Sunday, December 12, 2010

Virtual Worlds as Media Marketing Vehicles

Christina Warren over at Mashable recently put together a nice article describing how social media has become an important aspect of marketing strategies in the film industry. Viral campaigns, mobile apps, and staggered film releases all play a role in generating buzz about a film and driving viewers into theaters.  

It also seems that virtual worlds are becoming part of this marketing cycle as well. 

KZero Worldswide, a marketing and consulting company, has developed a strategy for the upcoming film, Dorothy of Oz, that begins with some fairly standard social media connections to Facebook and Twitter to build interest in the film. But, they're also integrating a virtual world based on the movie into their marketing plan as well.

An article in the KZero blog describes this as a "closed loop for marketing and user engagement," with each element of the marketing strategy potentially feeding fans into the next. This makes a great deal of sense. 

Initially engage users in spaces with no costs and low barriers to access (social media) to generate word-of-mouth advertising, collect revenue from film distribution, and then extend that into an ongoing revenue stream through the sale of virtual goods in the dedicated virtual world.  

The Dorothy of Oz Facebook fan page has 2,895 Likes, and on the Discussion page, fans are already volunteering to participate in street teams to promote the film. The Twitter page has 973 followers and is also doing some cross promotion to the Facebook page. Not huge numbers, but the film is still almost 2 years away. 

All of this makes me wonder if the reverse strategy would work. Will we eventually see films based on virtual world storylines, such as "Second Life - The Movie" (that actually makes me cringe a bit for some reason)? 

Or, will "films," as we know them now, someday become integrated social experiences in which people simultaneously view, participate in creating, and socially interact about a storyline in real time virtual environments?

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