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    From hype to flop: How brands go wrong in the metaverse

    In this Jing Meta Insider opinion piece, Scott Cullather, CEO of Invnt.Group, reveals where brands go wrong with storytelling in the metaverse.
    In this Jing Meta Insider opinion piece, Scott Cullather, CEO of brand storytelling agency Invnt, reveals where brands go wrong with storytelling in the metaverse. Photo: Lamborghini
    Scott CullatherAuthor
      Published   in Jing Meta

    Storytelling is the foundation of every brand. It has the power to differentiate a brand from others, and attract and engage the right audience.

    Yet, all too often, storytelling takes the backseat to a brand’s internal objectives. This leads to misfires and missed opportunities, as brand activations fall flat and fail to engage the desired consumers.

    Enter the metaverse. While it’s somewhat of a sticky (or hazy) word these days, I remain bullish on its transformative potential. The metaverse is one of the most exhilarating storytelling tools that brands have. From being interactive and explorable, to creative and fun, these are entire worlds that immerse audiences in a brand’s story.

    In August, Invnt.Atom launched Bzar, an interactive, virtual e-commerce platform for brands and fans. Photo: Bzar
    In August, Invnt.Atom launched Bzar, an interactive, virtual e-commerce platform for brands and fans. Photo: Bzar

    And it works. According to Roblox’s Q3 2023 insights, users are spending dozens of minutes per session of engaged attention, cumulatively spending nearly 16 million hours last quarter in Roblox alone.

    Even though we’re still very much in the development (or ‘beta’) days of a fully interoperable metaverse, there are a few best practices that have already emerged as cornerstones of a successful brand activation and storytelling in the metaverse – and plenty of duds that have passed unheard.

    These are the most common mistakes brands make with their metaverse activations:

    Ignoring internet culture#

    The future of brands is headless. Brands may introduce IP but, ultimately, it is the community that drives the narrative forward. Cohorts will become creators, propelling the brand lore, culture, and story forward through messaging, advocacy, and signaling. It’s this approach that capitalizes on the participatory nature of the metaverse, allowing users to feel like co-creators delivering ‘main character’ energy, rather than passive consumers.

    The younger generations, like Gen Alpha, were born as metaverse natives. Brands that ignore the power of granting ‘creator’ status to a consumer will lose relevance among the emerging generations and slowly fade into obscurity.

    I love E.l.f.’s recent metaverse activation, which directly addresses the fact that many Gen Zers want to be creators rather than corporate employees. This highlights the brand’s relevance and closeness to the communities it serves by creating cohesive brand experiences that emphasize a consumer-first approach as to how their audience interacts and delivers value to bridge the gap between virtual and real worlds.

    Beauty label e.l.f's latest activation caters to Gen Z's entrepreneurial spirit. Photo: Roblox
    Beauty label e.l.f's latest activation caters to Gen Z's entrepreneurial spirit. Photo: Roblox

    Lazy copying of IRL#

    Too many times we hop into a new virtual experience only to find a carbon copy of the brand’s IRL footprint. It’s too lazy to replicate what works in the real world. Who really wants to visit a grocery store in the metaverse unless it’s a unique store experience, layout, design and UX that you can’t replicate IRL?

    Brands need to build something that’s both familiar to their audience but also engaging, exciting, and inspiring. It’s then that companies will start to see strong traction and engagement from core (and new) demographics. Brands should challenge everything and create new possibilities.

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    Weak storytelling#

    We all know these weak stories, the ones that don’t capture your attention from the get-go, or leave you wanting more. They don’t pass the “why should I care?” test. Effective activations in the metaverse often involve immersive narratives that captivate users. Brands can create compelling stories that align with their messaging, drawing users into an enchanting world that keeps them engaged and invested in the brand experience. These stories should also align with concrete connections to a brand’s raison d’etre.

    A great example is Invnt.Atom’s “ae girls” campaign with Aespa to celebrate the album release Girls and debut in America. As K-pop’s first metaverse-based group, Aespa led its loyal fanbase into the new era of the web with an exclusive digital collection created in collaboration with world-renowned non-fungible token (NFT) artist Blake Kathryn.

    The campaign included a GLB file, a standardized format that is used to share 3D data, for certain holders, which gave owners the ability to enter the metaverse as their idols and connected superfans directly to their favorite artists, putting fans quite literally at the center of the story in the metaverse.

    Invnt.Atom was the brains behind K-pop metaverse girl group aespa's project alongside NFT artist Blake Kathryn. Photo: aespa
    Invnt.Atom was the brains behind K-pop metaverse girl group aespa's project alongside NFT artist Blake Kathryn. Photo: aespa

    Reverse FOMO: No sense of urgency#

    Without a reason to act, consumers aren’t hooked into action. You must inspire an urgency to participate, driving FOMO. Oftentimes, this is through an exclusive drop that gives fans a piece of the action, as well as a feeling of ownership. Most often it's a digital asset that creates a tangible connection to the experience, deepening brand affinity. Alternatively, your metaverse should cultivate a community that users want to be a part of, incentivizing urgency to join their community members in the virtual realm.

    Metaverse activations without those organic story hooks are doomed to fail. For instance, events like Metaverse Fashion Week need to consider how to create the urgency that makes these virtual moments irresistible – otherwise, it’s just copying a model that works IRL, but doesn’t quite yet translate to virtual worlds. A good example is how The Fabricant is utilizing digital fashion filters to create digital layers of identity to drive emotion and build an industry that authentically belongs to creators.

    Cullather points to digital fashion house The Fabricant as a brand with a strong storytelling strategy in the metaverse. Photo: The Fabricant
    Cullather points to digital fashion house The Fabricant as a brand with a strong storytelling strategy in the metaverse. Photo: The Fabricant

    Never underestimate the power of storytelling across your immersive strategy for virtual worlds. All too often, we see brands rush into the build phase without carefully crafting a narrative that aligns with the broader brand story – and build natural story hooks from there onward.

    As we approach the era of the spatial web, the next generation of consumer experiences will demand better storytelling, unmissable moments, and rewards. Brands that fall behind will soon become forgotten relics of a distant past.

    Scott Cullather is the President and CEO of [Invnt Group], and CEO of Invnt.Atom, the group’s digital and Web3 innovation division based in Singapore. Cullather has led diverse teams driving innovative strategy, design, production, and the execution of thousands of large-scale live, virtual, and hybrid B2B and B2C brand experiences and campaigns, in over 40 countries. All opinions expressed are his own and do not reflect the official position of Jing Daily.

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