Companies and brands around the globe are setting up presences and launching initiatives inside virtual worlds and creating new innovative ways of presenting their brands into influential early adopter demographic groups and tech-savvy individuals.
However, what companies considering a metaverse entrance should remember is that brands have to be positioned not pushed into virtual worlds. They shouldn't enter The Metaverse simply because they saw a competitor press release that they've launched a NFT or purchased a piece of virtual land.
The Six Point Plan for Marketing in Marketing in The Metaverse explains the key areas marketers need to consider and address when developing a strategy to deploy their brands, products and services into the growing number of virtual worlds available.
Putting Roblox, Decentraland, The Sandbox (and all other virtual worlds) into context, it’s just another marketing channel in the mix. And, just like every other channel,consideration needs to be given when developing a campaign or ongoing presence.
A dedicated marketing plan is required well before development takes place in-world. The first aspect of the plan should be an assessment of your brand - its values, positioning and the specific target markets it addresses. This is necessary to start to understand how the brand can be leveraged in a virtual world.
Taking this thought further, the easiest (and most appropriate) place to start is to think about why the brand exists in the real world - what service does it provide? what need does it meet?, how does it differentiate itself from the competition?
From here, on the basis that marketing activity will be presented in an immersive environment, you should explore how these attributes can be deployed and then expanded upon in a platform which brings customers and prospects much closer to a brand than other media channels. Done correctly, a Metaverse marketing campaign can allow brands to truly interact and engage with their customers.
Identifying a suitable virtual world or shortlist is the next part of planning. Obtain user data on their monthly active users and if you can't find this information then contact us.
Next up - phasing and timing needs to be carefully considered. Virtual world campaigns typically take months, not weeks to create. From an internal management perspective, although virtual world operators will provide account managers, it is wise to allocate marketing resource to the project to ensure deliverables are achieved on time and budget.
Virtual worlds are highly visual experiences and in many ways, a blank canvas for creativity. Because of this, it is very easy to start thinking about how products/brands/services will look and be presented in as well as how the overall venue will be designed.
Don’t get carried away in the initial stages with design- ensure the marketing plan makes sense first. Of course, design plays a part but strategy should always have greater importance, with design being a tactical element within an overall plan. To use an analogy,when you’re thinking of building a house, you meet with the architect first, not the builders.
On this basis, creative concepts should be developed outside of the virtual world initially and only once the initial strategy (point one) has been developed and agreed. If a concept is strong enough, then it can be explained without the need to develop it in-world. On approval of the concept, initial design prototypes should then be created and it is at the point of this sign-off that in-world development starts.
But what about the overall design? Well, of course, it’s easy to create a 200 story building in a virtual world- but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
When considering how a venue will be created, the most important aspect is the user experience and journey- will a visitor understand how to move around and get to the information or experience the brand wants to promote? Are areas clearly signposted? Is interaction made as easy as possible?
Just as website creation is based around ease of information assimilation and navigation, virtual world design should follow similar methodologies, a virtual site-map if you will.
Most companies set the teleport point (the place that visitors are first taken to when they arrive at a venue)as the most central place at the location, and will also have an interactive billboard showing the map of the venue, with additional teleport functionality at this point as well.
Never assume that visitors to your island will intuitively explore the entire venue to find what they are looking for. By way of illustration, consider the way retail stores signpost their shops to manage the flow of traffic inside their venues. This approach should also be used in a virtual location.
Virtual world operators themselves should also add a great deal of value here. Ask them for metrics relating to previous campaigns in their world - what worked,what didn’t work.
Something else to remember here is that not every type of virtual marketing campaign actually needs a dedicated bespokely built location. Virtual goods, as an example, can be distributed to residents of virtual worlds at multiple access points using existing meta-retailers.
Integrated marketing is a strategy specifically designed to create synergy and maximum effectiveness for campaign planning. TV adverts often use tactical websites to support campaigns, companies often use cinema, radio and print channels to deliver the same messages and sales promotions (for example) promoted via direct mail typically have a call-to-action of calling a phone number or visiting a participating retail outlet or website.
Integrated marketing means a marketing message can be delivered across a variety of complementary channels to ensure maximum exposure to a campaign- and virtual worlds are no different.
Campaigns from other channels can now be effectively integrated into virtual worlds platforms.Taking this theme even further, virtual worlds can be used to re-create elements, aspects or even experiences from real-world products and marketing. Two great examples of this are shown below for the movie I Am Legend and L'Oreal Paris.
Manhattan was re-created along with zombies and empty streets in support of the I Am Legend film release allowing fans to effectively explore the set of the film. For L'Oreal, real world make up looks were re-created and given away to avatars (contact us to learn more about this campaign).
Looking at integration inversely, a trend likely to emerge soon is a virtual world campaign being taken out of The Metaverse and integrated into real-world marketing or brand activities. This concept is ideally suited for companies that have strong brand advocacy and values.
‘Let’s launch into a virtual world and loads more people will see our products and then click through to our website and buy them’.
People used to think that having a website was enough - people will find the site and buy the products without encouragement or advertising. Virtual worlds are about interaction and engagement in a collaborative environment. It’s not about opening a virtual store as an exact clone of a real-world building and putting product replicas on the shelves.
It’s also not a platform purely for lead generation or harvesting prospect contact data. Sure, this is possible in virtual worlds and should always be considered but this tactic should be an outcome from activity.
Marketeers need to look closely at their product and services and explore ways to bring their brands to life virtually. Doing this can bring residents closer to brands and makes them more receptive.
Making brands and products ‘do something’ interesting and/or more than they can do in the real world is an excellent way to bring people closer to a brand in a virtual world. Furthermore, these virtual products should proactively be promoted and given away (either free or for a very low cost) to residents.Let them take them, customise them, show them off and take them around the virtual world.
This is no different to the tactic of product sampling in the real world - remember, virtual worlds are just another channel and traditional marketing mechanics can work well. They can also be improved on the real world by integrating 'Metaverse suitable' techniques such as gaming and questing.
The video in this section is user-created and relates to a recent Brit Awards campaign deployed into Roblox by Dubit. In addition to virtual performances and a dedicated venue for the awards show, visitors were encouraged to hunt for collectable award statues and other virtual goods.
Giving something back to Metaverse residents as opposed to sitting back and expecting them to interact with your brand is an crucial way to perceptually dilute the commercial aspect of a brand entering a virtual world and also get people interacting with your products and services.
This objective will also, if designed and implemented well, stimulate possible viral activity and ultimately leverage virtual (and then real-world) brand advocacy.
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make when establishing a presence in a virtual world is treating activity in the same way as a website. A website (excluding social networks) in its typicalform is a notice board - a one-way communication platform giving information to site visitors.
Virtual worlds on the other hand are living, breathing environments and by design, these spaces are constructed to allow attendance and interaction by avatars. Venues in these worlds look like real places -they have doors, walls and objects and on this basis,have to be treated in some cases, as offices, shops and exhibition areas, in other words shared collaborative spaces.
There has been a lot of coverage of the marketing venues inside Decentraland and The Sandbox as looking empty at certain times of the day and in particular not managed or frequented by personnel working for the company whose venue it is. The aspect of company attendance on a digital platform is over-emphasised in virtual worlds because visitors can see who else is in the same place as them.
So, an important aspect to cover off when marketing departments are developing entrance strategies is how best to provide visitors with company staff to be on-hand to assist residents. This does not mean you need to provide 24/365 coverage of a venue but it does mean that when launches and other key events are taking place in-world, you need to have people who can speak with authority about the company present.
There are many benefits to this approach. Firstly,having company personnel present gives a clear message to residents that as a company you are committed to the campaign, the company activities and the residents present.
Secondly, you normally do not know who the actual person is ‘behind the avatar’. They could be your next customer, a key journalist or even your next boss.
Thirdly, being able to interact with the people visiting your venue means you can initiate conversations with them. This is real-time market research. Some virtual worlds will provide this type of management on behalf of the marketer, thus reducing internal resource and also it’s important to point out that in some instances a campaign can be constructed to totally remove management issues - but you’ll lose the research in most instances.
The majority of this plan so far has focussed on the planning required to develop an effective launch into a virtual world - the Entrance strategy. However, during the development programme,consideration should be given to how to stimulate ongoing interest of the venue. This is the Existence strategy.
Existence strategies give residents reasons to return, which can only be a good thing. ‘Stoking the fire’ can involve several activities.
Firstly, hosting regular events as part of a campaign not only demonstrates ongoing commitment but also seeks to cultivate a valuable community of residents interested in your brand. These events can take many forms: parties, contests, competitions and even guest appearances by famous people associated with the brand or event.
The example in this section relates to a current campaign inside Fortnite for the Uncharted movie. Avatar skins of the main characters are available for Fortnite players along with a time-based campaign encouraging them to hunt for hidden treasure using strategically placed maps. A key take-out here is that by gamifying a brand experience the user/player/resident is willingly spending time engaging with the brand.
Brands needs to be positioned and not pushed into The Metaverse and need to look before they leap. At Metaversed, we work with brands and companies to develop marketing campaigns 100% fit for purpose inside virtual worlds. Contact us to learn more.
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