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Virtual World Marketing

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[ Business]

I’m racing headlong to age fifty, but some days I feel older than others. Lately I have been feeling oh-so-twentieth-century whenever someone talks about marketing campaigns in virtual worlds, such as Second Life. I admit it. I just don’t get it.

I’m not saying that virtual worlds aren’t important. I’m not even saying that marketing in virtual worlds won’t go on just as it does in the real world.

What I don’t get is the kind of marketing that we’re doing in virtual worlds.

When you’ve got all the power of an imaginary world to paint your picture and send your message, why are we futzing around with virtual branch offices or selling imaginary cars? I just don’t get how real brands and real products seem exciting in a virtual world.

Now, understand, I’m not saying, "I don’t get it" as a sly way of saying, "This is dumb." I am honestly, truly saying that I don’t understand. I don’t understand why this will work to get attention for a brand.

I’m not saying that nothing will work. Clearly, lots of interesting kinds of advertising work on the Internet. Paid search works. Product placement in video games works. Something will work in virtual worlds, too. I am just not sure that we’ve figured it out yet. What I’ve seen so far feels like tired old interruption marketing in a new venue that lets us all feel cool.

To the extent it works, it might just be novelty. Banner ads worked when they were first introduced, but they faded. I’d like to see more virtual events—sponsoring one of those makes sense to me. If we can find ways of providing value in virtual worlds, then people will notice and care about our brands. If we just plaster our logos all over virtual worlds, I think we’re missing the boat. If i knew what to do, I’d suggest it. I just don’t think we’ve figured it out yet.

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