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The world of virtual world marketing

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

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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