Below is a short piece I wrote for Marketing magazine on the topic of “Are virtual worlds an over-hyped waste of time for marketers?” Four other people also contributed, including executives from Sulake (creators of Habbo Hotels) and Naked Communications.
If marketers have a time horizon of 6 months or less for their employers’ success and their own careers, then virtual worlds are in many cases an over-hyped waste of time. Online spaces such as Second Life, Entropia, World of Worldcraft and many others are now a significant phenomenon. However this is just the beginning. Online interaction began on bulletin boards, then shifted to Internet browsers. The next phase will allow people to immerse themselves completely in online worlds. Eventually the experience of interacting online will be difficult to distinguish from real-world interaction, and be used extensively in our work and play.
There are three reasons why marketers would want to get involved in virtual spaces now, when they are nascent, rather than waiting until the majority of the most attractive consumers spend significant time there.
1. Lead consumers and influencers are already heavily involved in virtual worlds such as Second Life. If you want to access or learn from the most interesting, influential, exploratory people around, there is no better place to go.
2. By being active in Second Life, you demonstrate to your clients that you understand the leading edge of where society and marketing are going. (Of course if you don’t understand that this is the case, then don’t bother.)
3. By exploring and engaging in virtual worlds, including trying out marketing campaigns, you will discover – and in fact create – the best ways to get results in this booming new domain.
If you don’t believe that virtual worlds will be a significant part of how people interact and engage in the future, stick to what you know and don’t waste your time. If you recognise the potential then get involved now, forge a path in this new space, and leave the others behind.