Virtual Worlds Come Of Age


  • Stuart Barnes University of East Anglia



branded virtual worlds, brands, marketing,, case study


Virtual worlds have been purported to provide a fertile bed for marketing and brand-building for real-life companies. In Second Life, for example, there was a flurry of media hype and activity by companies in the period from 2007-2008. Several years on, however, the reality is that most of the big name brands have pulled out of Second Life. One of the reasons for this is the poor level of value generated for customers by the virtual brand experience, poor interactivity, a lack of brand and channel fit, and inadequate understanding of virtual communities. Recently, a new form of more targeted brand offerings has emerged. Branded virtual worlds, many of which are targeted at the youth segment, are growing rapidly. Many of these worlds attempt to bridge the gap between the real and virtual worlds, including advertising and real-world tie-ins, as well as subscriptions and digital micro-transactions. This paper examines one such virtual world,, and its real-world counterpart, Build-a-Bear Workshop. This successful case study has become increasingly important in driving revenues and cross-channel activity for the company. The paper rounds off with conclusions and implications for practice in this very new area of investigation.

Author Biography

  • Stuart Barnes, University of East Anglia

    Chair in Management

    Norwich Business School, UEA






Research-in-brief papers