Staff Writer
Jul 18, 2022

Exploring web3, diversity, and metaverse marketing at Meta Festival

Experts and panellists at the first-ever Meta Festival break down how creators and brands can navigate web3, its contribution to diversity, and metaverse trends in the APAC region.

Exploring web3, diversity, and metaverse marketing at Meta Festival
Within the span of a generation, we have gone from less than seven percent of the world population being online in 2000, to the unparalleled communication and connectivity we enjoy today. These significant advancements have irrevocably changed the way we live, work, and interact with each other and the world around us. But as impressive as these past achievements may be, we are currently experiencing the most important technological evolution since the creation of the web itself: the rise of web3 and the metaverse.
With users moving away from centralised platforms like Google and Facebook and towards open-source, decentralised platforms, this latest web iteration marks a massive shift in the way we interact with technology. 
Metaverse immersion at Meta Festival 
With boundless potential on the horizon, both brands and consumers are showing enthusiasm for the tech advancement, embracing web3 features such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), blockchain, cryptocurrency, and decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs). But perhaps the most exciting feature for both brands and consumers alike is the 3D-rendered, boundless virtual world that is the metaverse. 
All this eagerness to become new web pioneers has recently culminated in a celebration of all things web3 — which took place in the metaverse, of course. On June 28th, over 6,500 people attended Meta Festival, a 24-hour event co-founded by global digital agency DEPT® and Journee - The Metaverse Company™, focusing on everything metaverse-related and featuring hundreds of leading web3 innovators, brand marketers, futurists, and technologists. Several hundred more attendees also joined via live streams across platforms, for a virtual look into the highly immersive, all-new metaverse world named Metapolis.
Metapolis comprised five themed stages — Pop Culture, the Betterverse, Immersive Experiences, Diehard Tech — as well as a main stage featuring live programmes across three time zones in the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, and the Americas. Speakers who appeared on these stages spanned a variety of sectors and professions, with experts from Netflix, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and various arts and media organisations.
Keeping with web3’s spirit of immersive interaction, Metapolis also contained a Playground which offered activities such as workshops, karaoke, live magic, cocktail classes, yoga, and an NFT workshop. Attendees were given access to Metapolis’ NFT Gallery, where they could purchase custom NFTs exclusively created for the Meta Festival.
A vital part of the festivities was to foster a deeper understanding of web3 technology, so a roster of panel talks with experts dissected pop culture, innovative trends to keep an eye on, the technology behind the spatial web, and how to build a better Internet.
Key features of web3 and the metaverse
The foundations of the metaverse are not brand-new technology, as real-time 3D virtual production has long been present in world-building within games — it is the application of this technology to increasing aspects of life that is novel. Raffaella Camera, head of brands for Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, spoke enthusiastically about the advancements of these real-life utilities. “We’re at the place where the technology is easier … for more creators to use, [with] the level of fidelity needed for brands to really strike an emotional chord with consumers,” she stated.
As much as the metaverse is about building 3D experiences and immersive worlds, there is an equal sense of importance in new governance and being community-oriented. For Dr Giovanna Graziosi Casimiro, metaverse producer at Decentraland Foundation, the open-source metaverse means a lot of “rethinking the way we rule things, the way we build tools together, the way we’re going to make the Internet something that people build for people.” 
This shift of ownership in web3 exerts profound effects on creativity and innovation. Web2.0 was dominated by posting for likes and shares, and the monetising of this attention, but web3 will enable creators to display and allow access to content that they have the rights and ownership to. ‘Godmother of the Metaverse’ Cathy Hackl provided an example: her 10-year-old son makes roughly USD$200 in Robux each month for the worlds and experiences he builds as a Roblox developer. “He’s world-building, he’s creating, and [web3 is] allowing him to share in the value of his creations,” she said.
Working with digital assets also means the ability to story-tell and engage in new ways — great news for brands looking to reach new consumers or promote their brand story. What Tracey Mancenido, director of digital product creation at Tommy Hilfiger, finds most exciting is the interaction and play between the physical and digital, in both products and experiences. She stated, “How we digitally express ourselves …  is not bound by the physical world … only the limitations of our own imaginations.”
Digital assets are also inextricably tied with the idea of identity within web3. Miko Matsumura, general partner with Gumi Cryptos Capital, defined the new data model for web3 as “self-sovereign identity, self-sovereign information, and self-sovereign data” — identity is not just about authentication anymore, but has become the data model itself. 
Metaverse in APAC
As expected, both consumers and brands are quick on the uptake when it comes to the Asia-Pacific region. Rahul Sachitanand, associate editor at Campaign Asia-Pacific, revealed how a mere 15 to 20 months ago, web3 was viewed as a far-off concept. Now, banking corporations such as HSBC and DBS have invested in the metaverse, with consumer goods companies like Colgate and many other startups also entering the virtual setting.
The big consumer markets of China and India are already big users of mobile devices and highly familiar with virtual worlds. The audience potential is there, but the ball lies in the courts of marketing leaders to allocate resources between established web2.0 efforts and interest in web3. Sachitanand posited that brand experts are just beginning to understand the metaverse, feeling their way into the realm with small pilot projects. After this phase settles down we should see larger commercial rollouts, he said, citing how the city administration in Seoul has invested roughly $3 billion in the metaverse to make citizen services more accessible. 
Nevertheless, Sachitanand is excited about the long-term possibilities ahead. “There’s a fundamental shift that can happen in areas like education, healthcare, [and] government services, totally disrupting how we look at these sectors … and how we access them today.”
The case for diversity and equity
Modern living comes with societal constraints that we might be unable to fully shake off in our day-to-day lives. These can include expectations related to race, gender expression, sexuality, class, mental and physical health, and many more.
However, in the metaverse, users are no longer defined by these characteristics. They are free to interact and explore the boundless worlds available to them as they wish. Anna Seaman, curator and co-founder of MORROW Collective, explained, “When you enter the metaverse platform, it doesn’t matter who you are. You can be … just an expression of yourself, using technology to break down all those boundaries.”
An example of this flexibility in expression is how Mao Lin Liao, founder of REBLIKA, was not able to express his alter ego for years until he was about to create his own hyper-realistic 3D avatar — a virtual persona that has since even made her way into Playboy magazine.
When creating web3 identities, Liao’s software offers gender expression on a spectrum to reflect real life, with separate sliding scales for the face and the body. Existing in NFT form, these avatars are also created to be interoperable across online platforms. In a world where freedom of expression is sometimes still restricted, web3 technology can offer users autonomy in their self-expression.
The anonymity and self-governed nature of these identities also signposts a greater capacity for gender equality in web3 spaces. Initial movements involving blockchain, “crypto bros,” and NFTs were very much male-dominated, but females are now increasingly being represented. Hong Kong influencer Emi Wong shared how she is now involved with more NFT projects led by Asian women and is also working on taking move-to-earn (M2E) crypto concepts to the next level in terms of class and income inclusivity. 
Essentially, this all translates to more seats at the table online and more diverse points of view to interact with, which is imperative to marginalised communities seeking the freedom to express themselves the way they wish to.
Preparing brands and companies for web3
It is understandable for companies to feel intimidated about bringing their presence onto web3 — after all, the metaverse is billed as boundless, limitless worlds. But Justine Vilgrain, creative strategist and co-founder of Braw Haus, was quick to reassure brands that they have in fact been in this situation before, through other technology iterations, such as brick-and-mortar shops starting to sell online.
Camera dug deeper by explaining that the “real world” is in fact the physical world and the virtual world, and younger generations tend not to even make a clear distinction between the two. “Spending two hours playing Roblox or Fortnite, [or] two hours playing basketball at the basketball court, for them … it’s still part of their real life,” she explained.
Brands should therefore recreate their physical assets virtually and position themselves to meet and engage with consumers in web3. With the same core technology, they can go from conceptualising and prototyping products, all the way to merchandising into virtual showrooms and collaborations, and then outward to marketing and advertising on the digital devices that people are experiencing web3 from.
Camera advised brands to make virtual assets as high-fidelity as possible, and interoperable across platforms and devices. When it comes to operating within gaming spaces, Hackl stressed that “it is not about the brand, it is about the player.” Whatever brands choose to build within these platforms, there has to be value for the player to want to interact. 
When creating a web3 strategy, brands should also remember that community and co-creation is at the heart of this technology. Retain a strong sense of brand discourse, but also be attentive to what the community is saying. “Technologies will change, but … the sense of togetherness is going to remain,” Dr Casimiro predicted. Hackl concurred, adding, “These are long-term commitments to your community, not a one-off money grab.”
Lastly, Sachitanand warns against brands being tempted to follow the herd simply because of “the metaverse gold rush”. “Make a brand-specific plan … Decide where you want to be, and how you want to be there,” he said. “[Do] not stampede into every platform just because you think it’s smart for your brand.”
Click here to watch the full APAC edition of this year’s Meta Festival.


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