Wading into the Metaverse (VIDEO)
Austin Mace, our chief innovation officer, recently sat down with Max Bolotov, our director of client services, to chat about how brands can get started with a metaverse strategy that makes sense for their specific audience and unique business objectives.
The transcript below has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Austin Mace: Hey, what's going on, Max? I wanted to talk to you about wading into the metaverse. So, how's your day been going?
Max Bolotov: It's been good, you know? Happy Monday. I'm excited for the convo.
Austin: Awesome. Well, the topic of today is Wading into the Metaverse: Uncovering and Charting New Opportunities for Brands. So let's jump into it. So Max, from your definition, what is the metaverse?
Max: A lot of brands are asking this question and they don't know the answer, which is OK. But from my perspective, the metaverse is simply the next iteration of the internet. And essentially, it can be anything from a Roblox experience; to what you and I are doing right now, which is an interactive presentation; to a simple social AR filter.
Austin: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. When I was thinking about it the other day, trying to define the metaverse is like fighting back a wave with a broomstick. But there are four key areas that are really worth focusing on: virtual worlds, augmented reality, everything happening in the blockchain space, and Web3. So yeah, if you were a brand, where would you start if you wanted to wade into the metaverse? What do you think is the easiest point of entry?
Max: I would definitely say AR. It is very easy to start in augmented reality because there are so many different paths you can take. You can do social AR, which is a Snapchat Lens, an Instagram filter, or a TikTok Branded Effect; you can do something called WebAR, which is creating a mobile AR experience that does not require an app download; or you can do a full native application development and create something really custom for your brand.
Austin: So, you're saying that AR experiences are pretty easy for brands to create on platforms like Snapchat and TikTok, right?
Max: And it's digestible for the consumer. We're not trying to drop them into a Roblox video game that they might not know how to play or how to install on their computer. So absolutely, AR is a great way to go to get started in the metaverse.
Austin: Awesome. So what is the big opportunity for brands?
Max: The opportunity is definitely to make an impact inside the metaverse space itself. It's the Wild Wild West now, where brands are trying different things and really pushing the boundaries of marketing and doing unique things. I believe that brands that take those chances will reap the benefits of doing something first in Roblox or first in Fortnite. So the opportunity is really to make an impact and help define that metaverse strategy and also figure out communities, which is the next big topic we would love to discuss.
Austin: Yeah, I think we definitely learned over the past couple of years that there's a lot to be gained from online communities. I know you run a Discord on the side, and some people see Discord as a metaverse. But whether it's that, or concerts in Roblox and Fortnite, it seems like virtual worlds have turned into gathering places for people around topics that they're super interested in. Any examples there that are worth highlighting or showing off?
Max: Yeah, absolutely. Just to keep it short, I started a Discord server with just five folks playing video games five years ago. And when COVID happened, it pushed everybody to figure out how to interact digitally. And our Discord server went from just syncing up and using voice chat and video games to planning holiday parties, throwing baby showers, and talking about the new game that we were going to play together. And it all happened there, with text and voice and calendar invites. So that's just one small example of how Discord was used in this fashion. We created our own metaverse for our group.
Austin: Awesome. Well, I think that kind of leads us to the next point, which is that one of the other areas we've seen a lot of opportunity in regarding the metaverse is the opportunity to engage audiences. I remember growing up in the Midwest with cornfields in my backyard. There weren't a lot of chances back then to attend festivals, concerts, and things like that. And so my portal into things like E3 and some of these big events was just the internet and YouTube. I think it's the global scale and the opportunity to connect people globally that's been really interesting to see play out in these online communities.
Max: I would agree. Engaging audiences in a new way is something that the metaverse is helping shape. Hybrid events is another great example, to build upon what you were saying, Brands that are experimenting with a digital footprint for their physical event just get it. That's a great use case for utilizing that kind of a hybrid environment. And as far as unlocking opportunities, I would say hybrid training experiences as well; metaverse experiences don't all have to be consumer-based. It is a very interesting shift that we're seeing right now with brands going, “Aha! I don't have to do this in the same old boring PowerPoint.” (I love PowerPoints, but this is not the topic of today's discussion.)
Austin: Yeah. I think on the subject of unlocking opportunities, I mean, there's just a massive technology shift happening and a lot of opportunities being created, which also means that there's value to be captured. And there's some really great examples of blockchain, virtual world, and NFT projects where, for example, there's virtual items in some of these platforms selling for more money than they sell for IRL. So that's definitely been an area we've seen a lot of interest in. Leading into our next topic, how should brands represent themselves in the metaverse? What are some things you see, Max, that are successful versus those that are not? Curious to get your thoughts.
Max: Authenticity. I urge brands to be authentic for their target audiences. Don't rethink your business model because the metaverse is a new frontier, rather, try to imagine what would resonate with audiences in this digital space. Try to be very true to what you're doing, and ask yourself if you want to engage a younger audience or an older audience or a different audience that you're already targeting? That’s what the metaverse is for. It's unlocking a whole new digital real estate space in which to engage your audience. And you should be hypercritical with yourself when you're thinking about what you want to use it for.
Austin: So, how should brands get started? What's an approach that you recommend?
Max: I think we're pretty accustomed to this crawl-walk-run approach that we, as an industry, adopted when digital came out and when social came out. We're not reinventing the wheel. We’re thinking about what baby steps make sense for brands to take, and we’re taking our brand partners on the journey and uncovering what is the first logical step. Is it an AR filter? Is it a virtual world? Is it a timed Roblox build that you want to build for just a weekend activation? But the best part about it is, as we're uncovering that first step, we’re also building the foundation for a program, for an immersive strategy for your brand so you know what comes next. We've seen a lot of success by working with our partners in that fashion, where you don't just think about it as, “I have X amount of dollars I want to spend and I just want to test this out” and it ends there. You think about how you're going to measure that. What comes next? What questions do we want to ask? Is there a survey? And then we can really build that crawl-walk-run program and approach, versus just doing something in that crawl stage and that being it for the year.
Austin: Yeah. So that kind of leads into innovation, which is part of my role here at Subvrsive. A lot of things that we've learned over the past, wow, seven years (I feel old!) of doing augmented and virtual reality and now Web3 and blockchain is the opportunity to still be innovative but also manage risk along the way. One of the things we've observed a lot of is that it seems like efficiency and optimization are at odds with innovation and creativity, but it doesn't always have to be that way. We have a lot of success and proof points to show where we've had the opportunity to help brands out to really think about their emerging technology strategy - their metaverse strategy - and test and learn and mitigate that risk every step along the way, and actually build out a program around that type of innovation. That's been one of the things that makes me so excited every day to come to work; problem solving and creativity and having that sort of impact. Do you have $0.02 to add onto that? How have you seen it from your perspective in your role?
Max: Yeah, just to cover it off, and I know we're running tight on time, but I think what I want to leave everybody with is don't innovate with technology in a silo. I think society has done such a good job of getting technology to a point where we can have so many cool things to play around with and deploy on and measure data with, but I think we need to start innovating with strategy and insight for consumers and for brands, and building experiences for humans at the core, versus using technology to lead that conversation. I want to end with that.
Austin: Yeah, it's human experience at the end of the day. Well, hey, Max, thanks for helping me out with this. For those of you watching, if you have any questions, definitely feel free to reach out. You can catch us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Thanks, all! Have a good one.
Max: Bye, folks.