Marketing in the Virtual World

8 Nov

I was doing my usual reading for a class. Every week the reading has something to do with virtual worlds, whether it be how they can be incorporated in the workplace or working with groups in different locations. This particular reading however, was about the role marketing may have in the future in these virtual worlds.

The article is called “Avatar-Based Marketing” by Paul Hemp. The concept of avatars is not very novel to me. I grew up playing the Sims and had families and characters that I created in the game. I’ve never played the Sims Online though, so I haven’t played in a virtual world in the respect that the other avatars were also played by real people. People spend many hours weekly highly engaged in playing games in these virtual places. The avatars they create are essentially an extension of the person, an alternate identity, a projection of their desires. As you can see, this has the potential to be a great marketing opportunity. However, marketing has to be done creatively and cleverly. Each world is vastly different, thus one marketing campaign will not work for all. Also, using simple things like billboards will not work. Marketers need to find a way to really engage the consumer and create a meaningful interaction. So far, marketers have been focusing more on brand building in the virtual realm. This has still much development to be done, but one example that stood out to me was Nike. They sold virtual shoes that gave the avatar the ability to run faster. They created something that was useful to a virtual user.

It is uncertain whether avatars will actually buy real world products marketed in their virtual world. However, they are very likely to window shop. The social nature of shopping is present in the virtual worlds so avatars are able to try on clothes and show them to their friend avatars for feedback. They may try on things the creator of the avatar would never wear in real life. They may be pleased with the outcome of the article of clothing contrary to their original mindset and be more susceptible to the idea of purchasing it in real life though.

It seems that there is quite some resistance to real world marketing in the virtual world. People like to keep the two separate since one of the appeals of the virtual games is that it is an escape from reality. Privacy concerns are another concern of users. There is obviously a lot of research and trial to still be done, but this avenue should not be ruled out for future marketing efforts.




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