According to Reuters, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) made $2.5 billion in sales so far this year, increasing from $13.7 million dollars in the first quarter of 2020.
An NFT is a collectible digital asset as tracked through blockchain technology and cannot be duplicated. It could be anything with a digital footprint, such as music, gaming, videos and more. PR pros must start explaining how important virtual experiences are to their clients because intangible items are exactly what consumers will buy in our increasingly digital world.
The metaverse is a space where the digital and physical world becomes one, a digital reality where people can work, play and socialize. Although this may sound completely foreign, this is exactly what internet users did during COVID-19 and beyond. Earlier this year, Pew Research discovered that the internet is essential to 90% of Americans, and 40% of them are exploring technology in new ways.
Many consumers used social media, zoom calls, played video games, sent iMessages and used other tools to connect with others, ultimately creating their own communities. We’ve seen many different types of virtual meeting spaces, such as VR chats, companies using Slack or Monday.com to keep their employees organized and even Clubhouse users creating their own groups where people can become members. Everyone has experienced a part of the metaverse because it is an amalgamation of multiple forms of technology into one.
One of the core foundations of public relations is understanding the psychographics, demographics and geographics of the target audiences clients want to reach. As more brands and internet users start to enter the virtual world, PR pros will have more data on the type of consumers who are interested in their client’s products or services.
Here are the three strategies PR pros can take advantage of with the rise of the metaverse:
1. Virtual product placement
Product placement can include gifting a journalist, publication or influencer a product, in the hope they will write an article, or post about it on social media. As brands start to create digital versions of their products and services, PR pros can gift these virtual items—or aid in the development of digital content to increase exposure.
For example, during Paris fashion week Balenciaga debuted a 10-min episode of The Simpsons, where characters wore their brand. The brand used both product placement and virtual characters to tell their story digitally, putting Marge in their golden ballroom dress from their summer 2020 collection. Balenciaga also created garments for the digital game, Fortnite.
Takeaway: Consumers follow trends online just like they follow trends in the physical world. The metaverse is just a mirror of human behavior virtually. Digital product placement will and has increased ROI.
2. Storytelling in product or service descriptions
PR pros are expert storytellers, often using press releases and pitches to help articulate a vision around a brand’s products or services. In the virtual world, PR pros will have to rely on the description of a product to increase the likelihood a consumer will purchase.
Takeaway: Great writing skills are always needed in public relations. PR pros will create the virtual stories for NFTs and the other digital features that brands choose to create for virtual communities.
3. Virtual brand partnerships
The best way to boost client engagement is for brands to collaborate both physically and virtually. As consumers start to create their own virtual avatars, PR pros should encourage their clients to make new digital product—in partnership with other brands or with their consumers—to propel a more inclusive digital experience.
Brands like Clinique have already started by launching a social media campaign competition where entrants can win one of their three brand inspired NFTs based on their most popular products. This brings existing consumers into the virtual space while collaborating with existing users of Clinique’s products. The brand also used hashtags like #MetaOptimist or #Clinique to track engagement across all platforms.
Takeaway: PR pros must find the brands and the consumers that align with their client’s mission, vision and values to reach new potential through cross-promotions, all while discovering new opportunities for brand exposure.
Ketia M. Jeune is a New York City-based public relations pro who worked at Edelman and freelances as a publicist for influencers and multidisciplinary creatives.