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Will the metaverse’s impact on digital marketing be equivalent to social media?

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A new academic paper about the metaverse explores its role as a tool for digital marketing. It suggests the metaverse is a new medium for marketing purposes alongside the web, social media, and other digital marketing channels. And it proposes the dawn of a new marketing era.

The authors have a point. If you roll back the clock to MySpace, online marketing looked very different before the launch of Facebook. It was really about email, SEO, Google Adwords and banner ads. Today social media such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube dominate. 

In case you wondered which definition of metaverse the paper covers, it’s the virtual reality one with a web3, blockchain-based digital economy of land and goods.

The authors suggest that Roblox, Fortnite and Decentraland could be the metaverse equivalents of Facebook and Twitter. But much in the way that Facebook supplanted MySpace, or Google surpassed AltaVista, we’d argue that Decentraland’s position is not rock solid, and the same goes for the others. After all, we are only scratching the surface of the metaverse’s potential.

What will make the metaverse different from the virtual world boom in the mid-2000s, which had considerable hype but failed to go mainstream? While SecondLife and IMVU have survived, there were many others, including from Google and Sony. The experience wasn’t fundamentally different from Decentraland. Will digital ownership be the key differentiator? Or is it the co-creation implied by decentralized governance? 

The short paper doesn’t explore other factors that might accelerate adoption, such as the emergence of headsets that enable people to become more immersed. Or the existence of social networks to drive network effects. Or the enterprise adoption by large corporates that mirrors the business adoption pattern of personal computers driving consumer interest.

But on the topic of ownership, Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT owners have considerable commercial rights. “It would be unthinkable for the Walt Disney Company to let future-generation customers create, own, and sell merchandise using its character images in the metaverse,” write the authors.

The paper concludes with several avenues for future research. Such as how can the metaverse be used to increase customer engagement? How is metaverse commerce different from e-commerce? And how metaverse-native and traditional firms might want to monetize digital assets differently.

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