By Vikrant Rana, Ragini Ghosh and Pranit Biswas
In the third re-invention of the Internet (“Web 3.0”), the user experience is about to become more immersive, 3-D, and create a “Metaverse”- a virtual reality of shared virtual spaces and a continuous virtual economy, enabled by use of VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) devices, moving away from centralized servers, and allowing online commerce through ownership of digital goods (such as NFT’s and digital avatars) and blockchain based digital currencies (cryptocurrencies). For more information about the basics of the Metaverse, please see our article here (first published in Bar & Bench). With the gradual immersion of the idea of the Metaverse into the mainstream, the notion of having employees in an organization, solely dedicated to Metaverse related services, is unsurprising.
We all know the designated abbreviation “CMO” to stand for “Chief Marketing Officer”. But in today’s tech world, where the onset of the Metaverse is the hot new development shaking things up, “CMO” may come to stand for something a little different- Chief Metaverse Officer!
The role in fact already exists in a handful of companies, and more and more are considering talent acquisition to fulfil this sudden need. Entities like Futures Intelligence Group, Zepeto, MetaFrames, Shadow Factory and PHYGICODE have already set up the role internationally, and prominent brands such as Nike, Balenciaga and Disney are locking in the position as well.
India already has around 8-10 CMO (or equivalent) positions filled in in various tech based companies, looking to the future, and it is anticipated that most brands globally will need to consider an executive metaverse-focussed role by at least 2023, and by 2025, 8-10% of Indian companies will need to recruit a CMO (or equivalent) in order to devise and lead their metaverse strategy in the super digital era to come.
In view of such developments, we explore just what such a role can entail.
Skills of a Metaverse Officer
“CMO’s” will need to be individuals who lead corporate strategies towards building or developing the future metaverse. In fact, the job profile calls for a professionally trained futurist and strategist, who can help brands understand how the advent of the metaverse is going to affect their business and develop strategies to thrive in it. Chief Information Officers and Chief Technological Officers having experience in computer gaming, simulations, Web 3.0 environments, and more will be the need of the hour. In fact, already 15-18% of CIO and CTO roles actually need individuals who are equipped to be able to lead teams into developing products and experiences for the metaverse. In fact, it is hard to disagree with the notion that CMO’s should also have a good hand at law in addition to being very future-ready tech savvy (although one might argue that such companies may already have robust legal departments who may have the necessary know-how to deal with the legalese involving Metaverse!). After all, one must navigate the world of Metaverse with all due caution, keeping in mind considerations such as intellectual property (for more information on this, please read our article here).
Firms entering into metaverse-related marketing have so far needed to consult external experts, but are now actively considering bringing such services in-house, having consideration to the scope of growth in the field. Part marketing, part strategy, a CMO’s role promises to blend both technical and creative aspects and requires someone who will be able to oversee and integrate projects relating to a brand’s role and appearance in the metaverse. The CMO will essentially need to act as translator between the technical and business and creative sides of an enterprise, and liaise between necessary people for a range of projects. These could include virtual goods, avatars, NFTs, gaming, extended reality, and more. Additionally, they will need know-how of cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, cloud computing, gaming engines, digital design, etc.
Who needs a “Chief Metaverse Officer”?
Businesses across the world have already started building workspaces, labs and other interactive spaces within the metaverse. For example, Dell has built a virtual factory for assembling laptops; Sears has a virtual showroom for its wares; Mediahub has launched a virtual office space; and Starwood Hotels has introduced “Aloft”, a virtual concept hotel. Companies like Gather, Teamflow and Virbela are already facilitating the creation of third party virtual offices.
Industries such as IT/ITeS, gaming, fashion, retail, communications, designs, software development, and many others are feeling the need for dedicated virtual online strategies, targeted eventually at incorporation into the metaverse. Fashion brands are diversifying to hire content creators as opposed to traditional fashion executives, to make their mark in purely digital marketplaces.
Some brands have started to assemble teams dedicated to metaverse collaborations, viewing them as essential to their future survival and success. This requires a lead to co-ordinate among vested interests, collaborate across the bandwidth of a business’s skilled resources depending on expertise and needs, who needs to be involved and when, and who does not, to envision and then implement a company’s future roadmap in expansion into uncharted virtual space. In fact, it will probably not be long until the term “metaverse” in a brand’s business plan becomes equal to, if not surpasses, the value of “marketing”, in terms of resolving into valuable sales metrics, as digital marketing catches up to its physical counterpart (a trend already very prevalent today). Marketing heads will need to account for the dissolution of geographical barriers, and the need for universal appeal in the metaverse, given that subjective digital avatars will negate the value of demographic and cultural indicators (such as race, sex, age, etc.).
Considering strategy in the metaverse can appear daunting, given how new and rapidly developing it is at the moment. Brands that move fast now will be best able to succeed in exploiting the limitless potential of the metaverse and create a brand experience far beyond that of the traditional advertising, promotional and marketing parameters today. For decision makers, sitting at the brink of yet another digital revolution, they need to refer back to the strategies adopted at the time of the previous digital revolutions, i.e. the arrival of the Internet; rise of social media; growth of mobile internet and the hyper-local; and user-driven content creation. The challenge will be to in fact ensure opportunities for both the brand and the consumer to co-create content, whether by way of collaborations or otherwise, thereby giving the brand the flexibility of operations, and the consumer, the flexibility of choice. This will be in the true spirit of Web 3.0, with its commitment to decentralization.
Web 3.0, with its inception of the Metaverse, guarantees a “gamification” of the online space (i.e. rendering a more immersive, alternate reality experience, much like an online or video game environment, such as a MMORPG) to navigate which will require guidance and leadership coming from someone who understands and has had experience of such a space as well as its intrinsic qualities and its language. This is where the role of a CMO will come in. The role has also received its share of criticism, with sceptics considering it to be akin to the position of a “social media guru”, i.e. more hyperbole than practical logic. However, with Web 3.0 already partially implemented, and the metaverse knocking on our doors, for businesses to succeed and appeal to a new, wider and barrier-less audience demographic, they will need their strategy to be guided not only by a Chief Marketing Officer, but rather a dedicated Chief “Metaverse” Officer. After all, if a world famous singer like Ariana Grande can do a concert in a world like Fortnite, one can imagine how a skilled CMO can whip up amazing marketing strategies to propel the brand to the Web 3.0!