10. Virtual worlds set up by toy manufacturers.
Another point from Lord Puttnam’s keynote, casting doubt on whether it’s such a good idea for toy firms to be launching their own virtual worlds – Mattel (with Barbie) and Lego being two examples. The idea of child entertainment funded by toymakers isn’t new (He-Man and Transformers, anyone?), but Lego’s Mark William Hansen had an elegant and considered response, pointing out that a virtual world launched purely to sell products is bad – but that kids will see that most quickly, and desert it.
I completely agree with this. The first question that that needs to be asked when the topic of a virtual world (or any community initiative) comes up is “Why do we need/want it?” It is the job of the web strategist to find the root of the request and to deal with the answer frankly.
If the goal of adding community is to increase sales of offline product alone, community is probably not the correct strategy. Starting a community is difficult work, maintaining one is even harder. And there are risks involved that have to be dealt with in much more faster and comprehensive ways than just releasing a press release.
If the goal is, rather, to engage your audience in a very personal way with your brand and/or product, then you are starting on the right foot. Sure, selling products is a fine goal, it’s the easiest way to sustain the community and makes complete sense, especially if the community is involved in some way. But it shouldn’t be the primary goal – if it is, there are easier ways to achieve it.
Creating a community or virtual world is not a small decision, nor is it a finite decision either. It’s funny to me how the enormity of a concept diminishes when the words become more common. “Community” and “World” are BIG concepts – they are (or should be) big strategies for a company to adopt as well.
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