Virtual Branding

Due to the case of UnMe Jeans I started to think about brand placement in virtual worlds, like Second Life and Zwinktopia. And I cannot help to feel some kind of paradox in this ”virtual branding”. Let me explain why.

The reason, in my opinion, that people participate in these virtual worlds, is to forget about their real life for a moment and create their own little fanatsy world. Sometime people feel even better in this virtual world then in their real life. We all know the stories of people who spend hours and hours on Second Life, neglecting friends, family and sometime even their children.

So people participate in virtual worlds to escape their busy and active life. Part of what makes their life so busy is the constant bombardment of brands, and the choices we have to make between brands each day. So it must be pretty nice to enter a world with no brands and advertisments, a world like Second Life for example.

So you see my paradox now? Brands are now longer sticking to the real world, and are entering the virtual worlds! So doesn’t that make the virtual worlds less attractive for people?? Apparantly not, if we look at the graph below we see that the number of virtual worlds (abbreviated VW) is increasing exponentially.

You might argue that the amount of brands in these virtual world is small, and therefore the  people tolerate it. But if we look at the image below, in which each green point represents a placement of a brand in the map of the world of Second Life, we can see that Second Life players are also bombarded with brands in their virtual world!

So why do the players of Second Life tolerate these brands in their fantasy world? My explanation is that people always want to express themselves, in a virtual world maybe even more then in real life. Brands are the perfect tool for self expression, and therefore I think brands can flourish in virtual worlds.

Virtual branding is a thing on its own, not directly comparable with branding in real life. Their are bussiness that are solely focussed on virtual branding, like Since we are spending more and more time online and in these virtual worlds, virtual branding has a promising future.

Let me know what your opinion is about virtual branding!

Daan Wildeboer

One thought on “Virtual Branding”

  1. Thanks Daan!! Very interesting post!!!

    I never was a fan of virtual worlds. And most likely, I won’t. Well, unless there is something in it for me. For the moment, I believe we can find the things we want in real world.

    However, we should not underestimate the number of users of virtual worlds. Whatever that might be, there is for sure something there for them. And though I share your opinion that people visit virtual worlds to avoid the bombarding of brands in real life markets, what if these users enjoy the virtual worlds in order to satisfy their commercial needs. Let me make myself clear: what if in real life, I cannot afford (financially or even socially) a certain brand, but in the virtual world, detached from my surrounding, i can express myself, or I have the virtual budget to enjoy them.

    Well, the question then arises: what if the virtual consumption of a brand operates as a substitution of the satisfaction feeling rather than another stimulus to convert to the brand? What if by buying an expensive car in Second Life, covers my need for showing off and decreases this need in real life?

    I think brands exist there just to create brand awareness (or actually maintain the strength of the brand in people’s minds). Perhaps in environments where users do not expect brands and are more receptive to marketing messages (due to lower defense mechanisms).

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