Posted in kids, Nick, online advertising

Virtual worlds, branding and kids

Finally almost caught up on at least TWiT. Still have tons of blogs to read. Last time I take a vacation, oy! Again, forgive me if some of these topics are a couple weeks old – they are but days old to me.

There has been a great deal of talk about using Second Life or other immersive virtual worlds as vehicles to partner with to market brands to kids and teens. The owners of the virtual worlds seem open to it.

  • Second Life specific marketing agencies are popping up everywhere, offering to build your brand’s avatars and set up an area for you in Linden’s many worlds.
  • Nicktropolis is seeking brands to add into their new virtual world.
  • Cartoon Network is buidling a virtual world now as well and we can only assume they will follow suit as well.
  • Sony is entering the space now too, with Playstation‘s new game/virtual world “Home,” which promises to have tons of sponsorship and branding opportunities

At the recent Virtual Worlds Conference, Steve Youngwood of MTV, said that MTV’s Interactive division, who has had Virtual Laguna Beach and The Hills running for over 6 months, has seen 99%
of their users who were exposed to brands in their virtual worlds go
on to use those products within the next 2 weeks. That is a pretty impressive
statistic (no mention was made of their younger demo offerings at Nicktropolis).

Privacy and moderation issues aside for a moment, I think a bit more thought is needed before everyone runs into these kid/teenworlds. Tons of care and consideration needs to be put into how a brand is added to any kind of community, but especially a virtual world. There has been considerable of backlash from the Second Life “residents” about the corporate influence and even evolving into groups like a SL Liberaton Army which aim to fight the recent sponsors that have set up shop, most of which are very “corporate” in nature.

In the same Virtual Worlds Conference keynote I mentioned above, Matt Bostwick of MTV talked about the considerations that they took when adding brands to Virtual Laguna Beach and The Hills. He used the term 4D branding to describe making the brand’s the experience and interaction with the brand on a deeper level. He mentioned the recent success of a Pepsi campaign that worked really well with the Virtual Hollywood Hills residents, where different types of immersive Pepsi marketing were occuring simultaneously throughout the world – from purchasing cans of virtual Pepsi from vending machines to sponsored events and games. The promotion resulted in 99% of the their users being exposed to the brand 9 times or more and satellite Pepsi fan groups appearing organically with fan activity.

Both examples, Second Life and Virtual Hills, tried to integrate a corporate sponsor into their worlds with very different results. The difference is the level of consideration each world gave to how the users would react to the brand integration. Second Life has a fanastical world where a corporate presence would be a huge contrast to the culture that was already established. I am sure it is harder for Second Life marketers to develop campaigns that won’t rub their residents the wrong way – but I am sure it is possible, if not done already. Whereas, Virtual Hills is tailor made for corporate sponsorships; it’s residents being raised on a steady diet of corporate branding from almost birth (their target demo is 20 y.o. females).

It will be interesting to watch the next year unfold. I still stand by my earlier claim that I don’t think virtual economy’s that are fueled by actual cash will work for the under 13 y.o.’s demo the way it worked in S Korea with Cyworld. Habbo is selling their cards at CVS’s, so we will see if I have to eat my words.

I do think that there is tremendous opportunity for respectful brand integration into virtual worlds where the users have a meaningful connection with the product and the brands see the power that this new generation of community holds.

Blogged with Flock



Joi Podgorny has spent the better part of the past 2 decades working on the bleeding edge of the technology and entertainment industries, from content/brand development and production to leading international support, moderation, community and social teams. Most recently, Joi founded Good People Collective, a consulting agency focused on helping companies and organizations establish, assess and pivot their internal and external cultures to help maximize their potential. She and her team are currently working on an exciting new software project, combining corporate training and virtual reality.

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