Thursday, May 29, 2008

Product Virtualization could be one effective marketing method on the Internet!?

What are effective marketing methods on the Internet? This is a question, which has to few answers yet. The question is intimately linked to the problem of monetizing on the Internet. But one of those answers could be elaborated forms of Product placement.

Product placement have we heard of before, where it surrounds us in our every day life. But perhaps most talk about in the context of movies. Who does not remember the watches and cars in a James Bond movie or the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” were the brand was even included in the title?

But it is not always that it works so well as in these two examples. Many times it is not so easy to make the product fit in naturally in the narrative. Often the audience and potential consumers perceive it just as the label indicates – as a placement clued onto something. It becomes a nuisance and run the risk to create more badwill than goodwill - not only for the object but also for the brand. The problem seems to me to be that the product placement becomes to static in its form.

On Internet, it is not enough to only display a product. The form demands that you make your offering more interactive – by games, contests, play etc. At least, this seems to be some of the experiences from e.g. Second Life.

It is though in connection to the game industry in general and the game Sims in particular we can find the most interesting example of product placement, according to an article in New York Times. In the game Sims, the players with their avatars need different virtual products and these needs are brand-conscious. Companies place their brand on such virtual products. IKEA provide e.g. a virtual couch and H&M clothing.

This is an elaborated form of product placement, which I believe have potentials. The chances are good that it will work because the branded offering fills a real need and it is adaptable and mouldable in the hands of the game player. And after all, brands have always been a virtual component – in any offering. Right? Such value added is then not so much about a passive placement per se, but about something which we maybe could label as Product virtualization.

Update: The number of widgets exploding on Facebook and MySpace. An article in Washington Post shows how many of these play tools are transformed into advertising in the form of Product virtualization. One example is that people use virtual “Vitamin water” from Coca-Cola in their interaction with each other.

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