The next retail marketplace is online. No, not real-world goods purchased via the web, but virtual goods purchased online for your virtual life. It's a brave new world that Warner Bros TV is leaping into by releasing lines of "branded virtual goods" based on some of its programming.
The Time Warner-owned TV hit-maker just announced a partnership with Virtual Greats aimed at creating "custom branded boutiques for the initial launch of branded virtual goods from popular series The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, and Pretty Little Liars." So what the heck is a "branded virtual good?", you ask?
Users of virtual platforms will now be able to customized their avatars with their favorite characters from the shows, including fashions. Branded clothing from the show Gossip Girl, for instance, will "allow users to show off their Upper East Side style."
A brand virtual good needs a platform. In this case, Warner has three. Vampire Diaries virtual goods are available on Meez.com, WeeWorld and Zwinky.
Not much more than misspellings to adults, Meez.com, WeeWorld and Zwinky are there of the most popular virtual platforms for teens.
Meez has 13 million registered users Meez is ad-supported but also has a "virtual economy" that uses a Meez virtual currency called "Coinz" that allow users to buy branded virtual items as well as gain access to exclusive neighborhoods.
Zwinky is a teen community site with 18 million registered users. Like Meez, it has its own economy, making "ZBucks" available for purchase with real bucks. ZBucks can then be used in "Zwinktopia" where "Users are encouraged to showcase their individuality by creating distinctive avatars, decorating personal dorm rooms."
Meanhwile, WeeWorld bills itself as the "#1 portable avatar" with more than 45 million users. WeeMee also says its platform serves to "seamlessly integrate top consumer brands and celebrities via virtual goods and other interactive experiences."
Warner's potential success with virtual good merchandising is in the hands of Virtual Greats, which has a depth of experience in the field. The company's clients include Snoop Dogg, Paris Hilton, Domo, Garfield, Warner Bros. Television, Universal Pictures, the NBA, Skechers, and Rocawear, amongst others.
Recently, Virtual Greats launched Garfield in the Brazile scale game platform Mentez. It also helped Universal Studios create and market branded virtual goods for films Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Scarface.
In June, Virtual Greats also took the Sketchers footwear branded prodcuts into Meez botiques.
Virtual goods marketplaces are booming. Consider that Farmville creator Zynga, which had its IPO recentl, culls more than 90% of its revenue from the sale of virtual goods. Most large brands are eyeing the virtual marketplace as an essential part of a marketing mix. The latest Transformers film included a branded virtual marketplace presence.
Seeing the future, eBay just spent $240 million (cash) for mobile payment company Zong, which facilitates virtual marketplace purchases.
Of course, a brand's virtual strength is only as good as its real world strength. In other words, Skechers must maintain the popularity of its brand in the real world to assure it's in demand in the virtual one.
So, for the time being, while they may want to sit back and avoid the real world in exchange for counting their Coinz, brands cannot bypass real-world sales and opt for the virtual marketplace alone.