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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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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and a senior strategist at Converseon, a leading social consultancy. Mike is the author of two books on digital marketing, an instructor at several leading universities, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research.

2 replies to this post
  1. Hi there,
    I wonder if our perspective of virtual worlds and marketing inside isn’t lagging behind because of the fantasy element that currently reigns. Garnter Research recently announced that 80% of all active online users will maintain a presence in Virtual Worlds by 2011. That said, marketers will continue to move in with ferver.
    I suspect that real-world based virtual worlds, however, like, will likely be easier for marketers to capitalize on their investment more quickly – more so than others like Second Life and World of Warcraft – since the profile page element will keep the barrier of entry lower than the 3D fantasy worlds.
    — Chris

  2. This makes sense to me, Chris. I am very interested in virtual worlds, and I am looking for ideas like yours as to what marketers should pay attention to. Thanks for commenting.

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