The Harvard Business Review has published a fascinating look at the world of online in-game marketing. Not only does it give a great summary of whatâ€™s going on in that space currently, but it suggests that marketing toward a userâ€™s in-game character instead of the user themselves. So far, in game marketing has been limited primarily towards trying to appeal to the user behind the characters, but in HBR senior editor Paul Hempâ€™s piece, he suggests that the avatar is a â€œshadowâ€ consumer that heavily influences each userâ€™s purchases. (Via the cool folks at Clickable Culture)
Advertising has always targeted a powerful consumer alter ego: that hip, attractive, incredibly popular person just waiting to emerge (with the help of the advertised product) from an all-too-normal self. Now that, in virtual worlds, consumers are taking the initiative and adopting alter egos that are anything but under wraps, marketers can segment, reach, and influence them directly. Indeed, itâ€™s important for companies to think about more than the potentially rich market of the virtual world and consider the potential customerâ€”the avatar.
For starters, avatars are certainly useful subjects for market research. â€œMarketing depends on soliciting peopleâ€™s dreams,â€ says Henry Jenkins, head of MITâ€™s Comparative Media Studies program. â€œAnd here those dreams are on overt display.â€ For instance, a company could track how inhabitants of a virtual world use or otherwise interact with a particular type of product, noting choices they make about product features, wardrobe mix, or even virtual vacation destinations.
To read the paper, click here.