Last year marked the first time the metaverse made waves in the Super Bowl. Miller Lite launched an immersive ad space in the metaverse itself, while Facebook (now Meta) ran TV ads promoting its virtual ventures. Throughout this football season, ads for Meta’s VR experiences have been running against games, promising to take viewers into the world of Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott.
As the Big Game looms, more brands are looking to get in on the action. What should they keep in mind?
Brands looking to leverage the metaverse in their marketing should tailor their messages to the technology’s current and potential users, focus on cultivating community instead of obsessing over immediate ROI, and assess their risk tolerance before jumping into VR advertising.
Tailor your message to a mass audience
The great advantage of the Super Bowl is its ability to reach mass audiences. But the metaverse today is mostly used by a niche population of gaming enthusiasts. Many people don’t yet know what the metaverse can do or even what it is.
The Super Bowl is an ideal occasion to help spread awareness of the possibilities and onboard a much wider population to the metaverse. Don’t assume viewers already know what it is or can do — show them.
For example, in Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset ads, a teenage boy says, “I want to be quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.” The ad then shows the boy wearing the headset while dropping back on a football field as linemen grunt and push their way toward him. Even if the viewer of the ad had no previous awareness of Quest 2 or even VR headsets in general, the ad would help them understand that headsets can now immerse users into a virtual setting where they don’t feel like they’re controlling a quarterback on the screen; they feel like they are the quarterback.
Meta gets extra points for the contextual targeting of its ad. By running a spot that features a football game against football games, the company is spotlighting an intuitive use case for the metaverse. Brands looking to advertise around the metaverse in this year’s Super Bowl may want to follow the same playbook.
Cultivate community, and worry about ROI later
The metaverse is a new, 3D version of the internet. The first iteration of the internet, and even early social media platforms, grew slowly without clear commercial goals. For example, Facebook originally lacked advertising, which helped it achieve early success among college students long before the company developed a business model.
With the metaverse, in contrast, brands are already very active, even before most consumers have arrived. Historically, community comes first, and business models come later, so brands should not expect an immediate financial return on metaverse investments. Instead, they should focus on cultivating a community around their metaverse efforts that they will later be able to determine the best way to monetize.
This is the direction Molson Coors took last year. Barred from advertising directly against the Super Bowl due to Anheuser Busch’s exclusivity deal, the company partnered with browser-based metaverse project Decentraland to create a virtual bar where users could gather as avatars, drink virtual beverages, and watch a virtual Miller Lite ad. The ad agency DDB, which worked on the project, said users spent as much as 20 minutes in the virtual environment.
To reap the commercial benefits of the metaverse, brands will need to give consumers a reason to spend time there — more time than a 30-second TV spot can command. Fostering virtual spaces where consumers interact, which is what Molson Coors tested last year, is the first step. Commercial opportunities will follow.
Consider your brand’s tolerance for risk
Brands that have an affinity for all things cutting edge and culturally extreme are natural fits for the metaverse. It’s no wonder that luxury fashion designers, youth-oriented CPG brands, and spirits companies have had an outsize presence thus far — all these brands thrive by association with the avant-garde.
More traditional brands have a higher bar to clear. They need to be relatively tolerant of risk, and they need to use the metaverse to solve real customer problems, not just to generate PR buzz. This is a much harder challenge, but brands that get it right can expect to reap outsize rewards.
A prime example of more risk-averse, customer-centric metaverse experimentation is enabling customers to try out products virtually. For example, transforming the well-known experience where consumers go to Ikea to try out furniture into a virtual one is a chance to capitalize on the experiential inclination of the metaverse to satisfy a basic customer need. The same use case applies to retail.
On the other end of the spectrum, expect companies with greater risk tolerance to lean into more immersive, unbounded, social experiences that, like 2D social media platforms, have a high potential for deep engagement but also come with the complications of world building.
These efforts will force brands to search longer for a commercial north star. But if they resonate with consumers at scale, they stand to create the 3D internet’s equivalent of, well, Facebook.