According to a KPMG report, Google searches for ‘Metaverse’ increased by 7,200 per cent globally last year, indicating an immense interest in the concept. However, as companies explore this, the ethical ramifications of marketing initiatives in the Metaverse must be carefully considered.
Although the concept of ethics in the Metaverse is still in its early stages, businesses need to understand its significance and adjust marketing strategies accordingly.
Data privacy and security
According to data experts, approximately 94 zettabytes of data was generated and consumed in 2022 alone. The Metaverse collects vast amounts of data on user behaviour, preferences, and interactions, providing marketers with a valuable tool to harness and create targeted campaigns.
However, with the increased awareness around data privacy, users expect transparency from brands regarding how they collect and use their data. Businesses must be open about their data collection practices and make efforts to inform users about how this is being used.
Additionally, compliance with data protection laws, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - widely regarded as the regulatory standard for multinationals - is essential to maintain ethical behaviour in the Metaverse.
Adherence would demonstrate that brands value their users’ privacy and take appropriate measures to protect the data. By adopting privacy-by-design principles, brands can integrate privacy considerations into their products and services from the outset. This approach helps to minimise privacy risks and ensure data protection is embedded in every aspect of their operations.
Inclusivity and accessibility
The Metaverse has the potential to be an inclusive and accessible space, where people of all abilities and backgrounds can connect and engage with one another. Brands should strive to create marketing experiences that are inclusive and diverse, and cater to the needs of various user groups.
This includes designing accessible content, fostering a range of virtual events and experiences, and promoting positive representation of different communities. According to a McKinsey survey conducted in April 2022, 95 per cent of business leaders expect the Metaverse to have a positive impact on their industry within the next 5-10 years.
Part of the reason is that the Metaverse’s appeal spans genders, geographies, and generations. Encouraging diversity and inclusivity also extends to ensuring equal opportunities within the company, cultivating a culture that embraces and celebrates differences.
Environmental and social responsibility
While the Metaverse has the potential to reduce carbon emissions in some ways. For instance, minimising travel to and from physical stores, while its reliance on VR technologies and data storage centres can raise environmental concerns such as carbon emissions and resource consumption.
Research by the University of Massachusetts has shown that training a single AI model used in data centres can produce about 284,000 kilogram of carbon dioxide. As businesses continue to explore the Metaverse as a marketing channel, the impact on the environment must remain a priority in our collective conscience.
This could involve embracing technologies that consume less energy, advocating for sustainable development principles, and engaging in marketing campaigns prioritising environmental awareness.
Brands must also recognize their social responsibility in the Metaverse. This includes supporting initiatives that promote online safety, digital well-being, and a healthy balance between the real and virtual worlds.
Brands must take an active stance against cyberbullying, harassment, and other forms of online abuse by fostering a culture of empathy, compassion, and respect in the virtual environments they create.
Partnership is essential to addressing ethical issues and promoting a responsible approach to marketing techniques as the Metaverse ecosystem expands. Brands should decisively collaborate with other stakeholders, including tech companies, content producers, and users, to exchange information, manage common challenges, and create ground-breaking solutions that will influence the Metaverse’s future.
Companies should support a resilient virtual environment that benefits everyone by embracing collaborative efforts and adopting a conscious, moral approach to Metaverse marketing.
It’s worth noting that a McKinsey global survey found that 71 per cent of the 79 largest consumer firms globally have already established a presence in the Metaverse, underscoring the growing importance of this virtual space.
If brands remain mindful of the ethical implications, they stand not only to drive growth and success for their business but also to contribute to a better, more inclusive, and responsible digital world.