Christophe Cotin Valois, CEO of Welcome Max
Pioneer of UX in France, Christophe Cotin Valois has always been immersed in design culture. After starting at IBM E-Business Services, where he mainly worked on the first French portals, Christophe became an independent consultant in the 2000s and became involved in several start-ups, large groups and consultancies. Since 2011, Christophe has been CEO of the agency Welcome Max, a new concept of consultancy that focuses on experience design.
The metaverse has been a real trending topic for several months now. What do you think are the main reasons for the enthusiasm around this universe?
This fad is a certain fashion effect for now, as usage in the metaverse remains unclear. As with augmented reality, the potential of virtual reality seems enormous, but its applications are yet to be discovered. Many will break their teeth and it seems likely that use will be where it is not expected, as is the case for augmented reality which is mainly used in education and industry today.
In my view, we are in the midst of speculation about the continuity of NFTs. Gamers don’t really find their account there. For the general public, the possible uses are still very “geek” … Brands are surfing the buzz to be present in this new paradigm where the second degree seems to dictate the rules.
What drives brands to launch into the metaverse already? What are the main opportunities they see there?
At the moment brands are trying to get ahead of the subject, to colonize this virgin space: a new Eldorado in short. It is certain that brands need to launch experiments on the subject to orient themselves and choose the right topics, the right platform, the right audience. For this, they are absolutely right to exploit the event dimension, which is conducive to buzz, with disposable productions. For the brand utility, we’ll see later.
The chances will mainly be to go beyond the boundaries of reality, do in the metaverse what we can’t really offer in reality, like Amazon or Alibaba who lift the boundaries of time and space and managed to do what was not possible until then.
The innovations that work are surprising, because often it is not the visual representation that makes the difference, but the benefit gained by the user or the players in a market. Neither Google, nor Facebook, nor Amazon are examples of visual creativity. Currently, speculators are trying to create the market. But the brands will really have to innovate, because for now they are making their appearance. The virtual museum will likely be the first opportunity for brands like the Virtual Gucci Garden. The virtual museum in VR has already been explored by major brands such as Dior (via the Monochrome agency). But in terms of experience and interactivity, it’s still quite disappointing from my point of view.
Do you have examples of projects in the metaverse that have been recently undertaken by brands?
There is the construction of the Manchester City stadium; once the real stadium is equipped with cameras, we can probably follow the match from all sides, as if we were there ourselves. But without the atmosphere of the matches, the best view isn’t that of the production team who know how to switch photos in the heart of the action to let us live the moment from its best angle, without doing anything? Outside of the games themselves, visiting the stadium is a holy grail for fans, and they can pay multiple times to access it virtually.
The commitment is such that Manchester City is approaching Tezos (blockchain) to launch NFT collection projects that should be a hit in the community and perhaps not expensive. This point is important to generate a use in continuity with that of the mobile phone in terms of personalization: shells, ringtones, themes and apps are inexpensive and allow these target groups to consume spontaneously and for fun .
As for the metaverse, the second degree also seems to be recurring, such as the Heineken* campaign and the virtual beer that also exists in reality. So irony or first degree? We also see stars like Snoop Dogg know how to tap into this ambivalence to generate buzz. Is this the pattern that will emerge? Hard to say, at least we’re talking about it.
*Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health, consume in moderation.
What are the main obstacles that can hinder brands from moving into the metaverse?
- display : If you’re not currently a fan of Minecraft, you’ll soon find yourself in fairly “cheap” universes, which have nothing to envy to video games. Even if the web offers beautiful 3D renderings, the metaverse will still be a budget vertical to be completed by the media. And the bill will be “salt” because we combine digital challenges: visibility, creation, technical limitations, UX, e-commerce… In short, a big challenge for organizations.
- Accessibility and Interoperability: nowadays, web browsing with our devices is already a world war, with Google, Apple, Meta, etc. trying to trap their users with their own UX. Logins, currencies, payment platforms, contact lists, avatars, article repositories, and chats embed audiences. Switching from one device to another can be an obstacle course. So wait until you have to connect while wearing a bulky (and uncomfortable?) headset. This therefore raises the question of interoperability: will the Gucci bag, which is sold more expensive than the real one on Roblox, be compatible with the Meta world? I hope so for the owner.
What are the elements that can hinder the experiences they will provide there?
Will brands looking to deliver a strong experience to their customers have the budget to thrive in the metaverse? In the same way that Facebook’s chatbots remain very limited in terms of service, will the platforms provide us with tools or templates of 3D modeled places that we can customize?
Do the brands want to be back in a standardized world or will the network become open and thus compatible with the technical standards that allow experiences designed elsewhere to ‘run’? It would then be a kind of immersive shopping center. But this is still a technological challenge. In terms of futurology, Luc Besson’s film Valerian gives us an idea of what it might look like: it was one of the greatest productions of all time and yet a commercial flop.