NEW YORK – Metaverse activations and game-like experiences continue to rise this year as marketers try to reach digitally-driven consumers, but until such games are viewed as an experience rather than an experiment, valuable success metrics will likely remain elusive, according to Eric Pulier, CEO of Web3 -Enterprise platform Vatom, who discussed metaverse marketing tactics during an Advertising Week panel on Thursday.
Over the past year, brands have used the metaverse in a variety of ways, whether as a virtual storefront, a collection of mini-games, an augmented reality experience, or as a route to non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The number of users visiting such activations and the time spent per session provide insight into performance. However, one data gap lies in the inability to track success beyond walled gardens, raising questions about whether or not such channels are worthwhile.
“Ultimately, the data you get is similar to that of a very successful TV commercial — it’s the exposure,” Pulier said. “You’re not really building a relationship with that audience, you’re not getting any first-party data, you’re not following up and creating that ongoing experience that’s really the essence of a communication strategy.”
At its current stage, Pulier defines the progression of marketing in the Metaverse as “the first inning,” and to move the needle brands must adopt an always-on mindset that keeps the end consumer in mind, he said during the panel titled ” Marketing in the Metaverse,” which also included panelists from Procter & Gamble and iHeartMedia.
In one example, the manager referred to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lays, which His FIFA World Cup kicked off this week Campaign. As part of the campaign, consumers purchasing select Frito-Lay products can scan a QR code on a product bag to be prompted to take a selfie, which will then appear on a giant digital soccer ball. The experience, perhaps the largest cumulative art project in history, Pulier said, offers an initial compromise – data in exchange for an experience – but also holds the potential for FIFA fans to revisit to see new faces and a finished product.
“You have this idea from this experience that you participated in on a virtual airplane that now leads to an emotional experience and an ongoing dialogue with the brand that is positive – the value is mutual,” he continued.
IHeartMedia has already started to realize the concepts outlined by Pulier with the launch of its always-on iHeartLand in Fortnite in August. The space, which features a virtual concert arena sponsored by State Farm, plans to host 20 events over the next year.
Building iHeartLand meant taking a step back and unwrapping what the team thought was the metaverse to intentionally move forward, said Rahul Sabnis, chief creative officer at iHeartMedia. One of the top priorities is to ensure digital spaces are easily accessible and open the door without potentially complex add-ons like cryptocurrency or blockchain technology, so that a wide range of consumers feel committed to play and brands like State Farm have the opportunity to address multiple audiences.
“It’s not just one and done, but an ongoing dialogue with our communities where they are,” Sabnis continued. The concept has proven successful so far — Charlie Puth headlined the first concert hosted in the virtual arena, and in one weekend Puth had an audience equivalent to 50 performances at Madison Square Garden, according to management.
IHeartMedia has also partnered with Vatom to create a platform based on a scannable QR code that will take existing live events and create a blended reality opportunity designed to enhance the on-site experience with exclusive opportunities and benefits that would otherwise not be accessible.
“That’s the data exchange that we think is very transparent,” Sabnis said. “One of the things we look for when people come to our concerts is that they can take more control of their identity and have an ongoing relationship with events.”
The scannable QR code that makes up iHeart’s strategy is representative of the evolution from Web2 to Web3, Pulier said. In the past, fans who scan a QR code were likely prompted to download a variety of apps to receive exclusive benefits. Now, from a single point of connection, consumers can choose to have a personalized, legal, and ethical relationship with each brand partner iHeart brings to the table.
“It’s by these ongoing relationships that you measure success,” Pulier continued. “Did you get the data, did the experience add value to both parties, and do you have an opportunity to follow up? It’s marketing, advertising and loyalty all collapsed into one.”
According to Kimberly Doebereiner, group vice president, Procter & Gamble is still nailing down its metaverse strategy. Future of Advertising and Head of P&G Studiosbut it has already found brand-exclusive ways to add value to consumers.
In one example, the manager pointed to a collaboration with Vatom and Tied to develop a program that allowed consumers to log how many cold washes they take as part of their ‘Turn to Cold with Tide’ sustainability campaign in order to raise the opportunity to get to the level and win prizes – 80% of consumers said they would like to do it again, Doebereiner said. In a related example, she pointed to the P&G LifeLab, a virtual world focused on sustainability education with featured brands like Charmin and its forestry efforts – the average session length in the world was 20 minutes.
“It’s not always on, but it’s a way for us to create those profound experiences for people that allow them to receive information the way they want to receive it,” she said.
A promising value exchange could also focus on accessibility. Doebereiner pointed to a Snapchat augmented reality tool developed by Pampers that can bring a picture book to life so parents can read to their children. The fact that 40,000 books have been read suggests the potential for consumers to not only come back to that experience, but even incorporate it into their routines, she said.
“This is a great way for Pampers to help parents who may or may not have constant access to books,” she said. “For me, this moves us further as we create more immersive personalized experiences that the consumer is in control of and the brand can deliver.