverse moves at a blistering pace. Coca-Cola has already launched its virtual drink called Coke Zero Byte, while McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Chiptole have been busy launching their virtual restaurants in the Metaverse.
In India too, experiments on the Metaverse have started for fan engagement and brand building.
Dheeraj Sinha, CEO, Leo Burnett – South Asia and President, BBH India, says it’s been a bit mixed so far. “While some brands are just trying to do something cool to be part of the bandwagon, others focus on real interventions. For example, our client GOQii is launching the Health Metaverse and we are helping them build this piece” , he said.
The appeal of using the metaverse for branding purposes is quite simple – it opens up new avenues for consumer engagement. According to McKinsey & Company, the Metaverse will enable brand marketing to become more consumer-centric, which in turn can massively increase brand awareness and promote sales and brand loyalty.
Brands are already seeing such returns in the world of augmented reality compatible with smartphones. At the recently concluded Goafest, Prashant Halbe, Senior Creative Strategist, Snap Inc demonstrated how brands such as Lay’s, Nike and Spotify use Snap filters to increase sales, downloads or simply to communicate concepts.
Simply put, consumers opted into the ad to play with the filter. “When a consumer can interact with the brand, they are much more likely to retain the message. People already use Snap filters for fun, now brands can leverage this habitual user behavior to their advantage,” said explained Halbe.In the world of metaverse marketing, consumers will be able to immerse themselves in the universe built by the brand entirely dedicated to its products.
Tech companies are working to bring out the Metaverse. Sandeep Bhushan, Director and Head of Global Marketing Solutions (GMS) at Meta India, recently said the company (formerly known as Facebook) believes its job is to accelerate the tools needed to bring the Metaverse to life.
From Meta Sparks to Horizon Worlds, the tech giant has recently refined its game in this space in terms of offering these tools. With 6 million reels produced in India every day and 700 million people worldwide using AR effects and meta technologies every month, Bhushan believes companies will need to make the switch now and prepare for the future. Meanwhile, for users, Meta has launched 3D avatars which are expressive, customizable and diverse and help project new virtual selves.
Meta is not alone, other players in the big tech space are getting there too. Snapchat will soon launch its augmented reality glasses. Google, Apple and Microsoft are all working on AR headsets. Big tech’s message to brands is clear: digital concepts (from AR to metaverse) will need to be an integral part of their brand building exercise in the future.
Amaresh Godbole, CEO of Digital Technology Publicis Groupe India, notes: “Web 3.0 requires agencies to develop both creative and technological capabilities. People who can think about how to connect consumer needs, brands, and ideas to the possibilities of blockchain, virtual worlds, NFTs, and more. with tech language skills like Solidity and Unity to make it happen. Since there is no clear visibility into revenue opportunities yet, agencies are considering a mix of upskilling, strategic hires, and partnering with niche entrepreneurs and start-ups.
Experts believe, however, that the transition of consumers to the Metaverse will happen quite quickly and could reach an inflection point in countries like India within the next three to five years. It’s time for brands to bring their virtual acts together.
May 29, 2022