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Marketers: The metaverse is coming

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Marketers: The metaverse is coming

Don’t believe them when they tell you the metaverse is already here. What we do have is a swarm of virtual realities but they’re not yet connected. When they are, it will be possible to enter the metaverse.

What does the term “metaverse” mean exactly? It’s actually a 30 year-old term, first coined by science fiction author Neal Stephenson is his novel “Snow Crash.” It’s clumsily derived from the Greek, meta being a prefix meaning “beyond.” So beyond the universe? The trouble is, versus means “turn into” which makes perfect sense in the word “universe” — turn into one — but less sense as turn into beyond.

We turned to Tim Parkin, a marketing consultant advising his clients on how to prepare for the metaverse, for more clarity. “In reality, the metaverse is really undefined, it’s very ambiguous. Most importantly, it’s going to change. So what it is today will not be what it is tomorrow. That makes it a moving target.” Nevertheless, Parkin was willing to venture that it’s a whole new layer built on the infrastructure of the internet, opening “a new dimension of potential and possibilities.”

Essentially, the metaverse will take the digital environment many of us have been existing in for at least the last two years and upgrade it to a virtual-reality based imaginary world, creating many opportunities, including for marketers, as well as “some scary realities,” he said.

Anyone who has put on a VR headset understands what virtual reality looks like, but the metaverse, in concept at least, goes way beyond that. “If you think about the internet right now, it’s made up of a collection of servers and websites and different platforms and apps, but it’s all in the same sphere. With the metaverse, we can have this virtual reality experience together. It’s all happening in this giant sphere, this world where we can all co-exist an collaborate and participate in different experiences, adventures and communications.”

This doesn’t rule out hybrid use cases, Parkin explained. “You might be interacting through a physical environment as well. You might be in a grocery store and be able to interact virtually with people or order things virtually. It’s not just sitting at home with a headset on. You could be in the real world, but connecting it to the metaverse.”

Of course, the metaverse will be very firmly rooted in the reality of hardware. “We often forget that. It does depend on computers to run simulations, process transactions and render these worlds — and it is all connected to the internet. We’re not going to be escaping the internet; this is built on top of the internet.” And just like the internet, it won’t be owned by anybody. “That’s the beauty of it,” said Parkin, “but also the bad part. If nobody owns it, how do you police it?”

Web3 is often mentioned in the same breath as the metaverse. What’s the connection? “Web3 is this next level of the internet that incorporates blockchain and the idea of decentralization. By layering in blockchain we can track transactions and have a source of truth for everything that’s happening. The metaverse is separate, but there are opportunities to overlap Web3 and the metaverse.”

Some enterprises are already experimenting with aspects of the metaverse, but Parkin insists that the metaverse itself does not yet exist. “There are people working on experiences, but until we have consumers who can actually participate, I don’t see it right now existing, or even in then near future,” he explained. “We are still a little ways off of it being highly adopted and people doing anything of useful value inside the metaverse.”

How should marketers prepare for this strange future?

The metaverse may not be with us yet, but it’s never too early to start thinking about what it will mean. “I think there are three big things,” Parkin said. “First, keep an open mind. This is going to change. If you think back to the original internet with web pages and email and what those looked like, and compare that to today, it’s dramatically different. So don’t make any judgments about what it could be, because people will find value for it. It’s an exploratory process.”

Secondly, he said, look at what big brands are doing to prepare. “The Nikes and the Taco Bells, they have the resources and the necessity to be playing in the metaverse. Most companies don’t have the time or can’t afford to mess around with this, but the big companies that need to be constantly innovating or pushing the envelope, they’re going to be the ones exploring this.”

Finally, he said, go slow. “There’s a lot of hype and excitement and a lot of people think there’s going to be a first-mover’s advantage. This is not going to be as transformative as many people think in the next two to three, or maybe even five years . I would be very methodical and thoughtful about this and unless you’re a really big brand then you should not be pushing this very much. It’s nice to sit on the sidelines and watch, but tread very slowly and see where you can fit in, because this is very volatile and very risky.”

A big win for the gaming industry

In addition to watching what the big brands are doing, Parkin suggests paying attention to the companies that are likely to be supporting the metaverse, above all in the gaming industry. “There’s a company called Epic Games that has been around for a long time,” he said. “They are creators of many video games and the Unreal Engine,” an advanced 3D creation tool. “Epic Games will be a substantial player in the metaverse because the metaverse is essentially one giant video game world.”

The gaming industry will be ahead of the curve, Parkin predicts, because of their long experience with virtual worlds — just not connected. “The whole gaming culture is something marketers should really pay attention to,” he said, “because there are many things that will see new, but are just passé to the gaming industry.” Parkin confesses cheerfully to having a degree in game design.

Advertisers, of course, have already moved into the gaming space, displaying messages within virtual worlds and developing metrics to measure performance. “This is just bringing that gaming experience to a global world where we can socialize and spend time together, not necessarily in a gaming context, but there are a lot of underlying elements from gaming we can learn from.”

Read next: Marketers look to upgrade their 3D digital experiences as the metaverse approaches

Look out for dystopia

Guess what, there are huge potential downsides to all of this. The metaverse could turn out to be a bad place (yes, that’s literally what “dystopia” means). It’s not hard to see why. The potential harmful effects of social media, especially on the mental health of young people, have been widely discussed, not least because Facebook appeared to have concealed internal research on the harmful effects of Instagram. That’s just from looking at an app or a website, not being completely immersed in a reality, large parts of which Facebook, or Meta, will surely seek to control.

“Social media is a dangerous place,” Parkin agreed. “In the metaverse, wer’e removed another level from reality. You’re a character on screen, not a real person. There social dynamics we need to think about and prepare for.” Binge gaming was on the increase in 2021 with a third of gamers accustomed to playing five hours straight. It’s disturbing to imagine vulnerable people spending lengthy stretches as characters in an unreal world

“The dark side of this is interesting to think about,” said Parkin. “There’s a lot of bad activity that happens on the internet. A lot of people are focusing on the opportunities and positives of the metaverse, but there’s going to be a lot of deceptive and duplicitous behavior in this metaverse. It’s not all ponies and rainbows.”

One thing we can be sure of, the regulatory authorities will be left in the dust

About The Author

The holiday season is upon us
Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.


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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

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Marketing Team Reorgs: Why So Many and How To Survive

How long has it been since your marketing team got restructured? 

Wearing our magic mind-reading hat, we’d guess it was within the last two years. 

Impressed by the guess? Don’t be.  

Research from Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds that almost half of marketing teams restructured in the last 12 months. (And the other half probably did it the previous year.) 

Why do marketing teams restructure so often? Is this a new thing? Is it just something that comes with marketing? What does it all mean for now and the future? 

CMI chief strategy advisor Robert Rose offers his take in this video and the summary below. 

Marketing means frequent change 

Marketing Week’s 2024 Career and Salary Survey finds 46.5% of marketing teams restructured in the last year — a 5-percentage point increase over 2023 when 41.4% of teams changed their structure. 

But that’s markedly less than the 56.5% of marketing teams that restructured in 2022, which most likely reflected the impact of remote work, the fallout of the pandemic, and other digital marketing trends. 

Maybe the real story isn’t, “Holy smokes, 46% of businesses restructured their marketing last year.” The real story may be, “Holy smokes, only 46% of businesses restructured their marketing.” 

Put simply, marketing teams are now in the business of changing frequently. 

It raises two questions.  

First, why does marketing experience this change? You don’t see this happening in other parts of the business. Accounting teams rarely get restructured (usually only if something dramatic happens in the organization). The same goes for legal or operations. Does marketing change too frequently? Or do other functions in business not change enough? 

Second, you may ask, “Wait a minute, we haven’t reorganized our marketing teams in some time. Are we behind? Are we missing out? What are they organizing into? Or you may fall at the other end of the spectrum and ask, “Are we changing too fast? Do companies that don’t change so often do better? 

OK, that’s more than one question, but the second question boils down to this: Should you restructure your marketing organization? 

Reorganizing marketing 

Centralization emerged as the theme coming out of the pandemic. Gartner reports (registration required) a distinct move to a fully centralized model for marketing over the last few years: “(R)esponsibilities across the marketing organization have shifted. Marketing’s sole responsibilities for marketing operations, marketing strategy, and marketing-led innovation have increased.”  

According to a Gartner study, marketing assuming sole responsibility for marketing operations, marketing innovation, brand management, and digital rose by double-digit percentage points in 2022 compared to the previous year.  

What does all that mean for today in plainer language? 

Because teams are siloed, it’s increasingly tougher to create a collaborative environment. And marketing and content creation processes are complex (there are lots of people doing more small parts to creative, content, channel management, and measurement). So it’s a lot harder these days to get stuff done if you’re not working as one big, joined-up team. 

Honestly, it comes down to this question: How do you better communicate and coordinate your content? That’s innovation in modern marketing — an idea and content factory operating in a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative way. 

Let me give you an example. All 25 companies we worked with last year experienced restructuring fatigue. They were not eager creative, operations, analytics, media, and digital tech teams champing at the bit for more new roles, responsibilities, and operational changes. They were still trying to settle into the last restructuring.  

What worked was fine-tuning a mostly centralized model into a fully centralized operational model. It wasn’t a full restructuring, just a nudge to keep going. 

In most of those situations, the Gartner data rang true. Marketing has shifted to get a tighter and closer set of disparate teams working together to collaborate, produce, and measure more efficiently and effectively.  

As Gartner said in true Gartner-speak fashion: “Marginal losses of sole responsibility (in favor of shared and collaborative) were also reported across capabilities essential for digitally oriented growth, including digital media, digital commerce, and CX.” 

Companies gave up the idea of marketing owning one part of the customer experience, content type, or channel. Instead, they moved into more collaborative sharing of the customer experience, content type, or channel.  

Rethinking the marketing reorg 

This evolution can be productive. 

Almost 10 years ago, Carla Johnson and I wrote about this in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing. We talked about the idea of building to change: 

“Tomorrow’s marketing and communications teams succeed by learning to adapt — and by deploying systems of engagement that facilitate adaptation. By constantly building to change, the marketing department builds to succeed.” 

We surmised the marketing team of the future wouldn’t be asking what it was changing into but why it was changing. Marketing today is at the tipping point of that. 

The fact that half of all marketing teams restructure and change every two years might not be a reaction to shifting markets. It may just be how you should think of marketingas something fluid that you build and change into whatever it needs to be tomorrow, not something you must tear down and restructure every few years.  

The strength in that view comes not in knowing you need to change or what you will change into. The strength comes from the ability and capacity to do whatever marketing should. 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:  

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

2. Understand topical authority: Keywords vs. entities

Google has been talking about topical authority for a long time, and in Discover, it is completely relevant. Traditional SEO includes the use of keywords to position your web pages for a specific search, but the content strategy in Discover should be based on entities, i.e., concepts, characters, places, topics… everything that a Knowledge Panel can have. It is necessary to know in which topics Google considers we have more authority and relevance in order to talk about them.

3. Avoid clickbait in titles

“Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.” This is the opening sentence that describes how headlines should be in Google’s documentation. I always say that it is not about using clickbait but a bit of creativity from the journalist. Generating a good H1 is also part of the job of content creation.

Google also adds:

“Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.”

“Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.

Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.”

Do you think this information fits with what you see every day on Google Discover? I would reckon there were many sites that did not comply with this and received a lot of traffic from Discover.

With the last core updates in 2023, Google was extremely hard on news sites and some niches with content focused on Discover, directly affecting E-E-A-T. The impact was so severe that many publishers shared drastic drops in Search Console with expert Lily Ray, who wrote an article with data from more than 150 publishers.

4. Images are important

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you look at your Discover feed, you’ll see most of the images catch your attention. They are detailed shots of delicious food, close-ups of a person’s face showing emotions, or even images where the character in question does not appear, such as “the new manicure that will be a trend in 2024,” persuading you to click.

Google’s documentation recommends adding “high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover” and notes important technical requirements such as images needing to be “at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting.” You may also have found that media outlets create their own collages in order to have images that stand out from competitors.

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

One of the most important parts of having a website is making sure your audience can find your site (and find what they’re looking for).

The good news is that Google Search Essentials, formerly called Google Webmaster Guidelines, simplifies the process of optimizing your site for search performance.

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