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Consumer profiles in reality vs fantasy‐based virtual worlds: implications for brand entry

Joanna Phillips Melancon (Department of Marketing, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA)

Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing

ISSN: 2040-7122

Article publication date: 18 October 2011




Virtual environments (VEs) are computer‐based, three‐dimensional virtual worlds where users create avatars and interact socially and competitively within the environment. Users spend millions of dollars every year consuming items for their avatars. Marketers have begun offering branded items in these communities with mixed results. The purpose of this paper is to examine motivational, usage, and demographic differences in VEs across two popular VE types: reality and fantasy‐based platforms.


A sample of 106 users of reality and fantasy based VEs was collected using an online survey methodology.


Results indicate that both reality and fantasy worlds are outlets for escapism and immersion. Reality VE users are more motivated to seek social relationships with other users and are more highly involved in the VE than fantasy users. Fantasy‐users are motivated by achievement and manipulation of others and are slightly more likely to be male, younger, and engage in the VE with members of their household.

Practical implications

Studies suggest that message congruency with the gaming context leads to better attitudes toward advertising in online games. This study suggests that tailoring communications for differences due to VE type may produce more favorable outcomes for marketers. Implications for product and branding strategy are suggested.


Little empirical work addresses successful marketing strategy in VEs, although hundreds of brands have entered these worlds. This research is the first to consider VE type and user motivation, usage, and demographics in the framing of marketing messages.



Phillips Melancon, J. (2011), "Consumer profiles in reality vs fantasy‐based virtual worlds: implications for brand entry", Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 298-312.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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