Why Meta Matters: the impending Meta-Morphosis of Marketing

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“Why Meta Matters: the impending Meta-Morphosis of Marketing” was previously published in MARKETING Weekender Issue 309
By Sandeep Joseph

Some call it a diversionary tactic, when under heavy criticism from Congress and fire from whistleblowers. Others consider it a masterstroke. And many are, well, just plain confused.

What should we make of Facebook’s announcement of a Group company, known as Meta? What’s in a name change you may ask. Well, just as Google created a parent company called Alphabet, Mark Zuckerberg has announced the formation of Meta, inspired by the Greek word for “beyond”. It is also supposed to cue the shift from a Facebook first company to a company that focuses on more, on the metaverse.

The metaverse is a loose name given to a world where people can interact as avatars. The metaverse as an idea isn’t new, but it became mainstream when Zuckerberg started talking about it publicly earlier this year.

The concept originates from Snow Crash, a dystopian novel from the 1990s in which people flee the crumbling real world to be fully immersed in a virtual one.

While he acknowledges that the origins of the word are not necessarily positive, Zuckerberg claims the metaverse is a utopian idea that will unlock an entirely new economy of virtual goods and services.

He envisages people working, playing, dating, and just plain hanging out in a virtual world, spending trillions in the process.

Think of the metaverse as an array of interconnected digital spaces, sometimes experienced in Virtual Reality, and possibly as well through social networks, and also potentially having real-time reference points to the physical world.

The CEO of Facebook envisages it as a space where people could trade NFTs and crypto, because the lines between real and virtual will blur significantly, and there will be a need to hold on to “real” financial value.

Facebook claims it has invested over USD 10 billion this year on the metaverse.Zuckerberg, famous for social awkwardness, has always believed in building platforms. As he said in an interview with The Verge: “People think of us as a social media company, but the way we think about ourselves is that we’re a technology company that builds technology to help people connect with each other. We think that makes us different from the other companies because everyone else is trying to work on how people interact with technology, where as we build technologies so that people can interact with each other.”

This name change could be more significant than the famous dropping of the “the” in TheFacebook, captured in David Fincher’s The Social Network by an insouciant Justin Timberlake playing Sean Parker.

Facebook’s ad revenues are definitely hit by Apple’s privacy push, and creating a new universe is one way around the walled gardens of privacy.

What will Meta mean to marketers and agencies? Here are some pointers:

Meta will create an opportunity for brands to go beyond the real world, and create experiences for their customers in a virtual/semi-virtual world. Marketers should step up their technical and martech experiments, as well as their investments, to understand how they could stand out in this new frontier. Creative companies should look to have Chief Technology Officers on board, to maximize the potential.

Experiences will matter more than ads. Consumers will be curious and exploratory, in the metaverse. Wowing them will be the key for brands to stay relevant.

New ad formats and opportunities will emerge. Facebook grew the world of marketing by creating many different ad formats. Advertisers flocked to use the platform’s multiple formats to drive awareness as well as leads.

As a consequence of the efforts of Facebook (and Google), today digital advertising is over 60% of all ad spends, and more than 80% of all digital advertising goes to Facebook and Google. In the metaverse, Zuckerberg will not want to lose out on the revenues side.

Clearly, Zuckerberg aims to drive transactions and value in the metaverse. Brands will need to find ways to sell and provide value that consumers pay for. M-commerce will now stand for meta-commerce. Facebook has largely missed out on the e-commerce boom, despite having a payment system. Its idea for a currency was defeated by the fear of financial oversight.

The metaverse creates another opportunity for the company to enter a financial payments world, and as the world’s creator, it will now have an edge. Legislators may try to limit its influence, but their task will now be harder.

With banks now considering crypto seriously, the future of Meta as a space with its own payments and indeed financial ecosystem is highly likely.

Platforms change human behaviour. Tik Tok, the fastest growing platform amongst the young, is now causing physical tics and other medical conditions amongst teenagers. Social media has enabled the supply of dopamine or little hits of happiness to the brain, whenever we receive praise or likes.

For sure immersive experiences like Meta will change the way humans behave and interact. Marketers will do well to understand these, and make their brands Meta-ready.

Pardon the bad pun, but Meta will meta-morphosize marketing.

Are you ready, Player One?

Sandeep Joseph is the CEO and co-founder of Ampersand Advisory, a strategic media and data-driven consultancy. The company’s mission is “business results now!” and it has won numerous local and international awards. The views expressed here are the author’s own: you can debate with him at [email protected]

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