Slow down on Metaverse to keep pace

Keeping up with the Instagram trend of “tell me you’re a 90s kid without telling me…”, if one were to describe the year gone by i.e., 2021 without talking about it, it would be largely driven around three words: “Crypto”, “NFTs” and “Metaverse”. The world (on social media at least) converged on these 3 keywords and shared opinions (many a time unsolicited) ranging from awe to mockery to future-gazing to sheer inquisitiveness. Just look at the Google Trends report on the 3 words from 1st Jan to 31st Dec 2021.

Google Trends India (01.01.2021–31.12.2021)

The yellow line in the graph represents the search trends around “Crypto” and it clearly dwarves “NFTs” (Red line) and “Metaverse” (Blue line) for a majority timespan of 2021, till around late Oct’21 when Mark Zuckerberg announced, “Facebook” would be renamed as “Meta” and the Red and Blue search volume lines (in the above graph) started popping up their heads. If you have an internet connection, you’re probably familiar with the term “metaverse” and people seem really excited about it. Some are just plain curious while others dread it. But everyone at some point seems to be talking about it — which explains the 542K tweets that originated in India between 1st Jan to 31st Dec 2021 on the subject!

Source: Talkwalker

And Indians have been tweeting about a lot of things — from #Metaverse to #NFT to #Decentraland to #PlayToEarn. While metaverse has been developing and growing as a concept for decades, the hype around the term is at its peak right now. And, when consumer speaks, marketers listen and act — sometimes prematurely…

Marketers are experiencing Fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) around the metaverse, sparking a wave of brand activity across a range of virtual platforms. Brands in technology, entertainment, FMCG, and fashion have rushed to stake their claim in it, though few seem to agree about what exactly it is. It feels like a “Gold-Rush” moment right now wherein many of today’s virtual brand activations are intended more to demonstrate ones’ willingness to experiment with new technologies than to generate business-linked results.

But as brands start activating more frequently in virtual space, they risk burning consumers out on the concept of the metaverse before it can truly take shape. Now web 2.0 developed a decade or so ago, consumers led the social media age and brands followed suit. As web3 is taking shape currently, a similarly laid-back approach from the brands' end might hold them in good stead. Instead of risking consumer burnout by leading with the metaverse concept, one might benefit greatly by giving their users clear reasons to spend time in virtual spaces — without stressing on “metaverse” and related connections in an overtly front-facing way. Take for example, when millions logged in to experience Travis Scott’s live Fortnite concert in April 2020, most of them thought of it as simply an extension of the video game, nothing more.

Source: WARC

For example, the results of a consumer survey done by research agency Newzoo. The above chart clearly indicates “socializing” takes precedence for the consumers in the metaverse — just like it was in the web 2.0 universe! That’s what brought them there and kept them hooked.

The vision of the metaverse being shared right now (especially the way it’s being envisaged from a business lens) is just that — a vision. Those who have the R&D budget and resources to start strategizing need to be OK with the possibility of failing. Those who can’t invest right away may want to wait, watch, and learn first to see what works (and what doesn’t). Likely that just like the early days of the internet, where “metaverse” eventually lands up will be something completely different from what is being discussed right now. It will also take another couple of years (or decades) of evolution before we can really see where it goes. So a piece of advice;

Slowing down is sometimes the best way to speed up.

- Mike Vance

As both brands and consumers become more familiar with the metaverse concept — and more comfortable with virtual spaces — the competing FOMO and burnout surrounding the concept will likely reach some sort of equilibrium. Because…

We tend to overestimate the impact of technology in the short run, and underestimate the effect in the long run

- Roy Amara

Amara’s Law representation

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