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Exploring the fit of real brands in the Second Life 1 virtual world

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Online virtual worlds are rapidly becoming recognised as an important new channel for marketing and brand building. This paper examines the brand value of real-life brands that have moved to the virtual world of Second Life. Using axiology, we assess the value of real-life brands in the virtual world and test an exploratory model of brand fit to the virtual world. While category fit is an established construct, channel extension fit represents a new variable developed specifically to help explain brand transference to the new context. Data were collected in two phases, both in Second Life via automated avatar survey bots and via a Web survey. A total of 211 matched responses were collected and tested using partial least squares. The overall research model is strongly supported. Virtual-world brand value is strongly determined by extension attitudes driven by an assessment of how well the category of the real-life brand offerings fit with the virtual world and how well the real-life brand offerings fit with the three-dimensional virtual-world channel within which they have emerged. This implies that organisations must carefully consider not only the nature of existing brand offerings before entering into the virtual world, but also whether this new channel is indeed a suitable channel in which to be embarking on branding activities. This also has clear implications for branding activities in other social media. The paper rounds off with a discussion, implications for practice and future research, limitations, and conclusions.
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Keywords: Second Life; brand; fit; partial least squares; real life; virtual worlds

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of East Anglia, UK 2: Roskilde University, Denmark

Publication date: 2011-08-01

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