NEW YORK: Major companies including Volvo, H&M and MTV are now using virtual goods in a bid to connect with internet users.

To promote its new sedan model, the S60, carmaker Volvo launched a campaign this month on MyTown, an iPhone application created by Booyah which boasts more than 2m players at present.

Emily Garvey, brand manager at Media Contacts, which handles Volvo's digital brief, suggested MyTown was particularly effective for fostering genuine engagement.

"It is a location-based game, where people check into a location such as a garage or auto dealership and opt to receive a virtual sedan, a Volvo steering wheel, tire or Volvo iron mark - its logo," she told the New York Times.

"[Volvo wants to] attract auto enthusiasts - who are about 60% men - to get people excited and to change brand perception so people think of it as a sporty, fun and good-looking car."

H&M, the apparel chain, is currently planning to roll out a second marketing initiative on MyTown, having employed the same platform in "The Blues", championing denim and other blue items of clothing.

This encouraged netizens to visit bricks and mortar stores and try products, offering credits that could be reclaimed against virtual goods when "checking in" at locations.

Speaking at a recent conference, Rachel Veiga, associate media director at MediaCom, the agency leading this effort, said it generated 10.6m online impressions.

"For us, it was interesting that the promotion was using virtual goods and virtual points to incentivize real-time activity," she said. "For brands like H&M, that's key.

"It's about driving foot traffic to stores, not just getting them to play. We're working on the next evolution of this - how do we get people to purchase?"

Appssavvy, a consultancy, leveraged MyTown over a ten day period on behalf of Powermat cordless chargers, fitting cellphones, ebook readers and satellite navigation devices.

Having surveyed 2,900 people signed up to MyTown, Appssavvy found 25% were aware of Powermat before the campaign, reaching 70% after it had finished.

Similarly, purchase intent rose by almost a third in this timeframe, indicating the broader benefits that come with effectively utilising emerging channels.

"MyTown provided a compelling experience, an online network and a fun and engaging experience," Beth Harrison Meyer, Powermat's vice president for global marketing, said.

Elsewhere, MTV, the entertainment network, has partnered with Mall World, a Facebook game aimed primarily at women, and which enables them to open their own fashion boutique.

More specifically, MTV is offering digital versions of items worn by well-known celebrities, such as singer Beyoncé Knowles' diamond ring.

Approximately 400,000 consumers log on to Mall World every month, and this young, tech-savvy audience is an attractive one for many brands.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by Warc staff