Virtual Concerts Present A New Metaverse Pathway For Brand Marketers

As brands assess the relevance of the metaverse to their marketing goals, sponsored virtual concerts present a novel consumer engagement opportunity.


Even after pandemic lockdowns ended, consumers were still interested in attending concerts virtually, at rates much higher than pre-pandemic levels. That shift has helped accelerate artists’ and music labels’ efforts to monetize virtual events. As a result, the global market for virtual events is projected to exceed $617 billion by 2030 due partly to consumers’ willingness to shift spending to virtual reality experiences, a market segment estimated to surpass $227 billion by 2029. Researchers estimate that by 2026, 25 percent of consumers will spend at least an hour each day in a metaverse space for work, shopping, or entertainment. In addition, a recent survey revealed that 56 percent of Gen Z and 61 percent of millennials are interested in attending a virtual concert.


Roblox And Warner Music Group Collaboration May Signal A Trend

Travis Scott’s nine-minute concert in the metaverse resulted in $20 million in revenue – twice what Amazon earned per minute that same year. Likewise, Ariana Grande’s Fortnite concert reportedly drew 78 million viewers, making her a seven-figure payday. The connection between gaming platforms and the prospect of millions of engaged fans in one spot is not an accident. Games like Fortnite give music labels access to millions of engaged fans and an opening to introduce artists to a diverse audience only found together when gaming. That trend has not been missed by entertainment brands seeking to capitalize on consumers’ growing interest in live virtual experiences.

Recently Warner Music Group (WMG) announced the launch of Rhythm City, a music-themed social roleplay experience for Roblox. Developed in partnership with Gamefam, Rhythm City will introduce Roblox audiences to new artists and music through social roleplay in tandem, granting them access to exclusive digital items.

“As our lives become increasingly digital, exciting opportunities are opening up for artists and fans to engage and interact,” stated Oana Ruxandra, Chief Digital Officer & EVP, Business Development at WMG, in a press release. “WMG is focused on facilitating the foundations of these new experiences by building and experimenting across evolving ecosystems. This partnership with Gamefam sees WMG creating a place for artists and audiences to unite to define and contextualize their communities within living spaces.”

Roblox users can role-play as virtual music producers, DJs, and other characters. In addition, WMG stated that Rhythm City would also host virtual concerts and events featuring WMG artists.

Recently, Fortnite raised $3 billion to expand its efforts to innovate within the metaverse. Investors, like the entertainment brands seeking to engage gamers on Fortnite, likely see gaming platforms as a unique opportunity to create brand affinity and test new options for driving revenue in virtual spaces. That led live music events like Coachella to launch Fortnite events and branded virtual merchandise and entertainment networks like IHeartRadio to launch virtual worlds on the platform. In addition, it has led to new concerts from other music labels, like the recent Kid Laroi concert on Fornite, where the artist released new tracks as the narration for a video experience that rewarded viewers with XP and exclusive DLCs. 


The Takeaway For Marketers

Millions of consumers game daily. Building relationships on these platforms requires marketers to develop content that feels native, immersive and engaging – just like a game. Music is powerful for igniting a sense of community and drawing fans to new platforms. However, the most successful live entertainment experiences don’t have to feature an Ariana Grande-level talent. Marketers have been building virtual experiences on Fortnite for years, and leveraging music fandom is a natural evolution to an intelligent engagement strategy.

Analysts: Gaming Growth Expected In 2023 Despite Recession Fears

Despite economic uncertainty, analysts from sources as diverse as the World Economic Forum and Morgan Stanley are suggesting that the gaming industry will maintain growth in 2023.


Analysts And Investors Think Consumers Will Keep Gaming – Even In A Recession 

According to a recent post by The World Economic Forum, the millions of consumers who used gaming to cope with the uncertainty and isolation of the pandemic have continued to game, now for enjoyment and as an integral part of their lifestyles in 2023.

“So many existing and new gamers splashed out on games, consoles, and other kit during the pandemic that the market expanded by 26% between 2019 and 2021,” the post reads. That’s driven investment in the industry and a predicted boon in 2023. “The game industry’s swimming in cash,” Professor Joost van Dreunen of New York University told The New York Times at the height of the boom. “It’s just raining money on these people, on these companies,” the article states. More than 650 gaming M&A or investment deals were announced or closed in the first six months of 2022, and gaming companies, such as Epic Games, raised billions on the strength of the market, according to recent research.

That tracks with a recent analysis from Morgan Stanley, which states that the gaming industry will likely continue to grow in 2023, even as many consumers face the prospect of a recession. According to the report, this has been a historical trend, and the firm believes this will continue.

“After a sluggish 2022, the video gaming industry is set to unlock new levels of growth next year as more high-budget, high-profile games and next-generation consoles hit the market,” the report reads.


New Content Will Drive Growth In 2023

Morgan Stanley believes that 2023 will likely be “an inflection year” for the gaming industry.  

“Video game development teams are seeing better productivity and have improved efficiency. At the same time, titles that were strategically pushed back are now looking more likely to launch in 2023,” stated Morgan Stanley research analyst Seyon Park. “We see an abundance of quality content as the single most important factor behind our expectations for a strong market recovery heading into the upcoming holiday season.”

That analysis echoes a Bloomberg report which states that the gaming industry’s 4.2 percent decline in growth compared to 2021 reflects the delays in sought-after gaming titles. However, that will change in 2023, the article states.

“Now, 2023 is absolutely stacked: Nintendo Co.’s The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Electronic Arts Inc.’s Dead Space, Square Enix Holdings Co.’s Final Fantasy XVI, Activision Blizzard Inc.’s Diablo IV and others are due out this year,” the post reads. “The lineup of fresh releases will likely contribute to growth in consumer spending on games this year.”

The Majority Of Consumers Are Gaming During The Holidays

A recent survey by YouGov reveals that families are gaming to reconnect with distant loved ones, connect with kids and keep stress to a minimum.


Games Are Helping Distant Friends And Family Members Bond

According to the survey, which Xbox commissioned, 58 percent of consumers surveyed stated they use multiplayer gaming to connect with distant relatives and friends who can’t make it back home for the holidays. That can be important for families and friends who won’t be traveling this year. A recent study found that 43 percent of Americans will not be traveling to see loved ones this holiday season, and 40 percent won’t participate in any large gatherings either. The reason millions of Americans are staying home isn’t just because of a fear of COVID or other public health concerns; 37 percent state it is because of concerns over inflation, according to a recent survey by Deloitte. That means consumers who can’t be there in person with friends and family will likely spend a lot of time online and will likely invest in ways to make virtual interactions more engaging. Recently, Microsoft began testing a family plan option for its popular Xbox Game Pass in Columbia and Ireland. The family pass would allow a subscription to be shared with up to four people. 


Consumers Are Using Gaming To Deal With Holiday Stress 

According to a recent survey, with 64 percent of us concerned about our finances this holiday season, it isn’t surprising that families want to escape stress together through gaming. The YouGov study revealed that 54 percent of consumers use gaming to deal with holiday stress, and there’s a good amount of science behind that answer. A 2020 survey showed that games can produce positive stress release and allow social interactions which, although virtual, can deliver powerful benefits. Those interactions can not only help relieve stress for adults, but they can also help younger people deal with the stress of isolation when away from friends, according to University of Saskatchewan computer science professor Regan Mandryk, who directed the research in 2020.

“When (kids) can’t (interact) physically, they can do that right now in a game like Minecraft that allows them to build together, to be creative, to express themselves in the way that they feel most natural to express themselves.” In addition, researchers have seen positive results as therapists have used games such as Minecraft as a stress-relief tool for several years, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

Learn more about gaming during the holidays.

Trend Set: Analyzing Gen Z’s Spending Habits, Media Consumption

In this week’s roundup from Ayzenberg’s Ashley Otah: how brands can engage Gen Zers and the impact TikTok may have on the journalism industry.


Snapchat

Consumer habits and desires are rapidly changing, as noted in Snapchat’s latest report, which outlines Gen Z’s spending power, as well as how and why they consume digital content. Among the key findings, 63 percent of Gen Zers surveyed favor brands that have fair labor policies and approximately three-fourths say that they are loyal to companies that speak to social change. Also of note, a need to stay up-to-date is a big driver behind content consumption by Gen Z, with members of this generational cohort seeking content that aligns with their values and lifts their spirits. The numbers indicate that this demographic demands change—a great finding to bring into the new year.

Vans

A pair of giant Vans on wheels took to the streets of New York for the shoe manufacturer’s latest activation with popular NYC influencers in tow. The oversized replicas, designed after Van’s latest additions to their MTE collection, surprised many and gave fans and passersby alike a chance to get up close and personal, enter the shoes and even check out what the inside would feel like. The pop-up highlights the power of experiential marketing and thinking outside the (shoe) box.

Striking Findings From 2022

More Americans are getting their news on TikTok, especially a growing number of adults, according to Pew Research Center findings from this year. A third of U.S. adult TikTok users say they regularly get their news there, up 22 percent from two years ago, contrasting the steady decline in consumption documented on other platforms like Facebook—though Instagram has also seen a slight boost. This information can help brands and consumers understand the trajectory of journalism and the future of the industry.

Trend Set: Brands Innovate On Social To Drive Traffic, Sales

This week, Ayzenberg trend-watcher Ashley Otah examines how retailers are looking to social media for inspiration on how to engage shoppers directly and even deliver deals right to their phones.


Amazon

Amazon rolls out Inspire, a TikTok-like in-app shopping feed featuring personalized photo and video content based on customer input. Shoppers will be able to peruse and shop for the items they see on their feed. Like other platforms, Amazon aims to seamlessly merge the shopping and social media experience to facilitate shopping. This is something tech companies have struggled with in the past, however, we’re seeing a resurgence this season. One thing is certain: Only the winning features stand out and stay alive in the race for consumers’ attention. 

Glossier

With locations in London, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and more, Glossier is no stranger to brick-and-mortar operations. Not only has the brand succeeded in the “real world,” but their social presence has also exploded as they amassed nearly 3 million Instagram followers — it hasn’t stopped growing yet. The physical stores allow customers to mix, match and try things on in real-time, an element that online offerings miss. Although the world continues to step into a mixture of physical and digital, it is still essential for brands to have an omnichannel strategy to stay alive and thriving. 

Logitech

In its latest organic campaign, Logitech turns to social to get real. As the holiday season buzzes, brands are finding new ways to connect with their audiences. This is why the technology brand is using BeReal for its “12 Days of Deals.” This campaign allows users to get exclusive deals while using the app in its native form, helping the brand reach new, younger audiences. Meeting consumers where they are is as important as ever and will continue to help differentiate brands now and in the future. 

Trend Set: Global Brands Center Customer Needs In New Campaigns

Ayzenberg trend-watcher Ashley Otah explores the ways in which some of the world’s biggest brands are centering the experiences and needs of customers, building community and promoting inclusivity.


Apple

About one in six people worldwide experience significant disability. And yet, the representation of people with disabilities in advertising and beyond remains abysmal. Ahead of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Apple’s latest campaign, “The Greatest,” centers the experiences of disabled people, showcasing their daily lives, talents, celebrations and more, including how Apple technology assists them in accomplishing tasks. The video exemplifies a broader effort from the technology industry to embrace inclusion. Although there is a long way to go, the ad underscores the strides made to expand accessibility for all.

Spotify

The end of the year heralds the arrival of many things—holiday gatherings, friendly outings and even snow, for some—but it also signals the arrival of Spotify Wrapped. With new features to analyze users’ “Listening Personality” and other usage metrics, the yearly drop keeps audiences on their toes and coming back for more. Its shareability, personalization and community-building attributes are just a few things that boost the success of Spotify Wrapped. Users’ desire to look inward while connecting outwardly is exemplified by the campaign, and although it would be quite a feat to duplicate or defeat, Spotify’s ability to build community provides a lesson all brands can learn from.

McDonald’s

Everything is tastier in Texas—and McDonald’s knows that. The company recently launched a new test restaurant in the Lone Star State designed for the diner on the go. Customers will be able to order ahead and pick up their orders at a dedicated conveyor, skipping the drive-thru lane. The restaurant also features a pick-up room for delivery drivers to retrieve orders and kiosks where customers can place orders to go. This new endeavor shows McDonald’s understanding of consumers’ changing behaviors. Understanding and reshaping the customer experience in a rapidly evolving landscape can elevate brands above the rest.

Trend Set: Brands Go All Out For The World Cup

Ayzenberg trendsetter Ashley Otah examines some of the ways brands are leaning on nostalgia, going global and trending on our timelines ahead of the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.


McDonald’s

Ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, McDonald’s launches its latest campaign, “Wanna Go To McDonald’s?” in over 75 countries. Win or lose, rain or shine, McDonald’s seems to be the common thread and the only answer for those going through the ups and downs of the worldwide championship. The campaign shows the connection between places near and far and how they share one thing in common at the root of it all. Although difficult to pull off, the brand’s largest campaign shows unity goes a long way. Whatever you call the Golden Arches, the campaign highlights that going global isn’t just a hot trend, it’s the way of the future.

Ted Lasso

The fictional soccer coach from the hit Apple TV+ show takes to the big leagues to show support for the United States Men’s National Soccer Team with a slew of billboards showing words of support in the hometowns of players and coaches. Written in Ted Lasso’s voice, the out-of-home campaign appears more than fitting. The endeavor is an excellent example of leaning into your audience and niche while staying true to the product and industry.

Nike

Footballverse,” Nike’s newest campaign, brings together the past and present like no other. The star-studded four-minute spot features a cast of world-class footballers plucked from different points in time going head-to-head duking it out on the pitch. In addition, the ad cultivates a space for new beginnings—an attribute that goes beyond the world of goals, fans and flags. With a nod to the future of football, Nike shows that anything is limitless.

a.network Takes Home Six Clio Awards For Xbox, Minecraft, Apex Legends And Rocket League Work

Nightcap and Ayzenberg Group, as part of a.network, won in multiple categories at this year’s Clio Entertainment Awards. The organization took home one gold, two silver and three bronze Clio Entertainment awards, given in recognition of excellence, creativity and innovation in advertising, design and communications across a variety of mediums. This is the second year in a row that the network has been honored with multiple Clio awards.

Co-Chief Creative Officers at a.network Matt Bretz and Gary Goodman pointed to a dedication to using data to understand trends and fandom—as well as the support of longtime partners—as underlying factors behind this year’s winning entries.

“For the first half of my career, I did pretty well going with my gut because that was all we had,” Goodman said. “I see the even higher rate of success we’ve had at this year’s Clios as a reflection of the power of our data science to tell us what’s on trend, in combination with great clients like Xbox.”

Ayzenberg Group won gold and silver in the voiceover and gameplay trailer categories, respectively, for the Minecraft on PC Game Pass campaign. And in the visual identity category, Ayzenberg Group took home the silver for the Xbox Design Lab campaign and bronze for Xbox’s 20th anniversary promotion.

“One of our strengths is integrated storytelling which, of course, demands excellence at every touchpoint where fans meet brands,” Bretz said. “So it’s especially gratifying to have wins across the visual identity, social media and trailer categories for Xbox.”

Nightcap, whose tagline is “Work That Thinks,” took home bronze Clios for social media and CG work on game titles Apex Legends Mobile and Rocket League Sideswipe.

“I’m so proud of our team at Nightcap for these two Clio wins,” said Scott Cookson, EVP and executive creative director at Ayzenberg Group. “Their endless passion for the work and tireless drive to be the best in the industry is inspiring.”

Nightcap Director of Strategy Rebecca Baroukh also spoke on the announcement. “These wins are not only a testament to our strong collaborative relationship with our partners but also our incredible team,” Baroukh said. “They have worked tirelessly over the last year to create thoughtful work that clearly resonates with our audiences and Clio’s judges alike!”

Those partners and key people include, but are not limited, to Mojang Studios, Xbox Marcom and the PC Game Pass team, Psyonix, Respawn Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Fergus Lynch, Sam Brody, Craig McNary, Abhi Shah, Jessica Freeman, Omar Smith, Egil Gloersen, Lauren Schuur, Emily Orrson, Tom Stone, Maggie Adams, Ryan Zhao, Tim Coombs, Coco Luk, Josh Munsee and Tripleclix.


GOLD

SILVER

BRONZE

Trend Set: Gaming, Melody Ehsani And YouTube Shorts

Ayzenberg trendsetter Ashley Otah takes a look at new research that shows most of us are gamers, among other major trends this week.


Gaming

Gaming—it’s for everyone. In new research from Activision Blizzard Media, 66 percent of those surveyed said they had played video games with others either online or in person. In addition, 62 percent of participants said they opted to play video games with others because it’s fun to share the experience with someone else. Lastly, 84 percent of gamers play mobile titles at least once a week, primarily because of accessibility. The key is to carve out space for brands to harness this power to fuel interaction and engagement. As gaming culture continues to boom, it helps connect people, drive communities and create positive conversations globally. 


Beats By Dre x Melody Ehsani

In a new collaboration, Beats by Dre and fashion designer Melody Ehsani transport viewers into a new world with powerful animation. The film’s mix of music and flair encapsulates what it means to be yourself while taking steps to elevate the game. The result highlights how bringing a new spin on a classic can take brands to a new level. 


YouTube Shorts

YouTube is taking Shorts to the big screen. What does that mean? Users will be able to watch the short-form videos on their smart TV, gaming console or other streaming devices. This pivot is similar to that of its counterpart, TikTok, which helped the platform reach wider audiences. The at-home viewing experience adds another dimension to the easily surfable platforms. This move showcases a mixing of mediums and, if tailored just right, can bring new life into booming ideas. 

Why Multiplayer Game ‘Hell Is Others’ May Signal A Pivot In Brand Storytelling

Hell is Others, a new online multiplayer release by A List Games and Italy-based game studios Strelka Games and Yonder, represents a shift in brand storytelling focusing on the mechanics of user engagement through the eyes of the consumer.


Hell Is Others Is A 2D PvP Multiplayer Game For The Bingeable Content Era

Released on Oct. 20 on Steam™, Hell is Others offers players 60 hours of storytelling—that’s longer than The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the notoriously challenging Dark Souls. The game, which is a player-versus-player (PvP) shooter adventure, seems tailor-made for the “Stranger Things” and “Severanceera, as the most fantastical elements of the story are somehow relatable not simply because of character development, but because the themes—centering on an uncertain yet all-consuming work experience that seems to never end—are all too familiar. Despite its length, the storytelling is taut, engaging and addictive, with a balance between horror and character development that makes it feel less like lore and more like a string of can’t-miss episodes.

Like The Legend of Zelda, Hell is Others presents a story with a traditional hero’s journey at its core, but that journey has been translated into a multi-layered allegory of modernity à la Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times.” There is a main character bearing a name suspiciously similar to that of Adam Smith, considered the founding father of modern capitalism, and of course, the title Hell is Others appears to be a sly nod to existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre’s play “No Exit,” about hell as an existence trapped in an endless cycle of repetition, forced into a cramped space with others unable to exit.

In the game, users play as Adam Smithson, a character isolated in a cramped apartment who must descend into the city to scavenge for resources to feed his sole charge, a plant that lives on blood and produces an unusual fruit—bullets that fit more than 50 weapons. In Century City, where Adam Smithson lives, blood is currency, fuel and sustenance, and in the fight for blood, Smithson engages with other players and fights monsters who seek to destroy him or steal the blood and weapons that he and his plant need to survive.

Hell is Others is a passion project for many of us,” said Strelka Games CEO Pietro De Grandi. “Each monster was handcrafted, each moment of the story was written to create a deep and intense emotional reaction, and each pixel was lovingly placed to create the world for our audience.”

The game is unique for other reasons beyond its dystopian semiotics; its marketing campaign focused on user experience from the consumer’s point of view with a strategy focused on TikTok.


A Brand Storytelling Shift: From The “Voice Of The Customer” To The “Eye Of The Consumer”

Brands often say they incorporate the “voice of the customer” (VoC) in developing new products and directing long-term marketing strategies. In the world of gaming, a subtle shift has occurred toward marketing games not just as continuing or nascent franchises but as experiences. That means translating VoC into the language of experience—what fans want to see and feel when they play a game. Hell is Others took this a step further and used TikTok as a vehicle to promote ‘Let’s Plays’ that focused on the mechanics of user engagement—what the game felt like and why those experiences were unique and binge-worthy.

“We managed to exploit many small game mechanics that are interesting and attention-grabbing, such as watering plants with blood and displaying the heartbeat of other players, said De Grandi. “We really leaned in hard on the surreal nature of Hell is Others. The juxtaposition of a crazy monster and upbeat music tends to do well with our audience. Further, the game is littered with pop-culture references, which we try to highlight in many of our videos.”

The Hell is Others TikTok page, which currently has over 1.8 million likes, has gameplay videos with as many as 3.2 million views.

According to De Grandi, TikTok was a perfect channel to showcase the game’s storytelling and the physics of gameplay.

“Unlike other, more curated campaigns and channels, TikTok is very organic,” De Grandi said. “More strongly branded content that may work on YouTube fails on TikTok. So, we really have to speak with the voice of our consumer.” The game, produced by Strelka Games and Yonder, was released by A List Games, a live-service game publisher.