Tuesday, November 18, 2008

3 Questions About Avatars and Branding

Patrick Collings, author of the blog Brand Architect, was a co-presenter with me at the 2008 Asia Brand Congress in Mumbai. He gave a provocative talk on connecting brands and consumers in virtual environments.

Collings focused on virtual worlds and the rise of avatars – a computer user's representation of himself/herself or alter ego. He stressed that these are not just computer games, but also virtual worlds in which people live their second lives.

These worlds (Second Life, The Sims Online, Zwinky) are eerily lifelike right down to virtual stores where avatars can make brand choices. Below is an image of a virtual American Apparel store that was launched in 2006 on Second Life.

The 3 major questions Collings asks are:
1. How close will people and their avatars track one another in brand consumption?
2. Which one will be the greater influencer on choice of brand?
3. Will avatars become brand ambassadors?

Projections say that by 2011, some 80% of active internet users will have an avatar. So, clearly these virtual worlds promise to be an innovative way to brand and market products. There maybe a fine line for marketers using the virtual world as a marketing channel. They have to find a way to market without infringing on the fun of the game, not becoming too heavy handed so that it doesn’t becoming annoying.

These worlds may also be a great way to test out brands before they come to real life. If an avatar prefers a brand it may influence the person to want it in reality. Avatars may be able to give brands a second life virtually or in reality.

To view Patrick's presentation slides go to:

About Patrick Collings:
Patrick is a senior brand strategist and writer with experience in the media, corporate and consulting worlds. He is currently a partner in Sagacite Brand Agency, a strategic and creative brand consultancy, based in South Africa and the author of the blog Brand Architect. Patrick has written on brands and branding for a number of publications. He was recently awarded the International Brand Leadership Award at the 17th Asia Brand Congress in 2008 for recognition of his work.

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