PR’s Top Pros Talk… Opportunities within the Metaverse & NFTs
Marji Sherman, Vice President of Digital at Cognito Media
Why should marketers invest in the Metaverse? Marji Sherman, Vice President of Digital at Cognito Media, dives into the benefits, such as, building brand awareness with Metaverse conferences and innovative office environments that change the way employees and clients interact. Marji also highlights the power of NFTs when it comes to brands selling merchandise.
>> More episodes here
>> Also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and others.
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: MARJI SHERMAN
DOUG: Marji, why is it important that companies start using the Metaverse and NFTs for marketing purposes?
MARJI: It’s the same answer I would have given to somebody back in 2010 when we were starting to use social media for brands as well and it was this foreign concept. And I would rather a brand be an innovator and know what they’re doing by the time that other brands are adopting, rather than be stuck in the weeds because it is a complex topic.
DOUG: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, how can companies use the Metaverse and then we can get into NFTs?
MARJI: So, one way is by hosting a conference on the Metaverse, and being able to host breakout sessions to the group sessions, and keynote all the way to parties, which I’ve actually learned from you. Also, they can use it to build offices. Many companies, including our own at Cognito, are thinking about how do we use the Metaverse to actually create an office environment between global offices or even just one office? Especially with COVID, this has become a more popular way of thinking about how do we meet and make it feel like we’re meeting in person.
DOUG: So, Marji, how is the Metaverse like real estate?
MARJI: So, the Metaverse functions a lot like planet Earth when we think about it and how it’s created. So, there are different planets and even universes that you can rent out space on in the Metaverse. You can also buy the space, but there’s also a way to create a metaverse without renting or buying and more creating it from the ground up and being able to have your space that way. Of course, renting can be more cost-effective, but then you have to look at with that rental, are your avatars included? Can you visit the rest of the Metaverse? Are there other people in the Metaverse? I just took a look at a couple of Metaverses that is that were great and really hyped up, but when I got there, I was the only person participating in the Metaverse that day and there was nobody there. So, it’s really looking at all of these different factors of whether you want to rent or start from the ground up with your metaverse.
DOUG: Yeah, and I think your point there needs to be a purpose to it, like the upcoming metaverse events that we’re doing are basically trade shows that exist in this environment. So, people can do different tracks, go to different sessions, but also easily have appointments with each other or run into someone in a hallway as you would in a trade show, and just click on them and see if they want to have a conversation with you video to video. I mean, things are changing that fast. Let’s get into NFTs a little bit, how are they best used for marketing purposes?
MARJI: Well, they are failing a bit right now, but still useful for marketing purposes. We have talked to clients about potentially turning their own office environment and employees into NFTs and designing their employees so they can be used that way. When we look at it more from a business to consumer level, we can see that Gucci is using the Metaverse and they’re actually able to have a store that avatars that are renting space and other parts can go to the Gucci store and buy Gucci clothing for their avatars. So, there are many different ways to think about how do we use these NFTs and how do we make them realistic and valuable? Because when we think of an NFT, it really is just owning that digital product at the end of the day, and it’s the hype around having the ownership to that digital product. One other example is makeup brands using it where they have an NFT of a special lipstick that’s coming out. Somebody purchases that NFT and then they get the first lipstick that was made of like ten so it makes it a little more tangible.
DOUG: Yeah, what are some of the legal challenges communicators need to be aware of in just this new era?
MARJI: This is a great question because when I’ve spoken to clients, it’s usually what they’re thinking about last and it’s what you should be thinking about first. Some of the legal issues include copywriting. So, Nike is in a lawsuit right now Ornez is in a lawsuit right now, because Metaverse are being created and they believe that they’re lawless land because we do not have any laws yet around the Metaverse community. And so, they’re using like the Nike logo on different clothes and avatars. What will come of these lawsuits is very important for us as marketers to find out how far we can go in the Metaverse and if brands will be protected, and logo and copyright issues will be protected in the Metaverse. Currently, there is no law that protects that, but I would be really careful about it just because I favor that the court will rule that you cannot use other people’s property.
DOUG: Yeah, it almost seems like you should think of it in terms of would you use it in a TV commercial for your brand, if you wouldn’t because of copyright, why put it in a metaverse where likely you’re going to have to undo it at some future point and incur that expense? What are some things communicators need to be aware of? Recently, it was our anniversary and one of our early projects was Disney launches Disney.com, that became news. For companies getting into the Metaverse, is that something as well that will become a news story in itself?
MARJI: Yes. And to your point, Disney was just in the news about their Metaverse now that they’re working to create as well. Especially right now when we’re in that early adoption phase, businesses entering in and talking about it will be at the forefront of the news and make the news somehow. I do really recommend that even if this is a hard concept for your company or your brand, still get educated around the Metaverse and understand what the angle is for your brand, and just make sure that you understand what you’re getting into with the Metaverse and understand that it’s not something that you can ignore. And there will be one day as a marketer, you are going to have to have a Metaverse conversation with your C-suite and what the value is for your brand. So, I would start those conversations now and at least get thoughts in people’s heads about the Metaverse and how useful it actually can be for marketing with brands.
DOUG: Yeah, that’s great advice to start the conversation. Any other tips for people to start to get educated, things they can do on their own?
MARJI: Yeah, I would join a Metaverse. There’s many, Decentraland you can join for free, for example. You can go in and actually walk around as an avatar and experience what a metaverse is actually like. You don’t understand all the different little pieces and details that go into a Metaverse until you’re actually in one and moving around and trying to talk to other people. One place I would definitely check out is Decentraland or a different metaverse that has a free demo that they’re willing to give you. The other one is looking at blockchaincouncil.org, there’s lots of information there about the Metaverse. And if you do have an agency, I recommend talking to your agency about this now, and see if they’re working on this with any other client, if it would be a good fit for your brand, and just get those conversations rolling.
DOUG: Yeah, and that’s fantastic advice. And one thing I’d like to point out that was a learning for me at one point is you don’t need to always be wearing virtual reality glasses, the Metaverse environments that we’re working on creating events that we’re doing, you can navigate from your laptop, from your computer, from your iPad, and still experience all of these benefits of being part of an environment. So, that’s a change, which obviously is what’s making it way more accessible to so many more people. And it will continue to be more accessible as people listen to you and take your advice. Thanks so much for joining us.
MARJI: Thank you.