To say that the term “metaverse” has rapidly embedded itself into the lexicon of the marketing community in record time is quite an understatement. In fact, when Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement on October 28, 2021, that Facebook was rebranding itself to Meta, and was fully committing to the metaverse as a business priority, Google searches for the term “metaverse” spiked by over 2,000% from the previous week.¹
All of this excitement about the burgeoning possibilities that the metaverse holds for brands was quickly brought back down to reality when discussions were pivoted to, “But what can we actually do today?”
The most practical barriers of entry into the metaverse are the technology requirements to fully immerse your audience in virtual experiences. Both artificial reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can be costly and have relatively low market penetration that doesn’t appear to be improving any time soon.
But what if the only thing people needed to engage with brands and one another in the metaverse were almost ubiquitous technologies like headphones or smart speakers (Alexa, Google Home, etc.)? The most recent Infinite Dial Study estimates that 94 million households have a smart speaker in the home and this number is growing year over year.² The future of the audio-only metaverse is bright and far more immediate.
This is why we believe that one of the best opportunities for brands to enter into the metaverse may not be through non-fungible tokens (NFTs) or the costly procurement of VR/AR equipment, but rather through all the potential that audio in the metaverse currently holds.
At Ad Results Media, we see the following predictions coming to fruition in the next 6-18 months.
1. Audio identity becomes the new visual identity. One of the critical aspects of communicating to consumers about what your brand stands for, and actually having them remember it, has always been through the careful development of a visual brand, including colors, fonts, photography, etc. While visuals will be just as important in the metaverse, there is also an opportunity to develop your audio identity or sonic branding.
We all know, and most of us can imitate, the voice of Alexa or Google Maps. But what if the voice of other brands—the ones we don’t rely upon for utility-based services from our smart devices—were just as memorable and recognizable? We predict that brands will spend time expanding their branding guidelines to include an audio identity, complete with a preferred voice, sounds, haptics and music.
2. Brands will need to become excellent conversationalists. Everybody loves a chatbot, right? Wrong. They are almost universally despised by customers looking for real help or valuable and customized information. We predict that chatbots will be virtually eliminated by the superior immersive experiences of the metaverse.
Customer service representative avatars will provide sales and product support to the avatars of their customers. This will require that brands really invest in their conversation skills so their real-life customers can engage with them in a meaningful dialogue through voice commands alone. This effort could include adding sound designers to your creative teams, significantly increasing your investment in artificial intelligence and constantly reiterating and improving your algorithm.
3. Podcasts get a live virtual audience. It’s no secret that a lot of the best podcasts started in someone’s basement (and in fact some are still there). And for obvious safety and logistical reasons, podcast hosts are not inviting a live audience to attend the recording of their shows in their basements or even their studios. Now imagine that devout fans of podcasts could send their avatars—safely and with all the social distancing they desire—to enjoy the live recording of the show? We predict this will happen.
And we’re here for it! It will broaden the podcast advertising opportunities available to brands and also help them identify the most engaged audience for each individual podcast. This could lead to intimate product-seeding—either real or virtual—that will in turn build brand loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals.
4. Spatial audio will be incorporated into traditional audio ads. Spatial audio, or 3D audio, is one of the elements of the metaverse that makes it feel truly immersive. Instead of feeling like you’re watching a movie as an observer, spatial audio makes you feel like you are there. The sound design replicates what and how the human ear experiences sound in the real world, going far beyond the limitations of surround sound.
The use of spatial audio will be ubiquitous within the metaverse, and consumer expectations will begin to shift based upon their increased exposure to a more sophisticated and realistic sound experience. We predict that this will be a trend that starts in the metaverse but then will transcend it into other aspects of our life. Brands would be wise to create more immersive-sounding audio ads on all platforms to help hook the audience and keep them actively listening.
As trailblazers in the audio industry, from radio to podcasts and emerging audio platforms, we pride ourselves on spotting the trends we believe will impact our clients, partners and audiences. For more information on these predictions or how you can take advantage of them, please reach out to the Ad Results Media team. _______________________________
¹ Google Trends
² Infinite Dial 2021