The metaverse continues to be a runaway train of future-gazing and speculation. But that’s not to say it’s a frivolous endeavor. There are legitimate discussions underway as a thought exercise for mapping out our connected future. That future may be a 3D rendition of today’s web.

It could also have several tracks. As we’ve examined, these include online synchronous 3D worlds (a common metaverse connotation) as well as the “real-world metaverse.” The latter infuses digital depth and dimension into the physical world… a potentially more valuable outcome.

Meta has its eyes on both prizes, and is credited for kickstarting the current wave of public interest in the m-word. And it’s investing $10 billion+ annually to realize that vision, including yesterday’s Quest Pro launch. The $1499 device will deepen its VR lineup with a more high-end option.

But beyond Meta’s own moves, what are users and brands doing with the tools it’s rolling out? Though Meta Horizons – its synchronous and social 3D world – may be a work in progress, we’re already seeing early signs of what it could be. At the top of that list is the Wendyverse.

The Virtual and IRL Verses of the Metaverse

Ready Player Bun

For those unfamiliar, the Wendyverse is the primary metaverse play for Wendy’s restaurants. It joins other brand activations in places like Roblox and Decentraland. But it stands out for a few reasons, which were broken down at the Localogy Place event we recently attended.

In a keynote presentation that we moderated, Meta Global marketing solutions lead (and former Wendy’s associate) Matthew Christiansen walked us through the vision, which was to create a virtual space in Horizon Worlds where Wendy’s customers can engage with the brand.

Those engagements include mini-games, social interaction with other users, and live concerts in partnership with iHeart Radio. Hungry visitors can even use the Wendyverse as a food-ordering touchpoint, selecting items for pickup or delivery from their closest (IRL) Wendy’s.

Altogether, Wendy’s execution is a model for how brands should be thinking about the metaverse. Rather than getting carried away with selling virtual goods or treating it as a revenue center (as some brands are doing), it should simply be considered as an additive marketing channel.

In that way, the metaverse joins other media that brands consider and combine in their marketing mix to reach incremental audiences. And like those channels – search, social, mobile, etc. – it will have its own native playbook. The challenge is that the playbook hasn’t been fully written yet.

XR Talks: Metaverse 101

Native Execution

For that reason, we’re seeing lots of experimentation. Among early success factors, native execution stands out. In other words, like the onset of social, mobile, and other media, brands should lean into unique capabilities, rather than porting tactics and assets from legacy channels.

One example is Wendy’s separate Fortnite campaign, which leaned into the game’s mechanics. Its campaign was all about eschewing freezers to engender a culture of freshness. So its Fornite campaign gamified the act of smashing freezers with the game’s signature pick-axe.

Beyond native user experiences that make sense, another key question is native metrics. Like the smartphone’s early days, metaverse marketing will be ineffective if brands simply throw traditional metrics at it. We’re talking analytic security blankets like clicks and impressions.

At the same time, brands need to benchmark against known quantities. So what’s a brand marketer to do? Here, Wendy’s came up with ways to translate Horizon Worlds’ engagement into traditional metrics so that it can normalize and compare metrics across its media mix.

Brands should be used to this exercise given an ever-broadening media menu. The metaverse is just the latest channel. But one bit of advice from Christiansen: manage expectations. This isn’t a high-reach medium (yet) and is more about engagement depth. Align goals accordingly.

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