Facebook recently announced a significant name change. Mark Zuckerberg’s goal behind this name change was simple: he wanted people to see the no-longer-Facebook brand as a metaverse company rather than just a social media company; thus, Facebook announced the new name, “Meta,” October 28. The media speculated the company’s name change was in response to Facebook’s recent scandals and published studies on social media’s negative impact on consumers’ mental health. However, Zuckerberg appears to have planned the shift long before Facebook’s latest PR issues.
“Metaverse” is the term used to describe the digital environment allowing users to interact virtually with people and places around them. Currently, this interaction/engagement happens through augmented reality, virtual reality, social media, artificial intelligence, and online gaming. However, the metaverse is more than just viewing content; it is about immersion—the digital and the physical convergence.
Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital receptivity and interest in the metaverse. The rise of the metaverse increased fears that society would become disconnected as they relied less on face-to-face, in-person interaction. To metaverse proponents, technology helps us connect with the world around us—those otherwise beyond our reach. They are optimistic the metaverse will be a positive place to work, play, create, learn, shop, and interact with friends virtually. Unfortunately, the future of the metaverse is not all rosy. Recent ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure remind us that bad actors manipulating the metaverse pose a genuine threat to society.
Facebook will significantly focus on the metaverse, which includes virtual reality and augmented reality, moving forward. Zuckerberg believes the metaverse will be the biggest change after the mobile internet.
Facebook invested heavily in VR when it bought Oculus for $2B in 2012 and finally began seeing positive returns on its Oculus VR headsets recently. In September, Facebook started heavily running Oculus ads on network TV featuring Billie Eilish x Beat Saber on Oculus Quest 2. In addition to Oculus VR headsets already on the market, Facebook has AR glasses and wristband technologies in development.
To understand the power of the metaverse, look no further than the notable app Pokémon Go created by Niantic. Pokémon Go allows users to catch Pokémon using augmented reality while virtually interacting with their environment. The app superimposes (augments) the digital world on the physical world in real-time.
Another metaverse example is the game Animal Crossing New Horizons on Nintendo Switch. Many companies have items or locations in Animal Crossing that players can buy, visit, and experience within the game. Notable examples of companies and products featured in Animal Crossing include Ikea’s in-game catalog, KFC’s real-world rewards for visiting and spotting the colonel, and Gucci’s Island featuring the existing Gucci Guilty ad campaign.
Brands exist in the physical and digital worlds but now live in both simultaneously. As a result, we will see more businesses and platforms working together than ever before, which is a good sign for consumers but may force businesses to rely on these new partnerships and integrations.
There is little doubt the metaverse will change the future of marketing. Marketers will adjust to this unfamiliar environment, just as we adapted to the introduction of the internet and the shift to mobile-focused technology. The metaverse is just another shift—and an exciting one!