Brands in the metaverse: everything you need to know

By David Ripert

Coined in 1992 by the science fiction writer Neal Stephenson in his novel “Snow Crash,” the term “metaverse” has gained momentum since the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a digital turning point. 

Proving that the metaverse is more than just a buzzword, tech titans like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who wants to build an “enterprise metaverse” for Microsoft, and Mark Zuckerberg, who is determined to turn Facebook into a “metaverse company,” are getting ready to make this futuristic concept a reality. Zuckerberg has described the metaverse as “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content – you are in it.” One example he gave was sitting as a hologram on your colleague’s couch in a virtual office rather than having to interact with them over the phone or Zoom. 

It’s not just companies experimenting with the metaverse, either. Earlier this year, South Korea created a “metaverse alliance” of researchers and commercial giants like Hyundai to create a shared national virtual space and discuss the ethics of virtual environments. 

So, what exactly is the metaverse, are there any brands in the metaverse currently, and how can future-forward companies take advantage of this new trend? 

What’s the metaverse?

brands in the metaverse
An example of people interacting in a “metaverse”
(Source)

The metaverse, short for “meta universe,” refers to a virtual world that links to the world we live in. Many see the metaverse as the “next generation” of the internet where individuals will be able to dip in and out of immersive, interconnected digital worlds that will always be “on”. Any changes made by users will be permanent and visible to everyone else. 

Existing as digital representations of themselves in the metaverse, people will be able to do more or less everything they can do in the real world: meet their friends, shop, exercise, and go to work. The metaverse is also likely to be interoperable, meaning that you’ll be able to bring both your virtual self and any assets you may have to every experience or digital world.

How does AR come into it?

brands in the metaverse
In an AR metaverse, you may choose to hang AR art on your walls
(Source)

The metaverse combines elements of virtual reality and augmented reality. The hope is that VR headsets, AR glasses, screens, and holograms will eventually allow people to move fluidly between virtual and physical realms.

According to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang, there will be many types of metaverses, with AR being one of them. In the AR version, the art hanging on your walls may be AR art that you own as an NFT, which you can see via your phone or smart glasses. 

How will the metaverse affect brands in retail?

brands in the metaverse
Gucci Garden Event on Roblox
(Source)

The metaverse may not be something most people are aware of, but that hasn’t stopped brands from getting ahead of this technological paradigm shift. 

The kind of B2C interactions that the metaverse will enable is already happening with Bitmojis (personalised emoji avatars) on Snapchat. Levis and Ralph Lauren are just two brands that have released a line of virtual clothing for Bitmojis that people can also buy in real life. It is predicted that in the future, Snapchat’s Bitmojis will also integrate with VR and AR try-ons

AR filters available across platforms is another example. Poplar Studio has produced countless AR filters that overlay the physical world for top international brands. These filters can be deployed anywhere, including the metaverse. 

For brands, selling products to avatars is a great business opportunity. Gucci, for example, recently sold a digital Gucci Dionysus Bag on Roblox (an online game platform in the process of creating a metaverse where users can play games, attend meetings, collaborate on work, and shop) during its virtual Gucci Garden experience for $4,115, more than the physical bag is worth. 

In the future, users may not even have to build these avatars themselves. Instead, a physical retail store might have volumetric cameras that can capture the customer and create a very realistic avatar of them. Customers could then use these avatars, which will have their exact measurements, to try on clothes and other items without leaving their homes.

Of course, the ultimate goal for brands will be to build their own metaverses. Earlier this year, the Japanese beauty company SK-II created a virtual city, SK-II CITY, modelled on Tokyo, that allows people to explore the digital environment and enter branded experiences.

Similarly, the sneaker app Aglet has created “sneakerverse,” a metaverse that combines sneakers, games, and shopping. Interestingly, Aglet 1, the platform’s virtual sneaker, was so popular with players that the company is now about to go into production in real life. Aglet’s CEO, Ryan David Mullins, noted that creating products in a virtual environment first allows brands to be more sustainable and attract a new audience.  

How will the metaverse affect advertising?

brands in the metaverse
Fortnite has screened Christopher Nolan films; brands could run ads before film screenings in digital worlds
(Source)

For marketers, the metaverse will provide a host of new opportunities for promoting products, services, and brands. 

The most obvious one is probably capitalising on ad spaces in the metaverse, just as you would in the real world. We’re not just talking about virtual billboards, either, but also other places where ads may be run, like before a film screening in a digital cinema (Fortnite recently played Christopher Nolan’s films, so this may not be as far off as some may think). 

Conversely, companies that may want to participate in VR/AR games may choose to recreate virtual versions of real-life items, like a vending machine stocking a real-life beverage or a particular car model, to be discoverable within the game. 

However, as demonstrated by backlash following Facebook’s move to include ads in Oculus Quest games, marketers will need to be careful about the way they integrate their campaigns into the metaverse.

Brands in the metaverse: getting started 

Today, most brands rely on 2D assets such as photos and videos of products. However, in the future, 2D assets are not going to be enough. Although it is hard to predict what the metaverse is going to be like, one thing is certain: there will be an increased need for 3D assets that can be deployed against the metaverse and shared across various experiences, from fashion items to real estate to art. 

To prepare for this shift, brands need to produce 3D models of their products now. At Poplar Studio, we help brands create 3D models of their products at scale through our community of more than 2,000 certified 3D and AR creators. This helps make 3D and AR creation more affordable and scalable.

By plugging into your CMS, we can then automatically deploy these 3D models on the appropriate related product pages for e-commerce. And, once these models are built, they can be easily deployed across the metaverse (i.e. across different computing platforms like VR, AR, and PCs/mobile/game consoles).

To prepare for the metaverse today, contact the team at Poplar Studio.