The term ‘Metaverse’ was first seen in Neal Stevenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. Mr. Stevenson’s idea of metaverse was a three-dimensional virtual space, where avatars of humans could interact with one another and escape reality.
Nearly 30 years since the novel, technological innovation has finally reached the level to bring this concept into reality.
In fairness, the pandemic environment accelerated its advent, as connecting virtually through livestreams, VR communities and even online games like Roblox and Fortnite started becoming a norm, especially for the younger demographics. And with social media companies integrating metaverse through AR and VR capabilities the next five years are set to look quite different and much more vibrant than before, especially for the ever-growing creator economy and their partner brands.
We’ve already gained a peek into that world through the early movers — some notable examples being:
- Lil Miquela — a CGI-rendered character who looks like a 19 year old American girl. Miquela is considered as the first virtual influencer, with more than 3 million followers on Instagram.
- Another virtual influencer in China named Ayayi was hired by the Alibaba Group to promote its ‘Tmall Super Brand Day’ event in 2021.
- Samsung was one of the first to use “virtual influencers” in Live Shopping. With Liam Kalev of TikTok fame and “Zero” the virtual influencer engaging in a discussion that was not forced and quite interesting to watch, also introducing intrigue as a social media strategy by bringing forth such innovative influencer marketing services to their own followers.
Lil Miquela easily attracted the Gen-Z and young millennials since her ‘coming’ in 2016; she got so famous that she even graced Time’s 25 Most Influential People on the Internet. This emphasises the growing shift towards virtualisation and people’s gradual acceptance of it. The younger demographic being digital natives have already given their approval through the popularity virtual influencers are able to command — a 2021 survey (by HypeAuditor) finding that virtual influencers (with >1 million followers) garner engagement rate that’s three times higher than their IRL influencers with the same social media followings.
With respect to influencer marketing strategy and services, virtual influencers offer a customised solution to brands i.e. the brands’ core values and beliefs can be made to reflect in their avatar form to easily reach their target audience.
And it’s not just virtual avatars that brands are employing to send their message or promote their service. $140 billion — quite a ginormous number, happens to be the purchasing power Gen Z holds in today’s dynamic world. Brands have left no stone unturned to appeal to this group, knowing that young people are interacting on popular social media apps at least for 8–10 hours and the potential scope that it offers them.
It’s no wonder that Travis Scott held a nine-minute concert at the popular game Fortnite with his avatar for 12 million people. But what’s incredible is that he may have made $20 million from the gig, quite unbelievable when compared to if he did a physical concert for 12 million people (which would have been impossible anyways).
Even Coca-Cola is in on it, becoming a leader in launching blockchain-based, unique content on Decentraland (a 3D virtual reality built on a decentralised Ethereum cryptocurrency MANA). Through auctions on NFT, one can now get an image or sound tokens which simulate opening of their can.
Even luxury brand Gucci started selling the digital versions of its bags for $4,115, where the buyer can be verified by NFT. This is even more important when you notice that the IRL bags cost $3,400 in stores.
Opening their headquarters in Decentraland are 2 other renowned names — Sotheby’s and Christie’s have also made their advent in the metaverse. Lionel Messi launched his NFTs on the “Messiverse”. And the gaming world already has a heavy presence, with companies paying top bucks to amplify their reach to even further people.
Metaverse offers completely new avenues for brands and marketers globally irrespective of the industry. With the creator economy looking for new and stable revenue streams, it will be very interesting to see brands and influencers navigate the new age of metaverse now.