Anything you can do in the real world (RW) you can do in virtual worlds (VWs), only more.
Numerous separate and independent VWs exist where consumer and business-to-business marketing opportunities lie dormant and underdeveloped. But marketers can now establish a dynamic presence in VWs that can position them for the new and future internet (Web 2.0 and beyond) made up of parallel and eventually integrated social networks and virtual worlds.
Marketing within social networks and VWs is becoming a viable means for reaching and influencing the attitudes and behavior of consumers in ways that was never before believed possible.
Experiential marketing in VWs is immersive and real. Millions of people visit VWs, interact with others, seek out entertainment, have relationships, learn, play, earn, and purchase goods and services. They are also conducting sales meetings, training seminars, board meetings, conferences, and new business presentations.
Coke, IBM, Motorola, Wells Fargo, Toyota, Sears, Disney, and others have integrated their respective brands within VWs in different ways. Key to their initial success is the engaging "experience" that is unlike any other medium's.
"When designing online environments, keep in mind the kind of experience you want your users to have. If the experience is compelling, whether it is branded or not becomes a non-issue because if the experience is compelling so is the brand experience," according to José Pablo Zaga, PhD Candidate at the College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology.
A virtual world is a computer-simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact with. Participants typically represent themselves in the form of two or three-dimensional graphical characters, referred to as avatars. They can range from simplistic cartoon-like images to realistic human characters to extreme fantasy. My avatar did some time in Second Life as a six-foot rabbit named Harvey, wearing a double-breasted tweed suit.
Marketing in VWs can be compared to event marketing in the real world, but only better. At real-world events, consumers are attracted to a population-surge location, intercepted with a brand engagement experience, and then move on. Virtual Event Marketing (VEM) provides a similar experience, but more.
David Schendowich, Sr. is vice-president of planning at Mastermind Marketing (www.mastermindmarketing.com), Atlanta, GA.