When I was asked to write about the state of the regional brand building industry in a post-pandemic metaverse MENA, I wanted my inaugural op-ed to be about hardcore strategic planning. The more I wrote, the more I felt compelled to lay some foundations about a big problem we have. Metaverse experts need to hear this. So do Metaverse newbies.

Vanessa Bolosier

Welcome to the Meta-maze

What is the metaverse? Is it a bird, a plane? The future of the internet. A video game. Or Zoom, but worse? 

Ask the average person around you what they think the Metaverse is, and I’m not talking about your gaming-savvy, NFT collector friend. You’ll quickly realize how far we are from mass adoption and how very few of us actually know what it is.

Some will resort to sarcasm and vilify people trying to build another universe because “we’ve ruined the one we currently have”. Others will eventually ask how one actually “goes to the Metaverse?” O, the joy of feeling antiquated. 

“What this indicates isn’t how misinformed people are, but rather that the metaverse clearly needs better branding. 

And so will any company trying to thrive in it. No matter how excited people in the region are about its potential, if leaders don’t make a decision to brand with intent, no one will care.

Defining the Metaverse

It’s not just about simplifying its definition. When asked about it, I say the metaverse is the internet, but in 3D. Think no longer just browsing different websites, but immersing yourself in them using technologies like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), or Mixed Reality (MR). Easy enough right? 

Except it’s not. Just like the internet us millennials saw buying built as we came of age, the metaverse is in its infancy and the cogs don’t quite fit just yet. I’ll spare you the details about how it can be a force for good and how it represents the future of the workplace etc. 

As of now, beyond the hype, most of what we hear about the metaverse involves huge sums being pumped into creating what it ought to eventually become.

In regional news, there are a plethora of announcements about Metaverse strategies being developed. This is exciting. We’re not standing on the sideline and are ready to set the standard for what felt impossible not so long ago. When we look back, we want our region to have set the tone and played a big part in defining the metaverse as we’ll know it. 

My hope is that in developing these strategies, lay-people have a seat at the table. The best strategists, designers and marketers know how important involving the consumer is to get to the deep insight we need to make this a reality. The recipe will never change. 

The elephant in the room

Playing the ostrich isn’t always a bad strategy. Give it some space, some time to grow, watch from afar and catch up when indispensable. However, that’s ignoring the fact that we all have a part to play in making the Metaverse what it needs to become and the visionaries need our help. 

So what’s the problem? 

We must acknowledge the elephant in the room: at this stage, very few people understand what the metaverse is and what’s in it for them. 

The disparities of knowledge and understanding of the metaverse are a hindrance. How does one get involved in the conversation if the barrier to entry is way too high and the language around it too complex?

Unless we reach a point where a clear and simple value proposition is developed, we will never cross the necessary chasm required for adoption. Being excited about it clearly isn’t the issue here. What matters is, what people tell each other about it, and right now, they don’t tell each other much because there is no easy story to tell. 

Make it make sense

It seems Web3 founders are ready to address the elephant in the room and are calling marketers to the rescue. Every other C-suite role in marketing in the region these days requires experience in Web3. Marketers generally get a bad rep. The resentment towards us stems from our – sometimes conniving – ability to make things desirable. But no one can deny that if you want to sexify your offer, need adoption, growth or want to make your VC happy (*wink wink), you must turn to the magicians. I mean marketers. 

Let’s admit it. Most of the time, marketers are brought in way too late. Generally because founders struggle to achieve the level of growth they forecasted and need to raise more funds. 

They ask for miracles when oftentimes, the foundations for growth were never laid out in the first place. They underestimate the importance of psychology and human behavior in favor of hard performance metrics. There’s even a new-class of Linkedin influencers who advocate against hiring marketers yet would urge you to panic if you don’t have more than 6 months of runway because (*cough cough) you couldn’t reach your growth goals. Go figure.

All of this to say that if you want success in Web3 the solution is simple:  make it make sense. I’m not saying make it rational. Many extremely successful concepts and brands aren’t. What I’m saying is give users, consumers and your random lay person a story to tell. 

How do I build the story?

Ask yourself the right questions: how will your mission, vision, purpose, values, story be embodied in what you understand to be the metaverse? It’s not just another channel, it’s a different world.

Foster curiosity – engage with consumers, gain understanding and meet them where they are to have the appropriate insight to build your strategy.

Stay close to thought leaders – welcome a bit of hand holding on this journey. Keep abreast of the changes and progress being made to ponder the implications for your brand.

Don’t make assumptions about the level of Metaverse savviness your audience has. Make them tell the story on your behalf or better yet use their language.

Reinforce your connection with your consumers now to facilitate a potential transition in the Metaverse. Take them on this journey with you. 

Don’t think it will get easier. It’s not a case of doing what you’re doing now, but just somewhere else. You will have to transform, so start getting ready now, or die trying later.

Simplify, then simplify some more. Prototype, test and iterate. 

Don’t fear failure.

TL;DR: If you want the metaverse to be a success, start giving people stories to tell about it.