In-Game Marketing Should Target Users’ Avatars?

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 what’s going on in that space currently, but it suggests that marketing toward a user’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 Hemp’s piece, he suggests that the avatar is a “shadow” consumer that heavily influences each user’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, it’s important for companies to think about more than the potentially rich market of the virtual world and consider the potential customer—the avatar.

For starters, avatars are certainly useful subjects for market research. “Marketing depends on soliciting people’s dreams,” says Henry Jenkins, head of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. “And here those dreams are on overt display.” 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.