Are Real-World Companies Finally Investing in Comprehensive Virtual Marketing Plans?

Sun-wonderland Just when it seemed like companies were content to ram their heads against the seemingly impenetrable wall of marketing to a virtual audience, a few key movers started shifting strategies.

As a recent article on the "innovation economy" shows, companies are starting to learn from their mistakes and seem ready to make the big thinking shifts necessary to keep a persistent presence in the virtual world.

Pixels and Policy takes a look at what prompted the paradigm shift, and why this could mean boom times for both companies and gamers.

An Act of Necessity: Shifting Corporate Virtual Marketing Models

According to an article from the Boston Globe, companies are beginning to shift their marketing strategies after finally admitting that the current model is ineffective at retaining long-term business. Globe Columnist Scott Kirsner writers:

“The most important factor in any online game or social network is the
user engagement – the addictiveness and the fun factor,’’ says Jon
Radoff, chief executive of GamerDNA, an online community for gamers
based in Cambridge.

“If you can combine that engagement with a high
desire for virtual goods, then you have something that is both a good
experience for the user, and also monetizes well.’’

Companies like GamerDNA are coming to understand that virtual companies must provide three things to keep users coming back for more after an initial foot-traffic "curiosity bump." These are:

1. Providing constantly updating content that engages potential consumers and fulfills their "fun quotient."

2. Hosting events or seminars in your virtual region that will provide some sort of value-added to virtual consumers, much like the super-interactive NOAA headquarters.

3. Focusing on virtual consumers as their own unique block of potential customers. This means no more treating virtual worlds users as simply an offshoot of a larger publicity program. Virtual consumers bring their own special prejudices and incentives to the table.

Some companies understand this better than others, and companies that put quality content and interactivity first reap the benefits, as virtual currency-dependent games like Mafia Wars and Cellufun products show.

Both Zynga and Cellufun are riding a wave of consumer approval precisely because they built products that adapted to consumers, not vice-versa. Expecting virtual world users to change their daily patterns or go out of their way on a regular basis to view lackluster content is a pipe dream. One of the main problems that came from corporate dabbling in the Metaverse was the lack of interesting content these companies produced.

Linden Lab focused on the development of corporate clients in Second Life even after it became apparent that these corporate regions were providing nothing for the average resident's experience.

But a corporate presence in Second Life needn't be all bad, especially if companies began to shift from their current position to one that encourages the creation of unique events and content, and promotes a more respectful advertising strategy to potential virtual customers.

One of the main resident complaints towards large corporate regions is how empty they always seem to be, and how they provide little value for all their fanfare. If this model can be changed to where virtual companies play a positive role in virtual worlds by actually serving as productive regions that work to expand our knowledge and increase our entertainment, a historic gap may be bridged.

Perhaps the second time will be a charm for companies looking for success in the Metaverse.