Crayon Colors Outside the Lines

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Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) have thrived on the concept of providing a completely autonomous virtual world. With the prospect of such a captive audience plugged in to a digital community, marketers are looking for new, more socially relevant ways to showcase their products

Crayon Colors Outside the Lines
Crayon Draws MMO Advertising

The mutual exclusivity of the real world and virtual worlds appears to be diminishing like sand on a riverbank — methodically eroding away over time by the ever-present drag of marketing currents and the undertow of e-commerce.

Residents of Second Life in particular are beginning to see the turning of the tide in their virtual society. Companies such as Scion, Coca-Cola, Fox and Time Warner are slowly but surely making their presence felt in in the community.

B.L. Ochman notes the attitude of dissent rising within the community concerning some attempts at crossover marketing:

This is not to say that there is no creativity left in any agency or corporation, because clearly Nissan, Wells-Fargo, Adidas, Sun and Reuters are doing some very interesting Second Life marketing. But critics are certainly right that the vast majority of traditional marketers are totally clueless about the Internet in general and social media in particular. Otherwise, how could you explain the fact that so many sites are still full of flashing banner ads and spiders and roaches racing across articles you’re trying to read?

So echoes the crux of the virtual marketing quandary. How does a company market its products to a virtual audience in a way that is both relevant and effective?

That’s the question that Crayon is trying to help companies answer.

Crayon describes itself as a “new marketing” company, but its approach to relevancy within the virtual community of Second Life is what seems to be generating the most buzz.

Neville Hobson, VP of New Marketing for Second Life, outlines the company’s infrastructure, “We’re real, in the sense that all of us involved are physical, real human beings based in real locations, on the US east and west coasts plus me here in Europe.”

“We’re virtual, in the sense that our primary presence as a company is the three-dimensional online digital world of Second Life where we will conduct our business, our presentations, our brainstorms and our pitches.”

I had the opportunity to visit Crayonville Island and check out the company’s facilities.

The Crayon campus itself consists of a one-story building, which would seem to serve as a central traffic hub, with two multi-level office towers to the rear.

After all that walking, I was parched. Conveniently, there were Coke machines strategically placed to quench my thirst. The Coca-Cola Company, not suprisingly, is one of Crayon’s clients.

A little later, I decided to relax a little bit and take in a flick. At first, the choice of Rocky Horror Picture Show and A Clockwork Orange seemed daunting, but then I came to my senses. I mean, who can turn down anything featuring the directing stylings of Stanley Kubrick and an androgynous Malcom McDowell? But I digress…

The company’s marketing strategy seems to be one of total immersion. Crayon aspires to serve as a marketing portal connecting real world clients with virtual consumers.

“By maintaining real-time operations in the Second Life community, Crayon hopes to bring a sense of relevancy and legitimacy to virtual marketing that has, thus far, eluded companies looking to offer products and services to MMORPGers at large.

Second Life symbolizes the thinning line between the real and virtual worlds,” says Joseph Jaffe, President of Crayon.

Of course, immersion isn’t the only driving factor for the company’s approach of maintaining operations exclusively within the virtual world.

Jaffe elaborates, “With our team located in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, California and England, Second Life emerged as the perfect way for us to complement our dispersed geographic presence to meet and interact, not only with each other but also with our clients, vendors, and partners.”

Second Life, however, isn’t the only MMORPG community experiencing an influx of real world marketing. Sony Online Entertainment has been partnering with Massive Interactive to market products to players of both The Matrix Online and Planetside for some time now.

The concept of direct marking to a plugged-in, virtual audience is not new. Crayon has merely taken an innovative approach, attempting to become a conduit between real world products and virtual world consumers.

Will the venture prove successful? I can’t really say.

However, I’d be a liar if I said that checking out this Scion in front of the Crayonville Diner didn’t elicit the urge within me to go take one for a test drive.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

Crayon Colors Outside the Lines
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