- Virtual Worlds for Research: Thus far, the buzz on Virtual Worlds has exceeded the real impact. Despite all the magazine covers it garnered in 2006/7, Second Life has had just 1.2 million users log on in the past two months. By comparison, eBay gets more people visiting its site in a single day. Eventually, online 3D worlds will be big (for something other than gaming), but for now virtual worlds are mostly a curiosity.
But this doesn't mean marketers can't use virtual worlds today. MediaPost offers an excellent example of how CPG brands are using an online 3D world for market research. Knowing that many consumers can be swayed to purchase a brand other than the one they intended upon entering the store, consumer brands must battle for attention at the point of purchase. Testing POP strategies in real stores is expensive and subject to a great deal of bias due to uncontrollable factors. A company called MarketTools offers brands the opportunity to create a virtual shopping experience that online survey panelists can access on their PCs. Respondents are able to "shop" using a realistic depiction of the aisles complete with high-resolution package graphics, shelf talkers, coupon machines, signage and other marketing tactics. Check out the article for more details.
- What Is Your Brand Tag? This site cannot be used for any serious market research, but it is an interesting and fun place to visit: Brand Tags presents visitors with a series of brands and asks them to enter the first word or phrase that comes to mind. While visiting the site, you can also browse the brands to see a cloud representation of words entered for each brand. Since brands only really exist within the minds of consumers, the result of this online experiment is a map of brand attributes (but since the survey population is uncontrolled, this doesn't do much to help brands understand brand perception within their target audience.)
The results provide the good, the bad, and the ugly of brand perception. Take Wal-Mart, for example. Perhaps Wal-Mart's core audience is not surfing to BrandTags.net, but the words I'd imagine Wal-Mart execs want at the top of the list aren't there. Positive brand terms like "value" and "low prices" are around the 15th most commonly cited. More popular words entered by visitors include slightly less positive terms such as "cheap" and "big" and much less positive words including "evil," "china," and "crap." Not every brand suffers from the same image problems--automaker BMW's top words include "car," "expensive," "german," "luxury," "quality," and "fast." How does your brand rate?
- Unexpected Theater for Travel Site: I'm rather a fan of live and unexpected performances as a way to create a memorable experience for consumers. What could be less expected than a scene from a musical breaking out on your bus, in a restaurant, or in this case, in an airport terminal?
Taking a page from Improve Everywhere, LastMinute.com created some unexpected theater in an airport terminal. The aim of the project was to create a viral video that promoted theater package deals. While I love the concept and respect the execution, I had a hard time seeing what this all did for LastMinute.com since there seems to be a weak link at best between the performance and the brand. Nevertheless, in a world of ignored ads, you can see how hard it would be to ignore or forget this experience...