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Ethics, risks and branding: Everything you need to know about the metaverse

The metaverse is still evolving and is a few years away from becoming a complete reality. However, even as we try to understand it better, many companies and investors are already trying to get a foothold within its depths. From a nebulous entity that was featured heavily in science fiction to a reality the digital ecosystem of the metaverse is poised to take over various aspects of our lives. What does this mean for marketing and PR professionals? How can they create brand awareness in this new purported trillion dollar revenue opportunity?

Due to its immersive environment, the metaverse is seeing a lot of traction in virtual products. Launches such as Balenciaga’s exclusive virtual collection have created waves. Going forward, there are also possibilities for virtual brand syndications with various companies to create mutually beneficial co-marketing opportunities through storytelling which is already a powerful PR tool. Brands can create experiences for their consumers and use the metaverse to build their own world in it. As the metaverse comes into its own, there will also be opportunities for virtual reputation management and building better relationships with customers virtually. 

With the future at our doorsteps, what should brands do to ensure that they are not left behind? The first would be to understand the various challenges that lie ahead.

·       Long term communication plan – For many, the idea of the metaverse is intrinsically connected to gaming and entertainment. Companies need to remember that the metaverse will go on to encompass a professional work environment and day to day lives will soon be played out here. They need to adapt their communication strategies accordingly, making changes to existing plans or draw up new plans altogether because it is  a continuously developing new environment. Developing a long-term communication plan will help in creating a road map that will take all this into consideration.

·       Greater Risks – The metaverse brings with it a host of privacy issues because the extent of data that can be gathered from individuals and companies is exponentially higher than through the internet currently. There are more chances of cyber crime and ID theft which brings a whole new set of problems to be managed. All these can harm the brand’s reputation and adversely affect the customers, leaving the brands to invest in cybersecurity to prevent data breaches or scandals.

·       The ethics of it – The metaverse with its streams of data can become a hotbed of unethical practices if brands aren’t careful. It falls to their PR teams to ensure that consumer data is respected and misinformation and deep-fakes are discredited. PR teams have to be more proactive about safety and ethical concerns and establish best practices, as the alternative would be to lose the trust of consumers.  

·       Protecting your image – The metaverse is a complex environment. Brands might find themselves positioned next to dubious content which can affect their image. Since the metaverse is free, it also means that their content can be hacked or vandalised and PR professionals have to be on their toes to ensure that the damage is prevented or at the least, minimized.

The metaverse promises to make the future exciting but given all these challenges that lie ahead, apprehensions held by brands are not entirely unfounded. However, if marketing and PR professionals start planning ahead, they can ensure that their brands are early adopters and make a good and lasting impression on consumers. The challenges of navigating this digital environment will keep evolving, so it’s important to stay on your toes and ensure that the metaverse remains a humanistic experience