All the hype surrounding the metaverse might seem like a good incentive for marketers to just jump on the bandwagon and try anything, follow trends, see what sticks. But digital media expert Patrik Wilkens says that's not the way to go.
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"I think it's really important that you keep in mind to be authentic," he says on the latest episode of Marketing Smarts. "There are some examples where people try to artificially attach themselves to something.... Usually those experiments fail, and they're not successful."
Patrik describes the authenticity phenomenon in terms of one of TheSoul Publishing's original characters: Polar, a kind of digital pop star à la Hatsune Miku.
"Looking at Polar, for example, it's more important for Polar to be authentic in her native environment...rather than whether or not this is a real person. Obviously, we have a team behind Polar that is creating the music, that is creating the animations, that is creating the voice and everything, that are integrating her into the various games."
The process of putting that kind of content into the metaverse, Patrik says, was a calculated move involving test videos and measuring views.
"We started with a very small proof of concept," Patrik says. "We actually took four or five of our YouTube videos and placed them inside [virtual reality game] Avakin Life.... We then compared the watch time, we compared how many people are watching it in what geographies, and what we did find is that the viewing behavior...is actually very similar to the performance of real people sitting in front of their PCs or using their phones and consuming our content."
So, not so fast, marketers: Your metaverse plan should be fully formed before you dive in.
"Everybody is talking metaverse and that it seems to be like a magic key that solves all of your problems. It's definitely not," Patrik explains. "It is something that needs to be evaluated for each company."
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George B. Thomas: Are you ready for a different destination, a journey that you may have not been on, a place that you might actually feel a little uncomfortable? Yes, I may have made that a little bit grandiose. Today, we are traveling into the metaverse.
Patrik Wilkens is going to talk to us today about how digital creators—you, the B2B marketers—should navigate the metaverse. We're going to talk about what keeps him up at night pertaining to B2B marketers in the metaverse, what the heck the metaverse is, how you can get started, why it's important now and in the future, and there are some great success stories along the way, not to mention hurdles, potholes, success, and words of wisdom.
Patrik Wilkens is the vice-president of operations at TheSoul Publishing where he sets, implements, and drives short- and long-term operational and business development strategies across the company. Patrik also spearheads numerous initiatives across the company. These include growing additional revenue streams via licensing and D2C products, increasing the media company's owned and operated content portfolio through acquisitions and the continuous drive toward operational excellence.
Based at the company headquarters in Cyprus, Patrik brings more than 14 years of experience as an executive leader in the digital and entertainment industries. As vice president of mobile operations at Spil Games, he was a key player in the turnaround of the business and subsequent sale to Azerion. At Azerion, Patrik continued as vice-president of mobile operations and oversaw the integration of Spil Games into Azerion.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a conversation of a different color. I think that you're going to see some things that maybe you haven't seen or thought of before. That's enough shenanigans. Let's get into the good stuff.
I'm super excited because this conversation is actually a conversation that I knew was coming, maybe made me a little bit sick to think about because I know how little I know about it, but that's why we talk to the experts. Today, we're talking with Patrik Wilkens about how digital creators should navigate the metaverse. I am super ready to dig into the good stuff.
Patrik, I'd like to start with, because you're in the space, you're thinking about this, you're probably levels above me and some of the Marketing Smarts listeners, what keeps you up at night when you think about creators, B2B marketers, and this metaverse conversation?
Patrik Wilkens: Great point. What keeps me up at night is really the opportunities that the metaverse has in store for our industry, for virtual influencers, for B2B marketing. I think it is an environment that hasn't been explored fully, I don't think it will be explored fully for the next couple of years, and I think it will develop. So, yes, staying ahead of the curve, trying to experiment, and finding new ways to engage with your audience is what keeps me and the teams here at TheSoul Publishing spinning.
George: I love this idea of, you used the word opportunity. I am going to go off the beaten path real quick here. You mentioned opportunity. What would you say to the creator or marketer who is like, "Opportunity, good talk, but I'm super scared to dip my toe in the water because I don't even understand," what would you say to them?
Patrik: They're in good company. I don't think a lot of people fully understand the metaverse. It is really everchanging. What the metaverse has been a year and a half ago and two years ago is very different to what people would consider the metaverse today. I'm pretty sure that in two years it's going to be quite different to what you and I are discussing today.
When somebody is nervous and says they don't have a lot of experience, my advice would be jump right in and explore it. The audience, the fans, the people that are using the metaverse are quite forgiving. They would appreciate people trying to push the envelope and try new things, so you'll fit right in.
George: I love this idea of an exploratory mindset, of going in and just seeing what it is and testing it. I also love that you brought up it's different now than it was two years ago, and it will be different probably in two years. Right now, as we sit, it's February 21, 2023. How the heck do you explain to somebody what the metaverse is? In a question, can you tell me what is the metaverse?
Patrik: My definition of the metaverse... I think it's important to differentiate that the metaverse in five years from now might be this holistic entity where you move it with an avatar, that you can jump between multiple instances, gaming instances, e-commerce instances, shopping instances, social media instances.
Today, the metaverse I would say is fragmented. You're talking about Roblox in the metaverse, about Facebook having metaverse options, you're talking about the sandbox being a metaverse place where you have multiple different products, platforms, and services that all would fit under the definition of metaverse. You can have your metaverse experience in Roblox, for example.
At TheSoul Publishing we partnered with a company called Lockwood Publishing. They have a game called Avakin Life where we called on one of our virtual artists to actually give a concert for 2.2 million people. In the future, five years down the road, or maybe a little bit sooner, people from other instances could seamlessly join this concert. Today that is not possible.
But that is my high level definition of how I look at the metaverse today.
George: I love this. There are some words that marketers probably honed into real quick. You mentioned e-commerce, shopping, 2.2 million people, social media. These are things that marketers care about. The idea of understanding the what is actually many things that historically marketers have looked for in the real world, and now they're going to find it in the metaverse.
Here's the thing that I want to ask you. We make time for what is important. I think I even want to put a layer of time on this question that I'm going to ask. Why is the metaverse important to B2B marketers? I could leave it there, but I want to ask it in a way of, why is the metaverse important to B2B marketers now versus in a year, two years, or five years?
Patrik: When I look at the metaverse and the B2B marketing opportunities, it is really blue ocean scenarios. The cost per thousand views, for example, or other performance marketing related KPIs are relatively low compared to already established platforms. You could probably buy eyeballs and share of voice in the metaverse for cents on the dollar compared to doing this on a much more established platform like YouTube or Facebook.
To give you a bit of an idea, to talk about people spend time where they feel it's important, it's necessary. When we started looking into the metaverse, obviously we had Polar, which is a virtual influence, already doing music, is a virtual star, so she is very native to the metaverse. I think that made it easier for us to experiment.
We started with a very small proof of concept. We actually took four or five of our YouTube videos and placed them inside Avakin Life as a viewing experience. We then compared the watch time, we compared how many people are watching it in what geographies, and what we did find is that the viewing behavior in this environment within the metaverse within Avakin Life is actually very similar to the performance of real people sitting in front of their PCs or using their phones and consuming our content.
What that means is when you give people an opportunity in an environment that they like, that they feel comfortable in, and for some people, especially younger people, that is the metaverse, and you give them the opportunity to do other things that they would usually do in real life, they will still continue and prefer doing those things in the metaverse rather than getting out of the metaverse and doing the same action in the real environment. I think that really shows you that on the one hand, you have low cost per user acquisition, on the other hand, you have very engaged users that behave very similar to how they would react in real life.
I do think that is a massive opportunity for B2B marketing folks to get in now. When you get in now, again, you can make mistakes. You're going to have first-mover advantage. A year from now, in two years from now, once your audience matures, you already have a loyal fan base, you already know your tools, you already know who to partner with, and you're going to be much better positioned to sell your services, products, or whatever else in the metaverse. So, definitely get in early and experiment a little.
George: I think it's super interesting. By the way, that might be a rewind point. I heard, one, that you were able to measure the success or the viewing of the videos that you put in there. Two, I heard you talk about especially the younger folks are comfortable with being there. So, if you're looking for the up and coming market in five years, ten years, when they have lots of money in their wallet and can buy your products and services, you're going to have first-mover advantage.
The third thing that I heard that I think might be important to the marketers right now instead of a year or two years is in today's economic times, if you can get ads, if you can place things in a way where it's less expensive, more budget-friendly, then that's a marketer's dream. People, friendly budget, and first-mover advantage.
Here's my next question. Now marketers are like, "I've heard enough positive things. I want to dive into this." You said the word fragmented earlier. How the heck is a marketer to even know where to get started? Usually, you can be like it's Facebook, it's one destination, it's ads, it's these two destinations. With the fragmented metaverse, is there one place or two places where immediately you go, you might not want to go play Roblox, but maybe this place or these places make sense to get started? And how do they actually get started?
Patrik: It's really important to understand your product and your audience. Then you have to experiment and try to find the right metaverse for you. You mentioned Roblox, and it's in the news recently as well. That would skew probably younger. If you try to find the audience that might be grown up or has the budget ten years from now, that Roblox is probably a very good place to start and talk about changes. Roblox itself, of course, is trying to skew older, so they themselves adjust the platform and they adjust the product offering on that platform to include an older audience, Gen Z going towards the Millennials.
That is something that every marketer has to do for themselves, figuring out what kind of products to have and where to find those metaverses are most compatible. The good thing is when you talk about the people that use the metaverse, music is really important to them, gaming is really important to them, fashion is really important to them, self-expression is really important to them, all kinds of digital services are really important to them, so it already helps you to narrow it down. You probably don't want to sell roses or picture frames in the metaverse today. You probably need a few years until we have that right audience. But for those categories that I just mentioned, fashion, when you look at Gucci for example, they are spending quite a budget on Roblox experience, so I think you're in the right spot.
George: It's interesting. They might buy NFTs, but that's a totally different podcast episode. Where my brain really goes on this is the idea of the importance even in the metaverse of marketers having a good set of defined personas and understanding where the persona or the ideal client profile would live in the metaverse, and being able to go in that direction. I love that you boiled it down to that strategy of knowing the human.
The next question, I have to ask it because it is a podcast for marketers. I will just say that usually my strategy, my tactic, my tip or hack is to be the most human that I can be. Pertaining to the metaverse, are there some tips, tricks, or hacks that marketers should be thinking about or leveraging as they get started and rolling in the metaverse area?
Patrik: When I look at the metaverse and when I look at the people that I find and meet regularly in the metaverse, those people are digital natives, those people are looking for authenticity more than they care about whether or not a person is real or virtual.
Looking at Polar, for example, it's more important for Polar to be authentic in her native environment, which would be the virtual and also the metaverse, rather than they care about whether or not this is a real person. Obviously, we have a team behind Polar that is creating the music, that is creating the animations, that is creating the voice and everything, that are integrating her into the various games, for example. Not just Avakin Life, we also partner with another metaverse experience called Byte City, and we are planning to go live after Easter with a great seven-day event there.
Again, I think it's really important that you keep in mind to be authentic. There are some examples where people try to artificially attach themselves to something. It doesn't even have to be the metaverse. I think usually those experiments fail and they're not successful. They're only artificially successful if you pump in a lot of marketing budget. Stay as close to being human, whatever the definition of human is in the metaverse, stay as close to your authentic self. I think that's really important.
George: Just be you, boo, and go and have fun, engage with it, and don't try to be something other than that. It's interesting. One of the things that I try to answer on this podcast is right fit. I could be completely wrong, but it's hard for me to think of like an auto mechanic and there being a reason for them being on the metaverse. You even mentioned somebody who sells roses, flowers, or something like that. When we think of this right fit conversation and the B2B marketers listening, who is it for? What companies are just no-brainers that should be there like yesterday, and who would you kind of warn, if anybody, it might not be your jam?
Patrik: I think for me no-brainers are all kinds of fashion companies, companies selling any kind of makeup. The reason I'm saying that is when Polar gave this concert with 2.2 million followers, we had over 100,000 hours actually of people watching Polar perform. During those seven days where she was a headliner, we also sold digital merch. Not NFTs, but we sold digital merch, people could actually buy clothes, they could buy her hair, they could buy her dance moves, they could buy her mask, they could buy a lot of things that then helped their avatars inside the game to turn into Polar.
I think that's a great proof of concept for anybody trying to not just sell digital products like we've been doing, but also physical products. How cool would it be if any fashion brand would be associated with one of the digital artists in the metaverse today, and then people are not just wearing the clothes in the game experience, but then also having an opportunity to buy the same clothes offline and wearing them in real life? This for me is a no-brainer. Everything around fashion and clothing fits into the very same argument.
George: I like that. The takeaway for the Marketing Smarts audience is think about what you just heard and is there room for digital products, are there ways that you can combine digital and physical products together, is that the way that the humans you want to serve or you're helping to get to their aspirational points, is that the way they work?
Anytime we try to learn something new, anytime we try to get started, anytime we try to do those tactics and strategies, we're just going to be faced with some hurdles or potholes. We're either going to knock ourselves off the track or we're going to fall down because we can't jump high enough. Are there hurdles along the way that you would want to warn the listeners of before they get stuck or get knocked off the track and end up failing at their attempts at testing and leveraging the metaverse?
Patrik: I think it's really important if you try out a lot of different things, especially new things, to prepare yourself that not all of your ideas will actually turn out to be successes. Probably all of them are going to be learning experiences, but not all are going to be a success.
For TheSoul Publishing, for example, we strive to be a leader in digital innovation and we're exploring a wide range of different metaverse touchpoints in music, gaming, and e-commerce. Not all of our projects are immediately successful. What we do look for, and what I like to focus on, are minimum viable products, or minimum viable services.
I mentioned earlier that we put some of our videos into Avakin Life. That was actually part of a tiered approach, not to invest millions into an experiment. To be honest, even earlier than that, it was a very frank conversation with a couple friends of mine who are running Lockwood Publishing, and we talked about our audience. After understanding that we have the same or very similar audience between Polar and Avakin Life, we then said, let's test that. Let's not just talk about it, but let's actually test it. So, we put the videos in. Those videos, as I mentioned, performed very well. As a next step then, Polar actually gave the world premiere of her song Close to You in Avakin Life.
Again, it's one test point. Then the budget for the next one is a little bit bigger, then the next is a little bit bigger. We as a company didn't go all-in, we started in bite sized chunks that we could actually justify to ourselves. That's not just in Avakin Life, but we are right now doing Byte City, and we're talking with a couple of other gaming companies with a number of other metaverse experiences to do a very similar approach.
That probably is advice I can give to everybody. You do not have to move into the metaverse with hundreds of thousands or millions of budget, you can probably do things already with like $10,000 or $20,000, or maybe $50,000 in budget and experiment to get the data. Really important, get the data. Go away from the hype. Everybody is talking metaverse and that it seems to be like a magic key that solves all of your problems. It's definitely not. It is something that needs to be evaluated for each company.
It's not for every company. For some of those companies we talked about that would fit, it's a great opportunity and they can iteratively approach the metaverse.
George: I love that. Don't believe the hype. If you're listening to this and get that reference, you can let me know #MPB2B for what I just did there. What came to mind that's more important is you just did a really eloquent job of, I had a conversation which led me to a theory, which led me to a test, a little bit bigger of a test, then a little bit bigger of a test, and then just growth over time into this. It's a very simple way to get started.
I love that it could be $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000 instead of $2,000,000. This makes it open for some of the listeners to actually start to think about engaging. I would even think is there a way that you could even do it in a more human way, in a less expensive way to do some of these tests. That's up to you.
Folks are listening to this, they're learning about the metaverse, but are there other places that marketers, and maybe just humans, can learn more about the metaverse and how to interact with it, how to be part of it? Is there a place to go to that's the thought leaders of the space?
Patrik: Yes. After this podcast, go into your kid's room and spend an hour with them navigating on their iPad, navigating on their phones, navigation on their laptops. They know significantly more than I do, probably. My 7-year-old son is more of an expert in metaverse than I am because he is really native.
For me, I'm getting into it and I'm learning about it, and of course I have a gaming background, I've been doing entertainment for 16 years, I've been managing gaming experiences and games themselves, so I have had a very early start with the metaverse, but still I am not what I would consider native in this. That would be one way of getting used to it, is spend an hour with your son playing Roblox. I think that will probably tell you more than any book that you could read and would be really my first advice to all of you out there.
George: I love that answer so much because that means we're promoting family time worldwide. Spend time with your kids and learn about the metaverse.
One of the things I like to do is figure out what in the world is the aspirational point, the mountaintop, the gold medal around your neck if you're in the Olympics. How do you know as a marketer that you've reached marketing metaverse nirvana, what does success look like?
Patrik: It's probably different for everybody. Apart from the obvious return on advertising spend or return on investment as a very clear KPI that I do think everybody should look at, regardless of all the other things, the metaverse is new. When you establish thought leadership, when you have an opportunity to be on a podcast, I think that's a really good indicator, when you do projects that are critically acclaimed, not just by the newspapers, but also by the fans.
The great stuff in the metaverse is you have direct feedback. When you do a traditional TV campaign, it might take some time before somebody tells you how they actually perceived it. Once you do something in the metaverse, you have direct commentary, feedback, chats. You have people doing memes, and if the memes are positive then that is also certainly a great indicator of success.
If you really push the boundaries of something that hasn't been done before, but is then being done afterward, like let's talk about the first metaverse concert that existed. I think the people that pushed the boundary there and the marketing teams that got attached to that rally delivered a proof of concept that is defined by who else and what caliber of people are trying to replicate their success.
Again, apart from the obvious KPIs, these would be my definitions of success in the metaverse.
George: So good. Patrik, you've been on a metaverse journey and you've learned a lot along the way. Landing this plane , I always love to ask what are some words of wisdom. What are some words of wisdom that you would want to leave the Marketing Smarts audience with pertaining to the metaverse, being more human, testing? We've talked about a lot of things here today, but what are those final words of wisdom?
Patrik: Final words of wisdom in regards to the metaverse is, again, be aware that the metaverse is an evolving thing, that it will be different a year from now than it is today. That you and your team and your company can actually be part of it and not just participate, but proactively shape it with great ideas, with innovative thoughts and projects that you're putting out.
You don't have to spend millions, despite some popular news articles. You can actually create minimum viable products and services and iteratively move forward in the metaverse. We've done that at TheSoul Publishing, and it worked really well for us. I think other companies can replicate that.
Be aware that there is a new audience. Gen Z, Gen Alpha, they are digital natives, they experience the metaverse and experience digital differently than you or I, and they expect a different performance. They do not want anything that is artificially put in there. They will identify that really fast.
I think one of the successes for Polar or for TheSoul Publishing is that we are a digital-first company, we are trying to make a native experience for all of our fans. Whether or not this is on social media where we have a billion followers, whether or not this is in music where we have up and coming stars in the metaverse where we do a concert with millions of people, we try to be as authentic as we can be and, very important, we listen to our fans.
When you see what Polar's first experience in the metaverse has been, then you see the fan comments, and then you see the second experience, you will definitely see that we listened to the fan feedback. I think that's the other really positive thing in the metaverse. Be ready to be quick, fast, and agile, because you will get immediate feedback, positive or negative, and you need to be able to take that feedback and turn it into new product ideas, and you need to keep delivering on those experiences because that's what your fans are going to expect.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast episode? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.
I also have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to Mprofs.com/mptoday. You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.
We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with Melanie Deziel about why B2B marketers need to prove it with a trust-building content strategy, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B marketing human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.
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Published on April 6, 2023
Patrik Wilkens, vice-president of operations at TheSoul Publishing, where he sets, implements, and drives short- and long-term operational and business development strategies across the company. Patrik has 14+ years of experience as an executive leader in the digital and entertainment industries. As vice-president of mobile operations at Spil Games, he was a key player in the turnaround of the business and subsequent sale to Azerion. At Azerion, Patrik continued as vice-president of mobile operations.
LinkedIn: Patrik Wilkens
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