As I write this article, I am listening to Vince Guaraldi’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” album, drinking a hot cup of my favorite matcha and basking in the glow of my tiny, tinsel tree lights reflecting off my bay window. I have so much to be grateful for this holiday season, and if you are reading this, so do you!
Besides the fact that those with access to the internet are better off than 99% of the rest of the world’s population, there are many other reasons to feel hopeful as the new year approaches. No, really — there are. I’m here to help your grinchy heart grow three sizes today.
So, in the spirit of the holidays, I have crafted this — if not optimistic, then entertaining — list of immersive marketing trends to look forward to in 2023. My wish is that this approach helps us enter the new year filled with humor and gratitude and not take ourselves too seriously.
So, without further ado, here’s your countdown of the “Top 10 reasons marketers can be optimistic in 2023” à la David Letterman. (If you’re too young to remember Letterman’s nightly Top 10 list — here’s a great example on YouTube to get you up to speed with us old people.)
10. Better B2B marketing in the metaverse
If you have followed my writing at all, you know I’m passionate about innovative B2B marketing and can’t wait for us all to move away from lengthy solution briefs and white papers that nobody but us are reading.
I feel 2022 ushered in a new, exploratory era in B2B marketing that will mature throughout the upcoming year. Companies will begin to better understand how to leverage immersive media to help meet their business objectives while simultaneously solving customer pain points. I hope we see more companies embracing the three use cases outlined in my recent article:
- Learning and education.
All have been vital to reaching and influencing a B2B audience and now we can scale our efforts exponentially by strategically using immersive technology.
9. No more mind-numbingly passive (and boring) virtual events
And speaking of events, I can’t wait to see marketers embrace truly interactive and immersive platforms for their virtual and hybrid events. If your event attendee is expected to be sitting and watching anything from home, you’re doing something wrong.
Ironically, I listened to a great webinar recently while walking my dog that outlined one of my top trends for 2023 — the need to move our audiences from passive to active participants.
So, the question you need to ask yourself is: “How can I provide my virtual event attendees things to do and ways to engage while offering them more of a ‘choose your own adventure’ approach?”
Extended reality, or XR, does a great job solving this problem. You can learn more ways to use XR for your events in 2023 and beyond in this recent MarTech article.
8. Beautiful (but empty) virtual spaces
2023 will continue to see an increase in new, metaverse-esque and artsy platforms that allow artists and 3D content creators to build their own worlds. A few examples of these types of spaces include Monaverse, Room and OnCyber.
Many of these platforms boast an active community of virtual space dwellers. However, upon closer inspection, most of the featured spaces are empty of real life.
One of the least fun things to do is wander around a jaw-dropping, beautifully built virtual space on your own. And why should you when the major benefit of connected immersive spaces is the ability to be present in a space with anyone from anywhere in the world?
7. Real-time, user-generated, 360-degree streaming video becomes a thing
The proliferation of 5G will help fuel an increase in real-time, immersive video content streaming. So, prepare to watch your friend’s grandmother’s 100th birthday as it’s happening in all the glory of 360-degree streaming video — yay!
6. We no longer have to connect a crypto wallet to access blockchain-powered virtual worlds — hallelujah!
Anyone who has attempted to explore an Ethereum-powered virtual world will understand my pain on this one. It’s a major headache to create and connect a crypto wallet to your virtual world account, which creates so much friction that many potential users bail. There are many other reasons we will continue to see headlines like “After the hype, NFTs fall as speculators exit” as NFT-centered virtual spaces pivot to try and entice users to stick around.
5. Brands stop forcing virtual world explorers to adopt dopy avatars shaped like paperclips and weeble wobbles — double hallelujah!
Hopefully, 2023 will be the year that marketers wake up to the fact that, yes, avatars are important. Of course, they are — they are a representation of ourselves. How we express ourselves through avatars is deeply rooted in our subconscious and ties into that infamous reptilian brain that drives all our purchasing decisions.
Forcing your audience to live inside the body of a crappy avatar is a stupid marketing decision. And what you deem as a suitable and even likable avatar is most likely not suitable or even desirable from your target audience’s perspective. Trying to make something that looks cool for the kids is often the kiss of death.
A better approach is taking the risk to allow your community to bring their own avatar via an integration with Ready Player Me or providing robust tools to allow them to customize it themselves.
4. No more stock images of someone in a head-mounted display — ever!
Yes, I’m taking a page from Joan Crawford’s book on this one. I hate, hate, hate this overused and almost always completely irrelevant image of someone in a VR headset. Spoiler alert — we won’t be walking around with a VR headset strapped to our faces in the future.
We will be finding a more comfortable and intuitive way to access immersive content while going about our daily lives. This could look like eyewear or something we haven’t even imagined yet.
3. Fewer epic metaverse marketing fails (well, maybe just a few fewer)
Sigh. This one does sadden my heart a bit. Epic fails in the metaverse hurt us all, and it’s my sincere wish that perhaps some of my articles on marketing in the metaverse will help prevent these types of mishaps.
A recent example, the EU’s $400K foray into the metaverse, was proclaimed a failure by many media outlets, including a Yahoo Finance article stating that virtually nobody attended the online event. The huge cost to develop the stand-alone platform would have been better spent doing some good in the world. I can’t say that I radically disagree with that perspective but let me try and paint a silver lining.
The event space was crafted by Journee, one of the best immersive agencies out there (thus the hefty price tag). It was beautiful, easy to navigate and had quite a bit of entertaining features. Only a few months before the EU’s event, I had attended a similar event built by Journee, which was a huge success, well-attended and much more of a bellwether for the future of events in virtual spaces.
The EU may have made some missteps, however, what they have learned from this project will hopefully fuel much better campaigns in the future. I tell my students all the time that marketers learn so much more from what others deem failures than we do from successes.
2. None of us are too cool for school in 2023
Being a lifelong student, I’m extremely happy about this one. There will be more valuable online immersive marketing programs available to marketers and communicators looking to create innovative and effective campaigns.
You can look at a few of the online educational resources that exist today in my article on becoming a metaverse marketing maven. In addition to the ones I outline, new programs are being developed that are solely focused on immersive communications and strategy, like this newly launched remote program from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications. (Spoiler alert: I am teaching in this program and couldn’t be more thrilled!)
1. Great news – those vapid, superficial and perfect-looking influencers on Instagram aren’t real
That’s right. There will be an increase in virtual influencers in 2023 as brands continue to love the idea of not having to deal with a real person’s demands and bad behaviors. I love the idea that companies can now exploit AI-driven, virtual avatars that shamelessly wear and promote their products. Brands such as Prada, Diesel, Tommy Hilfiger and even Chevrolet have leveraged completely made-up virtual influencers in prominent campaigns.
A fascinating study conducted this year concluded that a consumer’s relationship with a virtual media persona doesn’t differ significantly from their response to influencers who are actually human.
Duh! This is what I’ve been preaching for years, who cares if your digital boyfriend is real or not — they meet a real need and that’s what counts. Hopefully, this new era of virtual influencers will help remove the stigma that still lingers with having a meaningful relationship solely through digital technology, whether it is AI-driven or not.
You can learn more about this trend at virtualhumans.org, a platform that tracks the activities of virtual influencers across the globe.
Bonus trend for 2023: Peace, joy and love
May more marketers awaken to the role they play in shaping a sustainable digital universe where technology and nature not only co-exist but thrive.
And because it’s the holidays, my gift to you, my lovely reader, is this extra special bonus. My most sincere wish for 2023 is that marketers around the world wake up to the fact that we are responsible for creating the world that we are all hoping for.
We all need to become informed digital citizens, better understanding our relationship to technology and advocating for the well-being, safety and freedom of our audiences in the digital world.
You can learn more and join me in this mission by reading my manifesto and attending my monthly XR for Marketing and Communications Pub Crawl, which will resume in the new year. In the meantime, happy holidays to all, and to all a good night!
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