You know something is mainstream once Disney starts talking about it.
When CEO Bob Chapek told CNBC in an interview following it’s Q3 earnings report that Disney+ would be the entryway to the Disney metaverse, marketers’ ears likely perked up.
His exact words: “Our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we’ll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling without boundaries in our own Disney metaverse.”
Long before Facebook changed its name to Meta, the hype around the metaverse was building in marketing and business. According to Axios, the word “metaverse” has been mentioned 128 times on investor calls so far this year, compared to just seven the year prior.
It’s no secret that some sort of metaverse is emerging as gaming and entertainment converge. On the one hand, Netflix is acquiring game developers; on the other, broadcasters are losing attention to people streaming endless hours of video gameplay on Twitch. (In fact, you can watch me moderate a panel on the topic tomorrow at our virtual Tech Talk event about gaming!)
So for a company such as Disney, which has arguably some of the world’s best IP that it's been able to leverage in a multitude of universes - cruises, theme parks, movies, you name it - the metaverse makes sense.
It’s simply another opportunity to connect its timeless characters with fans. If thousands of families fly to Orlando every year to hang out with Cinderella and Mickey Mouse, why wouldn’t millions do it as avatars in the Disney World metaverse?
Companies that play it smart with their IP can succeed early in the metaverse by drawing people into existing virtual worlds. Imagine flying alongside The Avengers to save the world, or playing Harry Potter in a virtual Quidditch match. It’s why Pokémon Go has been one of the few widely popular augmented reality games so far.
But it's not just entertainment brands that have room to run in the metaverse. Consumer brands from CPGs to autos can lean into IP as well, whether that’s by leveraging an iconic character or universe from their advertising, or leaning into passion areas that make sense for their brand.
Imagine, for instance, going on a walkabout down under with the Geico Gecko or offroading on rough terrain in a virtual Jeep. Picture riding atop a Budweiser Clydesdale or exploring the North Pole with the Coca-Cola polar bears. Imagine skateboarding in a virtual park wearing a limited edition pair of Vans (you can actually do that last one on Roblox.)
In this sense, the metaverse can be a very exciting canvas for creative people, who can flex their muscles in an entirely new way.
It can be exciting for creative agencies, as well, if they can get out of the business of 30-second Hollywood-style films and build a sustainable model around a digital-first, community-driven future, where virtual and reality are one and brands and customers can interact more directly than ever before.
As the digital and physical worlds merge, brands and agencies will undoubtedly face even more pressure to adapt to a new reality. But those that get it right will seize the mind-boggling possibilities for creative thinking — and recognize the power of strong IP to get them there.