Commentary

Will This House Live In The Metaverse? Yes, If You Can Get Young Consumers On Board

I had the pleasure earlier this June of giving a fierce argument on behalf of the future of the metaverse at the prestigious Oxford Union, alongside technologists, academics, journalists, and brand leaders seeking to determine whether “this house should live in the metaverse.” Spoiler alert: we lost the debate. But I got some interesting insights from the audience – mostly younger, Gen Z consumers. The reasons why we lost prove there’s much for marketers to dig in on as they drum up consumer excitement about the metaverse, map its contours, and start innovating their technologies, products, and services. 

Younger consumers are cynical almost to the point of anger about Big Tech and FAANG dominating the metaverse. I heard impassioned speeches from the opposition about the various ailments Web2 platforms have unleashed on the world, from broken freedom of speech to harassment, to consolidation of power, and more. And that tracks recent research from National Research Group showing consumers think the Internet has become more commercialized (80%), addictive (79%), and has encouraged people to treat each other more cruelly (69%).

  • My take: History is in consumers’ favor: if you look at the arc of innovation, tech empires have limited lifespans. Myspace fell to Facebook. YouTube is losing ground to TikTok. Facebook’s social empire based on the sale of user data is shrinking. In the metaverse, I believe Big Tech will certainly be part of the equation, but the hardware, servers, and aspects of the tools needed to build dominant visions of the metaverse and Web3 will push many new worlds and businesses into the market.

These Oxfordians challenge the idea you can live a fulfilling life in the metaverse, even as they see the potential for it to scale and democratize access to global travel, quality education, and shared experiences. Blame it on the propensity of the young to see apocalypses lurking behind every corner or on the lingering psycho-social effects of the pandemic, but younger consumers are worried metaverse tech will open Pandora’s Box into a social dystopia where consumers live more in virtual reality than real life.

  • My Take: What they ignore – and where brands have an opening to bridge this gap – is the sheer volume of time we already spend in digital and virtual realities. A reliance on digital existence is already a norm and could intensify, given more engaging and immersive metaverse worlds. This may actually lead to a more positive state of mental health in comparison to current screen time practices. 

Oxford listeners are just as confused about the terminology as brand marketers (but that doesn’t matter). Metaverse? Web3? Blockchain? Younger consumers are just as baffled by the buzzwords as senior brand marketers. But they’re not invested in the halo excitement around this fresh new tech – and unimpressed with many of the early metaverse experiments which don’t model the true potential of Web3.

  • My Take: The most helpful definition brands can work with is, the metaverse is not a single application, or program, or virtual reality – it’s, as Wired points out, a multiverse of metaverses. Like streaming services, there are many, constantly competing with other groups, constantly breaking into new content niches. While it may benefit technologists and investors to think of the metaverse in the context of cryptocurrency of NFTs, there is no necessary connection between the multiverse of metaverse and those terms. They are only part of the tech-bro world, along with unrelated ideologies. Your best bet as a brand playing in the metaverse over the next year? Think about it in the context of the experiences it can create, more so than the technology that needs to be built to reach its most perfect vision.

We’ll be inventing and reinventing the metaverse for years, if not decades, to come. To make the metaverse perform for consumers (not just for those of us geeking out about the technology) brands are going to need to keep their ears to the ground with polling, surveys, and data analysis to track where consumers see the metaverse adding value – and where they’re just confused about why brands are serving virtual hot dogs.

 

1 comment about "Will This House Live In The Metaverse? Yes, If You Can Get Young Consumers On Board".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. M Gingrich from GI, June 29, 2022 at 1:56 p.m.

    This is an honest take - of which there were very few last week in Cannes.


    I will say what Cannes proved, though it certainly wasn't the theme of any talk or panel, was that actual human connection is vital and desired whether we know it or not. The great responsibility of the creators of the metaverse will be to not keep us isolated in real life, furthering the spiral of mental health issues that currently plague us. Start witht what it could be for the least of these - the disabled, and test, learn and build from there. 

Next story loading loading..