Marketing in the Matrix: what does the metaverse sound like?
by Joe Belliotti.
Sound is an important component of a brand's identity. It's time for marketers to begin thinking about how they can strike the right notes (literally) in the metaverse.
Right now, the metaverse is a relatively uncharted realm. There isn’t a collective definition of what it is, what it does or who it is for.
Some describe it as the next great leap in the digital transformation of society. The next frontier for marketing. For the majority of consumers, however, it is just the latest business buzzword. Most Americans don’t know what the metaverse is, and the majority aren’t interested in participating in it, according to a new poll conducted by The Drum.
But the hype around the metaverse has caught the attention of brands. Marketers have followed the lead of Facebook (now Meta) and others who are betting big on the growth of this blossoming digital realm.
Nike, Adidas and other high-profile fashion brands have already established their presence in the virtual world. Roblox has evolved from a simple online game for kids to becoming the premium portal for brands looking to enter the metaverse – with Balenciaga, Gucci and Ralph Lauren all hosting exclusive events with equally exclusive digital merchandise on the gaming platform.
Brands and marketers are investing increasing amounts of time and resources defining how they should appear in the metaverse. But what about how they sound?
Physical sights and digital sounds Marketers want to build distinctive brands – and sound is a powerful tool for doing so. Creating a unique and distinctive sonic identity is a reliable method for long-term brand building and a powerful way to supercharge short-term campaigns. Research shows that brands can get a 10-15x return on investment by creating a distinctive sonic brand asset.
This should be no surprise. Music is a passion shared around the world. Rhythm and sound is hardwired into our DNA – it moves us physically and emotionally. And it has a unique knack for sticking in our minds.
These are powerful properties. And they naturally translate into digital realms. Concerts have emerged as an effective pillar of the early metaverse marketing efforts, with performances from Ariana Grande in Fortnite and Twenty One Pilots in Roblox capturing global attention.
Just like in reality, brands can entwine themselves with these events and improve the experience for audiences. But in the metaverse, marketers can go far beyond just creating exclusive sections or items – imagination is the only restriction. For example, while standard audience members could be in a crowd below, members who signed up through a sponsor could be floating above, watching from some fantastical digi-blimp. The sky is no longer the limit.
An audio playground The scope for sound in the metaverse goes far beyond sponsored concerts. If the metaverse is destined to become a prominent extension of reality and a habitual part of our lives, then brands should be there ready to welcome us. There is a clear need for modern brands to develop fluid assets that can translate across channels. A sonic identity should be able to exist across TV, radio, TikTok and into the metaverse equally. It is a risk to think of these channels as being somehow disconnected from one another. There has to be an overarching brand strategy which can journey through each of these worlds as fluidly as audiences. We can take lessons from how audiences engage with sounds on other digital platforms like TikTok. In the metaverse, like on TikTok, audiences have all the power. They decide what is fresh and cool even if it isn’t fresh at all (I’m looking at you, Boney M). In other words, brands don’t need to try and control audiences with their content. They need to inspire audiences to make content, and experiences give them control.
Moreover, research from TikTok found that audio is a key component of brand promotions, with TikTok users being more receptive to sonic elements within ads than they are on other platforms. This reinforces the idea that music and sound are incredibly effective tools for tapping into the emotion of an audience and building brand equity in digital environments, where the user feels in control. Making experiences like this isn’t easy. But in the metaverse, the cost of innovation is low and the potential rewards are vast. In the metaverse, brands have the opportunity to innovate, test, learn and to put it bluntly, throw shit at the wall and see what sticks.
A brand like Starbucks or McDonald’s could experiment with new store formats or sonic personalization options in the metaverse, testing ideas in a digital twin realm. Insights into how consumers engage with these new properties in the metaverse can translate into actionable ideas in reality without incurring huge costs. Brands that are willing to experiment and embrace risk have the most to gain in the metaverse. Not only can they become a foundational part of a growing digital space, they stand to gain actionable insights which can be put to practice in reality.
The definition of the metaverse remains a bit squishy and intangible. But what we do know is that sound will play just as big a role in digital realms as it does on TikTok or in real life.
Metaverse or reality – there is no world in which brands can afford to be seen and not heard.