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Marketers Talk Metaverse at CES 2023

While some marketers may be in a period of major experimentation with the metaverse, it’s hardly a fad initiative. 

Marketing executives from a diverse set of industries weighed in on virtual worlds—strategies for it and where it’s going—as innovation in the metaverse proves a major part of this year’s CES 2023 technology trade show in Las Vegas this week. 

“What we’re learning about metaverse now, and you’ll see this and witness this at CES, is that I think the hypothesis before on the metaverse is these hyper-immersive, shared experiences. Something like [sci-fi movie] ‘Ready Player One’,” said Consumer Technology Association vice president of research Steve Koenig Tuesday during a press briefing. “And that’s actually turning out not to be true. In fact, there are degrees of immersion. But what metaverse to me really is, is the next generation of the internet.” 

That means an elevated online experience that levels up on the two-dimensional product images and chat boxes many consumers are used to seeing today, Koenig added. 

“There’s a lot more we can do,” he said. 

Marketers took the subject a step further during a panel at the technology trade show, offering different takes and experiences when it comes to the metaverse. 

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Brian Buckley, the senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the Nasdaq stock exchange, said the metaverse presents an opportunity for companies to learn. 

Nasdaq was the first exchange to open the stock market virtually in June, with the ringing of the bell in the metaverse.  

“I think in terms of the application, a big part of…our purpose is creating economic progress for all and we want to ensure that we use all the tools we can to engage communities that might not be engaged in the financial markets or in business,” Buckley said. 

Virtually immersive experiences also keep businesses relevant as they explore opportunities to connect with the next generation of consumers, a group that is comfortable going virtual. 

Buckley used the example of his children this past Christmas, who were gifted $20 Roblox gift cards in their stockings for use on the online gaming platform. The item elicited screams from his kids, the CMO said. 

Thinking about the next generation is key as a marketer, pointed out Catherine Henry, senior vice president of Web3 and metaverse strategy at digital marketing agency Media.Monks. 

“Gaming is a way of life,” she said of younger generations. “Gaming is a way that young people connect. Gaming is a way that they find themselves.”

For this next group of consumers, they’re perfectly fine playing or passively hanging out in virtual worlds, Henry said. 

“For them, being in these virtual spaces is absolutely natural,” she said. 

The executive, who works at a company that has helped brands such as Adidas and Gucci with metaverse launches, said businesses should view virtual as a strategic endeavor rather than simply a marketing exercise. 

“We’re very, very heavily into this space and we help advise companies…. But what I think is really important for people working in that space—marketers, CMOs today—and what they need to think about going forward, is not so much proof of concept,” Henry said. “Because, as we do head into economically uncertain times and potentially a recession, we really need to think about what does engagement look like? How do we connect with our customers in a meaningful way?”

Don McGuire, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of semiconductor maker Qualcomm, agreed. 

“As a marketer, I see a huge opportunity because it’s all about how can I engage with my audience in new and different ways,” McGuire said. “And then, how do they want to experience my brand, my product? And this is going to provide multiple levels as a marketer for you to actually put experiences out there into the world for your audience to engage with.” 

Still, McGuire said the world is “years off” from the metaverse being fully mainstream and a mature marketing strategy for companies to employ, but “we’re on our way.” 

One of the challenges to scale, the CMO said, is the technology, whether that is a device powerful enough to offer an uninterrupted experience, batteries that can sustain such devices, screens that don’t cause eye strain and so on. At the same time, not every consumer will have access to such devices, which offers another challenge to scale, he said. 

“…. I chalk up what’s happening now as a lot of experimentation, which is great,” McGuire said. “That’s fantastic because you need to experiment in order to iterate and innovate. And so that’s really exciting, but I think people get ahead of themselves a little bit.” 

Henry offered another perspective on experimentation. 

“Experimentation was very much the tactic for last year,” she said. “I think we’re going to need to be much more strategic and much more selective going forward, but we should nevertheless be committed to this space because it’s not going away.”