Marketers may be interested in a new $3.1 billion industry they can tap into to generate excitement about their brands and turn a profit.

Marketers may be interested in a new $3.1 billion industry they can tap into to generate excitement about their brands and turn a profit. The virtual goods industry is already being used to market a number of leading brands and supplement companies' revenues, and social gaming firm Viximo and virtual merchandise platform Virtual Greats predict this market will grow by more than 100 percent over the next three years.

Viximo and Virtual Greats joined forces to release the first ever Branded Virtual Goods Market Report. "Branded virtual goods" are defined as online items with a decorative or gaming value. This year's branded virtual goods revenue is estimated to be $16 million, but by 2015 it is predicted to reach $318 million.

The study highlights how celebrity rapper Snoop Dogg is using virtual goods to leverage his brand. Snoop has released branded sweatshirts and boom boxes that social gamers can buy for their avatars on Gaia Online. Users are so enthusiastic about the items that they have become hot commodities players bid for on the gaming site. Snoop's presence in this market has not only promoted his actual merchandise and endorsed products, but it has also generated more than $200,000 in sales.

Branded virtual goods currently seem best suited to the entertainment industry, but the study emphasizes that contextual relevance and timeliness can create opportunities for virtual goods from a variety of sectors. It could be interesting to see how this platform develops – especially for marketers appealing to teen consumers. A report from OTX shows that 14 percent of teenagers who are active on social media currently buy virtual items for their avatars.

Plus, combining virtual merchandise with the rising mobile market may be a valuable way to promote brand awareness. An appssavvy study shows that mobile application users who received virtual branded goods demonstrated a 63 percent higher purchase intent that users not exposed to virtual goods. 

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.