By Cristina Lawrence – EVP Social and Emerging Spaces, Razorfish
In Web3/the metaverse, experience drives everything—from how this new iteration of the internet is creating entirely new, highly immersive, 1:1 consumer engagements to the emergence of transformative business models.
Rapid improvement of the Web3 consumer experience will be a key driver for mainstream adoption. So, while the space matures and is pressure tested by the societal, cultural and technical hurdles that all new technologies must face, the following principles can be used as guideposts for how brands can test and learn within Web3 and prepare for what lies ahead.
The Web3 consumer experience is more important than the marketing message.
Beyond the speculative worth of a token or the novelty of a metaverse interaction, the true value lies in the utility of the experience, both online and offline, that participation unlocks. Equally important are the community connections that are forged as part of these experiences. In this Web3 world, where paid media targeting doesn’t exist, organic engagement and earned reach are everything.
Yes, a smart contract is essentially an entry in a distributed ledger. But it could also be understood as “software” that is stored on chain, creating the unique opportunity to forge lasting 1:1 brand-to-consumer connections—a new type of relationship centered around the utility that your contract provides. This new form factor for consumer value can uniquely and continually create ongoing dynamic engagement with your brand for the longer term.
Web3 speed-to-market is critical for building brand equity and running tests while establishing a diverse footprint that future-proofs business impact.
A testing mindset is critical for laying down the foundations of brand awareness and recognition in this new space; nothing is more effective at doing this than quick-turn pilots across key touch points within the metaverse/Web3 ecosystem. These executions yield important learnings by uncovering data and insights that will help to determine the larger whitespace opportunity, the experiences that deliver the most impact and the strategic role of a brand within this new consumer world. Knowing that Web3 is being pressure-tested in real time and that its eventual end state is far from clear, brands need to be running as many tests as possible throughout the decentralized ecosystem—because we don’t yet know what aspects of it will survive and what aspects will fall away.
Brands need to start figuring out their Web3 governance playbook today in order to be ready for wider consumer adoption.
Creating the organizational infrastructure and internal governance to support external Web3/metaverse executions is as important as the consumer experiences themselves. That’s why it’s critical to establish a common, internal nomenclature as well as guiding principles around key topics such as risk tolerance, wallet strategy, key vendors and partners, data and privacy issues, brand consistency, business objective(s), internal ownership, etc. These “rules of engagement” are vital and must be established in order to successfully play within this space.
It’s not one or the other—Web3 is additive to Web2 brand ecosystems.
A fully-realized Web3 is a ways off. In the meantime, digital experiences and touchpoints, inclusive of marketing messages and campaign ecosystems, need to be engineered for maximum interoperability between Web2 and Web3. This ensures the longevity of these experiences and allows consumers to cross over however and whenever they see fit.
It’s important to remember that consumers already mix Web2 and Web3 experiences within their daily lives. Marketers need to meet these consumer expectations, as well as be present across all touchpoints of consumers’ evolving digital lives.
The only thing a brand has to offer any Web3 audience is purposeful and authentic engagement.
Besides the largely young, gaming audience that inhabits closed metaverse environments like Roblox or Fortnite, the Web3 worlds of “the open metaverse” (think: Decentraland, The Sandbox, Cryptovoxels, etc.) are entirely new, immersive, persistent digital environments being built by decentralized communities of creators, technologists and makers. These early adopters are the space’s key audiences—because today, that’s largely who is there. These audiences demand authenticity and seek access, opportunity and support to build out Web3’s potential. Thus, brands that engage with them need to do so as co-builders that contribute to the development of this space and its wider mainstream adoption, rather than lead marketing sponsors. Moreover, the growing numbers of mainstream consumers who are entering the space aren’t there to follow mainstream brands. They’re there for the creator experiences and to better understand the future potential for themselves. In short, FOMO.
The foundations of tomorrow’s Web3/metaverse are being laid today, and brands are in the unique position to test-and-learn while also contributing to the evolution of its architecture. Web3 will enable consumers to fully reimagine their relationship with their digital world, including the communities and brands with whom they choose to form connections. Although it’s too soon to tell what its endstate will look like, Web3/the metaverse represents a fundamental shift in consumer behavior that much like digital before it, will force brands—willingly or not—to evolve.