The metaverse and the ownership economy | dentsu UK


thought leadership

The metaverse. It seems like it’s the buzzword on everyone’s lips. But as a brand where do you start?

First and foremost, it’s already so much more than a buzzword. With web3 we’re continuing to see a fundamental shift in the online world, and are experiencing a dramatic change in the way we engage and interact with each other online. As connections increase and the online world changes, there are plenty of opportunities for brands – especially when it comes to engaging with Gen Z.

So, let’s begin with one of the central tenets of the metaverse, ownership.

The central theme of web3 is the need for ownership

The shift from web2 to web3 has brought a fundamental change in the online world. It helps to view web3 as being built around a platform economy. Here control comes from big corporations and governing bodies. With the growth of web3, we’re now seeing an ownership economy where control lies in the hands of the people. This is a transformational shift, and one that truly reflects many of the values of Gen Z.

Web3 enables a passive audience to become an active participant

This is the central theme of web3. Users now become owners much earlier and they can participate in true value creation. It also offers stability in our current turbulent world.

It’s an extremely attractive proposition for Gen Z, and one that is generating huge numbers of participants and owners already. Specifically, when we look at the products that are set to define the next iteration of the internet, the theme of ownership is at the core. For each of these products, users become owners.  Let’s look at some key stats from the last 12 months or so:

  • There were 360,000 NFT owners as of 2021
  • Metamask announced it had 32 million monthly active users as of February 2022
  • There are 6 million monthly transactional users of Ethereum (ETH) – a decentralised, open source blockchain

The need for ownership plays out across five key facets

So, we know ownership is a central theme of web3. But how does it actually play out? And what are the values that underpin Gen Z’s growing love of the metaverse? There are five key ownership areas:

  • Ownership over identity
  • Ownership over progression
  • Ownership over values
  • Ownership over community
  • Ownership over planet

1. Ownership over identity

Ethnicity, race, gender and social standing are all inescapable in the real world. But not in web3. People now have the choice to own their identity. And it’s not a case of necessarily pretending to be someone else, more a chance to live out their true selves in a way the real world prevents them from doing.

This is something that’s very appealing to Gen Z, with 26% saying they’re on the metaverse to express themselves[1]. Specifically:

  • 76% of people want an avatar of themselves for its potential for creative expression[2]
  • 1 in 5 daily Roblox users change their avatar every day[3]
  • 45% of Gen Z feel their identity in a game is a truer expression of who they are[4]

But it isn’t just about a skin deep expression. It goes much further than that, with 88% of users feeling their online self should reflect their real-world ethics and values[5].

2. Ownership over progression

The unreality of web3 is why people enjoy being in it, as it defies the laws of the world. Gone are the days where you had to work your way up the career ladder – web3 is where curiosity and boldness allow for possibilities.

With 24% of Gen Z in the metaverse to make money[6], there are plenty of opportunities to define a new career path. In fact, one in three Gen Z want to build careers in the metaverse (that’s a huge number), with both gaming and NFTs already viable options. Specifically, we’re seeing 52% of gamers looking to make money in the metaverse[7], whilst those selling NFTs are earning over $400,000 in just a couple of months.

These are big opportunities, and they’re happening right now.

3. Ownership over values

Today, we’re already seeing a transition from materialism to immaterialism, with people valuing experiences over physical goods. In the real world, this has lead to a boom in the experience economy, but it’s booming in the metaverse too.

Take the growing market around NFTs. For many, the experience of minting a coveted NFT is more rewarding than having the actual thing in the real world. For example, a real world Gucci Dionysus bag sells for around $3,500. But in the metaverse, a virtual equivalent of the bag – as part of a limited edition collaboration with Roblox – was resold for $4,115.

For brands it generates something of a quandary when it comes to brand value creation. And what it means is that the days of outward status signalling and ostentatious behaviour have shapeshifted into a hedonistic private consumption. Whilst this may feel counterintuitive to most people, it represents a transformational change.

4. Ownership over community

Web3 brings global citizens together as a borderless social network. In fact, Gen Zs that engage in the metaverse are willing to put their differences aside in pursuit of a common goal and contribute

to it. And with millions of communities existing in the metaverse focusing on real world topics and passion points, there is a community for everyone.

This notion of community caters to the values and principles of Gen Z. We know that 75% of Gen Zs don’t care about age, sexuality, gender, race, religion and income when selecting friendship groups. Games are becoming key places to meet people[8], with 76% of UK adults believing online gaming is a good way to bond and make connections with others.

But it isn’t just making connections where we’re already seeing the power of web3. As it’s built on the belief that it should be for everyone, the community has become one of the most diverse and accepting. We’ve also seen it become a platform to not only spread awareness on social issues, but also where the community rallies and takes action.

5. Ownership over planet

Gen Z are grappling with climate change and the mistakes made by previous generations, but this doesn’t exist in the metaverse.

The opportunities around web3 enable people to create the world they live in, rather than being born into a world handed down from past generations. They get to build their own version of ideal and shape the world of the future, rather than trying to revive an old one. It’s a powerful vision.

And with the current state of the physical world, it’s no surprise that one in three Gen Zs are on the metaverse to escape reality[9]. Two thirds (62%) also state that they are ready to rebuild their society from the ground up[10]. And for Gen Z, technology holds the key:

  • 88% believe that technology can help make the world a better place
  • 78% think tech can help create a more equitable society
  • 73% believe that tech can help stop climate change[11]

Brands have a key role to play in this too, with a fundamental expectation from this game-changing generation – 88% feel that that brands need to work just as hard to create inclusive spaces online as they do offline.

Tapping into the ownership economy

There’s no doubt that brands have an important role to play as we transition from web2 to web3. But it can’t simply be a case of being in the metaverse and hoping for the best. Creating authentic and engaging experiences in web3 comes down to a key understanding of the values of its users and their hopes for this new online world. And none are more important than the concept of ownership.

[1] Dazed Metaverse Report, 2022

[2] Denstu

[3] Roblox

[4] YouGov

[5] Wunderman Thompson

[6] Dazed Metaverse Report, 2022

[7] CNBC

[8] Mintel

[9] Dazed Metaverse Report, 2022

[10] Mintel Gen Z Report, 2021

[11] Dazed Metaverse Survey, 2022