So you want to build your brand in the metaverse but dont know what to do? Clinique had the same issue. The company wants to “join the metaverse,” but it didn’t want to do so in a cringe-worthy way.
As a result, they dubbed Cathy Hackl the “Godmother of the Metaverse.” What are her credentials? Hackl, Futures Intelligence Group’s “Chief Metaverse Officer,” has been working in metaverse-related sectors for about a decade – or since the birth of meta-time.
Take a look at what Steven Spielberg has to say about it. Spielberg collaborated on “Ready Player One” with HTC Vive, a virtual reality headset firm, where Hackl functioned as “VR Evangelist.”
She worked at Magic Leap, an augmented reality firm, with Neal Stephenson, the man who created the term metaverse. She also wrote pieces for Forbes almost a year before the current craze, such as “The Metaverse Is Coming And It’s A Very Big Deal.”
Hackl quit a secure job at Amazon Web Services to “take a large gamble on the metaverse,” as he put it. She now consults with companies like Clinique on how to position themselves in this odd new world. (Vogue business gave her a good review for her work with Clinique.)
The Godmother explains why the metaverse is bigger than the crypto community thinks, why avatars are quickly becoming “emotional surrogates of ourselves,” and how “everything” will be connected in the future.
Even within the cryptosphere, the term “metaverse” can signify ten different things to ten different people. How do you convey it to clients when you first start working with them?
Cathy Hackl: I usually begin by going back in time. As a result of Web 1 connecting information, you now have access to the internet. And how has your brand changed as a result of this? It very likely did. Web 2 brought people together, resulting in social media and the sharing economy. Has your brand’s image been altered as a result of this? Isn’t it obvious that it did?
Now we’re in the process of transitioning from Web 2 to Web 3. People, places, and things – or people, spaces, and assets – are all connected by Web 3. And, contrary to popular belief, those people, spaces, and things can sometimes exist in a fully virtual environment.
But it will also be present in our everyday lives, although with some amount of augmentation, most likely via a wearable. As a result, Web 3 is enabling the establishment of the metaverse, which is a merging of the physical and digital worlds. Consider it the successor of the internet’s next big thing. It’s almost as if your digital life is catching up to your physical one.
That’s quite a panoramic view. So it incorporates augmented reality from standard platforms as well as blockchain projects like Decentraland?
Yeah. Even Snapchat’s use of the camera for augmented reality is a metaverse game. All of this is a part of the metaverse. Working in VR [virtual reality] hardware, spatial computing, and augmented reality technology has given me a really broad perspective.
When individuals believe the metaverse is just virtual reality or totally immersive, they are mistaken. That’s a rather restricted perspective, in my opinion. And it’s a pretty bleak one.
With such a broad description, I’m betting blockchain metaverse projects make only a minor portion of the “metaverse pie”?
It’s still small, but it’s growing. You’ve got SoftBank spearheading the $93 million Series B investment [for The Sandbox]. I believe Upland just raised $18 million at a $300 million valuation. Many of these blockchain projects, such as NFT [non-fungible token] gaming metaverses, are rapidly expanding.
What role does blockchain play in your metaverse vision?
Isn’t it true that without blockchain, you can’t create the open, decentralized metaverse that so many of us fantasize about? The underlying component is blockchain. When it comes to digital asset ownership and digital identification, NFTs serve as a stepping stone into the metaverse. How do you make that happen? NFTs play a significant role in this equation.
What is the greatest opportunity for brands?
“Is direct-to-avatar the next direct-to-consumer?” is one of the main questions I aim to answer. It’s stepping-stones all over again. We use emojis instead of words when texting; we don’t even write anymore. An emoji is a symbol that we use to symbolize a message. Emojis — and, by extension, avatars – are evolving into emotional proxies for us.
It’s a great deal to be able to portray yourself as an avatar. It’s a moment of self-expression and self-exploration because it’s a moment of self-expression. What role do brands play in this? So, I guess I’ll have to dress up my avatar.
Maybe I’ll wear Supreme to make a statement. Fashion and culture are inextricably linked. Isn’t that how your avatar appears? What does it resemble, and how does it dress? There will be several prospects for brands. They will also get opportunity to interact with the younger generation.
I can see why certain firms, particularly in the wearables and fashion industries, would want to participate in the avatar game. But what about brands that aren’t as well-known? How does a food company make a metaverse play, for example?
People are claiming that Chipotle is to blame for the [Roblox] outage. (Let’s be clear: they weren’t the ones who caused the outage.) However, a company like Chipotle may enter the game and say, “We’re going to do a burrito, and we’re going to give away $1 million worth of burritos.” That type of thing interests and entertains me, and the audience is involved and enjoys it.
What do you think the biggest roadblocks are in the way of the metaverse becoming more mainstream?
There are numerous tasks that must be completed. When you consider how many people have [digital] wallets, the number is actually rather tiny. It’s also a matter of generation. My children get the concept of digital ownership in a way that perhaps previous generations do not.
They are enthusiastic about purchasing digital assets and skins. “Why can’t I take this asset that I paid so much money for in Roblox and transfer it to Fortnite?” my kids will wonder when they become older. They’ll come to expect it sooner or later.
As a result, you gain a greater respect for NFTs and a desire for open worlds. What more does the metaverse require to get off the ground?
Computing power will be in high demand. And, of course, you’re dealing with chip supply chain concerns right now, which may cause delays.
There should be a backup plan in case something goes wrong.
To understand where this is going, there needs to be a lot more education throughout firms — not just the brand team. And, for businesses, there is already a talent battle, making it difficult to acquire new employees.
When you realize that every organization will need a metaverse plan, hiring becomes even more difficult. That’s why I teamed up with Republic Realm to launch the Republic Realm Academy, a professional development program for executives.
What role does Facebook have in this? What are your thoughts on Zuckerberg’s meta-play?
I accept both the good and the terrible. It is, after all, a validation of the years of labor that many of us have put in. So, that’ll do it. On the other hand, Facebook’s use of the term “meta” in such a literal sense casts some doubt and casts a pall over the metaverse. Confusion is a major issue.
I was having breakfast with several speakers at an event. When I sat down, someone inquired about my occupation. “I do metaverse strategies,” I explained. “Isn’t that Facebook?” they asked.
[Laughs.] Yeah. So, I believe there is some element of ambiguity. I’m not sure how many people discovered the word meta as a result of the announcement that Facebook had rebranded to meta.
How long until a “Ready Player One”-style metaverse emerges?
First and foremost, I will state that “The Oasis” [Ready Player One’s completely immersive platform] is not what we should strive for. That’s a really dystopic scenario, where the real world has gone to s**t and you have to flee. [Laughs.] I don’t want to be able to escape reality, but I do want the metaverse to be a great place to visit when I want to have a good time – rather than instagram.
So, when do we expect to arrive?
I don’t believe anyone can place a time or date on it, but I will say that this decade has been one of construction and innovation. We’re all putting it through its paces and trying to figure out how it all works. This is the decade for laying those foundations.
It’s a time of transition and opportunity for creators. Now is the time to start constructing. Now is the time to start deciphering what this means. What are our plans? And what does our firm or brand need to do to be future-ready?