We may be in a recession but that isn’t slowing down spending on virtual goods. Instead of ordering a real cake or flowers, you can send an image, often signifying your feelings, to a friend’s online profile. This industry, with its heavy focus on fun, has an estimated annual market value of $1.5 billion.170419_little_planet_2_-_alford_linco

Of course, teens only comprise a percentage of the total spending in this industry but they also live online. If you expose these young spenders to your brand now, you might cultivate a customer for life. Lauren Bigelow, General Manager of WeeWorld, notes that teens are more brand conscious than ever these days.

A survey of WeeWorld users indicates that teen girls especially want to have fun spending money and want to ‘express themselves and their passions’. This demographic makes the perfect target for branding building.

Bigelow encourages marketers to develop a brand presence in virtual economies and suggests the following action plan:

Make your product/service (including logo) available in the ‘context’ of what they want. This might include apparel or room décor items for their online place.

Make sure it’s fun and you might begin by offering some items for free.

Integrate. A suggested example is to launch a scavenger hunt or encourage users to dress a model for the prom as they select your branded items.

While the ad revenue from marketers who choose to reach out to consumers in this way will certainly benefit the bottom line of companies like WeeWorld, the virtual brand engagement should generate real-world sales when teens shop for what they need.

[Source: Bigelow, Lauren. How your brand can click with a tough audience, imediaconnection, 7.13.09]