Why Smart Brands are Jumping Into Virtual World Marketing

Mcdonalds The release of James Cameron's epic Avatar put virtual marketing square in the sights of major companies like McDonalds.

Today Pixels and Policy looks at why virtual marketing is a potential game changer for smart companies.

Read on to find out why more brands are jumping into the Metaverse than ever before, all thanks to a groundbreaking shift in HOW companies advertise in virtual worlds.

Avatar and the Brave New World of Metaverse Branding

The success of James Cameron's groundbreaking film – and its far-and-wide digital marketing – is inspiring companies to leap into the frothy world of virtual advertising. According to a great write-up in the entertainment management blog Everything PR, the rush of interest in virtual branding presents great opportunities and hidden caveats.

Companies ranging from McDonalds to Coca Cola have been spurred into the virtual world by the awesome power of James Cameron's public relations machine. McDonalds isn't just giving out Avatar-themed toys in their Happy Meals; they've also developed an augmented reality-based virtual world where kids can interact with characters from the movie.

From an article in PROMO:

From December 18 through January 7, U.S. customers who buy a Big Mac
will get packaging with one of 8 different Avatar "Thrill Cards"
attached. When these cards are held up to a Web cam, participants can
use McD Vision augmented reality software to interact with the lush
jungle landscapes generated for the movie.

Everything PR has a pretty good idea why so many companies are suddenly launching ambitious augmented- or virtual reality branding schemes: The model for how companies market to the Metaverse is changing.

Previously, worlds like Second Life made strong pushes for a big business presence in the world. This didn't go so well, as most of the company regions sat dormant, the victims of limited Second Life resident interest. Now businesses are developing product-specific virtual worlds – think of Esquire's augmented reality issue and its interactive automobile ads – and presenting them to consumers for interaction. This is proving much more effective at capturing and retaining consumer eyes.

With this paradigm shift, companies now have more control over their brand identity. Company-specific Second Life worlds often lack the flavor and passion of the company itself, but with product-specific virtual worlds, companies can build the world around the product, not the other way around. Just look at the success of Guinness's free-beer-giving virtual world among European consumers.

The New Model for Virtual Brand Management

In the previous virtual marketing model, companies risked getting lost in a rapidly expanding landscape. Now that companies are developing their OWN virtual worlds, their pet product will always be the center of the universe.

A lot of the hype is due to Avatar's huge commercial success – McDonalds certainly won't be running their augmented reality version of Pandora forever. But as with most hype-driven enterprises, a few key companies will hold on to and refine the technology after the general enthusiasm for product-centric virtual worlds dies down.

One of the survivors will be Multiverse, the company tapped to work directly with James Cameron on the Avatar digital marketing plan. Not only does Multiverse develop online worlds for private clients, they also take on client branding full-steam. If their laudatory write-up in EverythingPR is any indication, Multiverse will be one of the giant players when the second wave of newly-enthusiastic companies comes ashore.

One thing is certain: "Augmented Marketing" isn't going away. From the first major advertising campaign earlier this year to Cameron's magnum opus of marketing, consumers have been consistently exposed to quality virtual branding. As early as February of this year, industry blogs were discussing the long-term marketing potential of augmented reality on mobile devices. 

The delivery methods may change and the technology may become less cumbersome for end users, but the smart companies are getting into virtual brand management early. The big question: Will the rising tide of product-centric virtual marketing pose a challenge to companies like Linden Lab, which has tried in the past to lure companies into its Second Life space?

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