Web3, the Metaverse, AI, VR - sometimes it feels like we’re living on a different planet some 3000 years in the future doesn’t it?
Tech has been evolving at an unprecedented rate for the last few decades, and it’s showing no signs of slowing. From the age of bulletin boards to the rise of social media - the internet has transformed branding, how we reach our audiences and what we say to them since its conception.
So what comes next? In this blog, we’re going to explain this as simply as possible (because it’s a bit confusing) and what the future of branding, creativity and business might look like alongside it. You ready? Let’s jump in.
What is Web3 and the Metaverse?
Firstly, not the same thing - but linked. Let’s start with Web3. This is the ‘third wave’ of the internet, but it doesn’t actually exist yet. Web3 is aiming to move the power away from the big guns like Facebook or Google by decentralising the data (on the blockchain), which would, in theory, give users like you and me, the opportunity to build the internet from the ground up. Influencing their own community-run networks and beyond. If you want to get to know the nitty-gritty, we’d recommend reading this guide.
The metaverse, however, already exists and has been coined “the next social network” - but estimated to be worth $800 billion by 2024 we think it’s going to become much more than that. To put it simply, the metaverse is an online digital environment that tends to simulate experiences we have in real life, but it’s not happening in the physical world. As anyone can build their own worlds within the metaverse, it’s thought it will shape Web3 if it comes to fruition.
Okay, now we’ve got that down, shall we look at a few trends shaping brands headed for the metaverse?
The rise of digital connection
Post pandemic, there’s no doubt about our desire for more connection - and social media has a big part to play in this with 78% of consumers wanting brands to connect them with new people and ideas.
With the ability to build virtual events, environments such as restaurants and host meetings within the metaverse, brands that are able to understand their audience on a deep level and design environments they are able to connect and thrive within will be the ones to galvanise a loyal following.
The days of marching in line with brands' manicured ideals and influence are on their way out. The future of branding in the metaverse is about getting to know your audience on a psychological level, meeting them where they are at, and inviting them to build community together - using brands as a conduit.
We recently wrote about the success of Clubhouse - and it’s new social media platforms like this that are forging a new path in virtually connecting people to new ideas through realistic means. Thinking about it, sitting in a metaverse room with Oprah whilst she streams her next Clubhouse upload would be pretty cool…
Making money as a user, not just a brand in the metaverse is going to be a focal point for developers. Although the incentive to earn money through interacting with content is littered throughout the internet already, for example winning vouchers for completing surveys, or signing up to affiliate programmes - how might brands lean into this decentralised approach to monetised content?
Patreon (not in the metaverse yet), is a creative community platform that invites users to pay creators by ‘pledging’ to access exclusive content and currently receives over 2 million pledges each month, generating almost $160 million in revenue in 2021 - it’s becoming a big deal.
There are examples of luxury brands such as Balenciaga entering the metaverse, and these brands are always going to be the early adopters because they have the money to be. But remembering Web3 is supposed to be a decentralised, community (aka real people) led space - brands like Patreon will help to drive widespread adoption of the metaverse. In a more democratic approach, brands, creators and users alike will have the opportunity to monetise their time in the metaverse.
Let’s get phygital
Another buzzword surrounding the increasingly digital world is ‘Phygital Marketing’ - the notion of marrying physical environments with digital ones to create seamless user experiences.
Charlotte Tillbury made bold strides in the phyigital world back in 2016 - installing ‘Charlotte’s Magic Mirror’ in stores. They enabled users to instantly try on 10 of the brand's famous makeup looks virtually - equipped with a selfie and share function for social proof as well as an algorithmic tool to recommend products to shoppers. Charlotte Tilbury continue to stay at the forefront of beauty technology having entered the metaverse with a 3D virtual store, where you’re able to shop with friends via video call, connect with consultants for advice and one day, maybe even shop as an avatar with your favourite influencer.
Virtual Influencers - Diversity & Inclusion
Speaking of influencers, have you heard of virtual influencers? With the metaverse growing, personal avatars are moving from the world of gaming, like Fortnite, and are being designed as virtual public figures.
Shudu was the first ‘virtual supermodel’ to be created and now boasts a whopping 232k followers on Instagram - it’s pretty hard to tell if she’s a real person or not with all the AR ‘filters’ we’ve become so accustomed to seeing.
While 92% of people trust influencers over traditional advertisements - we're not convinced that virtual models are the way forward. Some have argued it’s a chance to improve diversity in the metaverse. But the fact is, there are plenty of wonderful real people from all races, abilities, sexualities, cultures and intersectionalities that brands could be championing, and just aren’t.
We can’t lie, before researching this article, the KICO collective thought the future was looking a bit bleak when it came to the metaverse *queue visions of sitting in a solitary room with a VR headset on*. But the technology being developed is impressive and we can all see the opportunity for fresh creativity it could manifest.
In the case of the metaverse, it’s all about exploring the phygitial for Studio KICO. Keeping a firm foothold in the real world, whilst using digital to enhance its impact. But we’ll continue tapping into our hive mindset to stay up to date with the micro and macro technology trends to offer a future-focussed brand building experience for our clients.