With Meta (formerly Facebook Inc) betting big on the metaverse, brands, businesses and products will see a transformational change. Fact is, in the future, we are going to live, work, and connect with more people online than offline. In fact, it is already happening right now. So this presents a very weird status establishing problem.
In the real world, I would have driven to the meeting in a BMW, worn a Rolex, called my guest to an exclusive golf club that I am a member of, and ordered an expensive single malt during the meeting. I have set so much context about my societal status without saying a word.
Now how do I establish all of this on the internet—where the playing field is level. NFTs and virtual brands could be an important way forward.
If a profile picture has an original degen ape, it automatically signals so many things about the person. Imagine using this on dating apps and business networking sites like LinkedIn. This is a blue tick that one can get without depending on a random algorithm.
As opposed to a regular Facebook profile that looks the same for everyone, imagine an original Rolex virtual clock hanging in your virtual meeting room. And before your guests enter the virtual meeting room, you can have them seated in your virtual waiting area outside.
A web2 (current day, centralised internet) version of this could be the Zoom window that reads, ‘You are in the waiting room, the host will let you in’. Right now, all you see is this message and the buffering icon. Imagine, if I could decorate this space by purchasing the NFT of the original Nana Patekar meme from the movie Welcome. And instead of a plain buffering window, the original meme appeared on screen while you were waiting to enter my virtual meeting room.
You don’t need to be a meme lover to understand the value of owning the original file of a popular meme. It’s the equivalent of finding an MF Hussain adorning the wall of a living room as you are ushered into a meeting room. You have signalled so much to your guest already.
At the heart of it, NFTs present amazing signalling opportunities. Branding too, at its core, is nothing but a game that helps you in signaling status. A Rolex doesn’t tell you the correct quality of time, it tells you the time like any other time-piece. It doesn’t change time, but it can change how you’re perceived in a group.
In the offline world, a brand is the fastest personal branding hack. You are not buying a Rolex to tell time. You are paying to rent out the Rolex personality for yourself. One of the things digital art, NFTs and branded virtual products can do is help you adopt and own a digital personality that signals the things you want it to.
Products and brands that are built on personality and not functionality, especially fashion, will have to find ways to integrate into the metaverse. And when things have no real utility, it all boils down to branding, and only branding. When physical products don’t exist, you are only trading brand equities out there. How does one assign value to virtual jackets, virtual shoes or virtual watches? You are only renting a personality, and no real tangible product.
I don't think it's too far out into the future where we will see brands like Uniqlo release bespoke gaming-wear for your online avatars. Today, we talk about D2C and B2B products, and how branding drives decision making and creates demand in these two sectors, but web3 (the decentralised version of the internet) will introduce us to the beast called C2C.
Trading between customers, at ease. And what could provide C2C further impetus is that on the decentralised internet, people are identified by their digital wallets. You connect your wallet to the portals, unlike entering your email IDs today, to access applications and websites. This will make transactions so smooth and easy, the entry barrier for selling a product will be lowered drastically, thus democratising all business wars.
This will empower creators to successfully transition into becoming traders without having to dish out generous cuts to influencer agencies, artist managers or payment gateways. Creators won't just be peddling brand philosophy anymore while asking you to swipe up to open a website to buy the product, they could be peddling products directly to the viewers.
The ecommerce boom took people out of malls and shops and brought them to shopping websites. The metaverse is going to take people directly to the creators and influencers. The creators own attention, and attention on the internet is prime real estate. Creators can choose what they want to do with their real estate. A storefront of their own, or a rent it out as a multi-brand outlet for other brands. This will be the true fruition of the creator economy.
However this thing unfolds, we can all be glad about one thing: Mark Zuckerberg is back to being his ballsy self, launching and creating pathbreaking products, as opposed to arm twisting and buying out successful companies, or ripping off ideas from other innovators and passing them off as his own. (Insta stories = Snapchat)
The writer is a founding member of SuperteamDAO. Views are personal.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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