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Exploring real-brand meanings and goods in virtual-world social interaction: Enhanced rewards, rarity, and realism

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In virtual worlds, real-life brands develop co-created meanings in social interaction involving users, platform, and marketers. Whilst research has focused on brands advertised in online venues, marketers are challenged to know how users experience brands socially and interactively in virtual worlds, and potential outcomes of those experiences. This article explores meanings of brands and branded virtual goods through user interviews from one virtual world with brands integrated into social interaction. Findings suggest positive orientations as brands aid sociability, status, and achievement. Interactions connect with avatar identity displays and social roles, enabled by platform and realism from real-brand presence. Manifestations extend beyond the virtual world, and seem understood as marketer tactics. Inserted brands appear to impact user experiences with enhanced rewards, rarity, and realism.

Keywords: brands; ethnography; interviews; symbolic interactionism; virtual goods; virtual worlds

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2013

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