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July 10, 2008

Do Androids Dream on Ikea Beds?

SimsFor those like us who have enough trouble functioning in the real world, the thought of supporting a virtual existence seems quite daunting. Especially now that you may end up paying to furnish and accessorize that virtual lifestyle.

Real brands have been encroaching on the virtual world for some time now. A year ago, Starwood Hotels claimed to be the "first company in history to open a new hotel brand inside of a virtual world." They launched the hip Aloft brand in Second Life, as a promotional vehicle before opening its doors in the real world in 2008.

In a new twist on art imitating life, users of the Sims virtual-world software can accessorize with real-world brands, including H&M and, most recently, Ikea.

For a mere $19.99, you can "turn your Sims' living room into a haven of comfort and relaxation with a plush Ektorp sofa, a unique Expedit TV unit, a complementing Leksvik coffee table, and chic décor, like the Vanna mirror." (Read more here.)

Excuse our obtuseness, but we thought people created virtual worlds to escape the constraints of the real one. Do people need the reassurance of Ikea and H&M in their Doppelgänger existence? And do they really need to pay for the privilege?


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With just this year - so far $345 million has been invested in a virtual world of some nature - that is what is on public record - who knows what the real figure is - for me the use of brands in virtual worlds makes a whole heap of sense especially in a virtual world like www.twinity.com which is still in private beta, twinity is based on a mashup of real and virtual - real people and real places - therefore having real brands available virtually means twinezens can express who they are in more real terms to other twinzens -

- Virtual Worlds being about fantasy lives will continue to grow however i predict that the next wave of Virtual Worlds will blend the principles of LinkedIn, Facebook and other social platforms where real profiles are created to become part of the social/virtual 3D Immersive network/World

Ikea has come up with a great method of keeping their brand front and center in consumer minds with this Sims tie-in. However, I find it pointless to charge virtual users $20 for the 'privilege' of having digital Ikea furnishings. Why not give all Ikea Sims products away for free? This would ensure a much wider audience and more exposure, further increasing brand penetration. Do they need the $20 that bad? Maybe they could create an exclusive Sims line for a price but give away their real items for free?

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Brand extensions are all around us — clothing from the Sierra Club, furniture polish from Steinway and, yes, even the kitchen sink from Jacuzzi. TippingSprung, a New York-based brand-extension consultancy, publishes an annual survey on brand extensions with Brandweek. If you spot a noteworthy extension for the blog or survey, email us.



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