A Major Marketing Game Changer
Wanda Kenton Smith
To stay on top of emerging marketing trends and technology, I regularly scour and voraciously consume news. During a recent internet deep-dive, the hottest topic I found was the evolution of the metaverse.
If you’ve heard the term but can’t put your finger on what the metaverse is, you’re far from alone — and you need to learn the basics, because it’s a fascinating digital place with all kinds of marketing and other possibilities for the marine industry.
Neal Stephenson, in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash, coined the word metaverse. It described a 3D virtual world that displaced the physical world. Fast-forward 30 years, and Stephenson’s vision has morphed into today’s fastest-growing virtual reality landscape.
Social media trailblazer Mark Zuckerberg has embraced this future, rebranding Facebook as Meta, and investing more than $10 billion into creating a virtual world that integrates gaming, social media, augmented reality and cryptocurrency, complete with VR goggles and smart glasses. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “The metaverse is here, and it’s not only transforming how we see the world but how we participate in it — from the factory floor to the meeting room.” Google and Samsung have made heavy investments in cloud computing and virtual reality companies in preparation for the metaverse evolution. Multimedia leader The Verge says a key benefit of the metaverse will be users having a sense that they’re physically engaging with places and people, instead of viewing them.
In essence, the metaverse is shaping up to become the digital version of life, with humans appearing as avatars and living in a virtual world with homes, offices, businesses, real estate, entertainment, events, retail shops, products, services, gaming and more. Big Tech is going big guns on lucrative digital platforms that incorporate metaverse components such as 3D computer graphics, customized avatars, gaming and non-gaming elements, social communities and interactions, cryptocurrencies and NFTs (non-fungible tokens). For the uninitiated, Merriam-Webster defines NFTs as “a unique digital identifier that cannot be copied, substituted or subdivided, that is recorded in a blockchain, and that is used to certify authenticity and ownership (as of a specific digital asset and specific rights relating to it).”
The metaverse is here, and it’s not only transforming how we see the world but how we participate in it —from the factory floor to the meeting room.
Peter Janssen, a longtime marine journalist and editor of Cruising Odyssey, recently reported on the sale of the virtual “Metaflower Super Mega Yacht” for $650,000 on Sandbox, the highest-ever purchase on the site. The Sandbox “Fantasy Collection” also sports speedboats and personal watercraft, private access to the “Fantasy Marina,” and a high-end real estate development with 100 NFT islands.
Some big brands joining the robust NFT bandwagon include Atari, Taco Bell, Nike, Coca-Cola, Lamborghini, Warner Music Group and Charmin. Even with the realization of the metaverse still years away, the projections are compelling. Social.com says the metaverse market is expected to reach nearly $800 billion by 2024 and is estimated to become a trillion-dollar revenue opportunity for companies in many sectors.
The Verge cites Facebook’s estimated sale of 8 million Oculus Quest 2 headsets to date, with several dozen virtual-reality games easily banking over a million each in sales.
Consider the CryptoKitties rave, a blockchain game where players can buy, collect, trade and breed a limited edition of virtual cats, some with highly valued “DNA.” According to Investopedia, the game has attracted 1.5 million users and turned $40 million in transactions, with some crypto fat cats fetching more than $300,000 each (average purchase: $65).
To join this virtual gold rush, all you need is a high-end computer with a stable internet connection, cryptocurrency and a virtual reality headset. I’ve recently made my splash with a cool new 3D avatar and am beyond wowed by what I’ve seen … and how much there is to learn.
I’m pleased to see that a few marine trendsetters are already making headway into the metaverse. NauticEd, a leader in on-water and digital sailing education, has a partnership with MarineVerse, an Australian-based pioneer of virtual reality sailing simulation. They’re offering the first virtual reality sailing course. In NauticEd’s “Self Mastery,” players are transported onto a realistic vessel where they learn how to trim the sails, handle different points of sail and manage boat speed, all while immediately seeing a 3D impact on the boat’s behavior. Future courses are expected to feature docking, maneuvering within a marina, night sailing and heavy-weather tactics.
Grant Headifen, founder and global director of NauticEd, says virtual reality is revolutionary for boater education because it delivers what he calls the big three: theory knowledge, practical skills and lots of experience, all packaged in a fun and immersive experience within a safe, non-intimidating training environment.
MarineVerse has also launched a MarineVerse Cup app, which includes an online sailing community where players can race with others from around the world, and where newbies can give virtual sailing a whirl.
Another marine company in the early stages of navigating the metaverse is Correct Craft. CEO Bill Yeargin recently posted a Meta Marine graphic with the tagline: Making Digital Life Better. He tells me that Correct Craft is collaborating with virtual reality developers to protect and promote its brands in this new digital environment, while seeking ways to create a more fun ownership experience for customers.
“Our team has spent a lot of time this year working to understand the metaverse and non-fungible tokens,” he said. “While the metaverse is not yet unified into one comprehensive world, elements of the metaverse already exist, and people are spending millions of hours there. Brands will have a huge opportunity to promote themselves and even sell digital assets.”
Yeargin said his team also wants to collaborate with others in the marine industry who want to be leaders in the space.
On yet another front, superyacht builders, designers and brokers are also dabbling in the metaverse, developing everything from NFT “smart contracts” for sales, to keeping records about a yacht’s maintenance that can be part of a digital resale package.
The potential is staggering. How about a digital showcase where new boats can be launched … and water-tested? Smart retailers will be able to create fully immersive buying experiences. How about a virtual 3D boat show with innovative formats and entertainment? In an era where we’re grappling with supply chain and product inventory constraints, we can begin to generate new revenue streams in the digital world.
“Marketing on the metaverse will be as important in the years ahead as it is today to have a website,” Yeargin says. “Eventually, everyone will be doing it, but we believe there is an opportunity for those who are willing to step out and lead in this area.”
This article was originally published in the November 2022 issue.