Making Marketing Work In Second Life And Virtual Worlds

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In the past couple of weeks it would seem like Marketers are starting to understand the power of marketing in Second Life and other virtual worlds. My main contention with previous Second Life marketing initiatives was that brands were entering the Metaverse, buying islands and were then “open for business.” It became apparent – quickly – that the Field Of Dreams model of, “build it and they will come” was not the ideal execution. We’ve seen countless islands that are now abandoned and seem more appropriate for a Discovery Channel documentary on lost civilizations then in the still-buzzing hype of Second Life.
As Marketers, we needed to make those mistakes and experimentations to gain the key learnings that are making some of the current programs so interesting and engaging. Marketers now know that the best way to promote and market in Second Life (and other virtual worlds) is to go where the people (err… Avatars) are.
Just last week I had the pleasure of meeting the marketing people behind Lacoste who are presently hosting an Avatar modeling contest. You can learn more about it here: Casting Second Life.
There is no island; Avatars submit a photo and description of their Avatars at the Lacoste website. You don’t have to be in Second Life to vote. Simply go to the website and choose who you think should win. Lacoste is hoping to create the top one hundred most beautiful Avatars in Second Life. From there, six Avatars will make it to the finals – three male and three female. Here’s what you win: a virtual photo shoot, one million Linden dollars (divided among the winners), your photos displayed both on the Lacoste site and in a Second Life gallery.
Next up are my good friends over at crayon (you all know Joseph Jaffe, C.C. Chapman, Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson, etc…). Just last week they launched Virtual Thirst – a marketing initiative in Second Life for Coke.
Here’s how their social media press release, Coca-Cola Launches Competition to Design Online ‘Virtual Thirst’ Coke Machine, describes the campaign:
“Coca-Cola is launching an open contest for Second Life residents and the general population to design a virtual experience machine through its ‘Virtual Thirst’… This contest is not a search for the virtual version of a real-life vending machine that distributes bottles and cans, but the mission to create a portable device for Second Life’s ‘in-world’ digital society that unleashes a refreshing and attention-grabbing experience, on demand… Consumers can enter the Virtual Thirst vending machine competition, even if they are not currently a resident of the virtual world Second Life. Design contest rules are posted on the web microsite: Virtual Thirst.”
The winner gets to see their virtual vision come to life and live in Second Life.
Both examples seem simple enough… and that’s the point. Second Life is complicated enough, so the big Marketing lesson is to leverage the Second Life community, make it easy to enter and fun to win. It also helps that both of these examples enable non-Second Life residents to take part and get interested. This has remarkable strategic by-products: it may well be that what Lacoste and Coke are doing in Second Life will stimulate people who never would have entered the Metaverse to take a look, and – hopefully – try out virtual worlds.
Second Life marketing is coming of age… and this is just the beginning.


  1. Great post Mitch — I’ve had several marketing strategists and pros ask, “What about Second Life?” To me, it’s got potential, and the early capitalizers with marketing as a goal aren’t getting it right. Build it and they will come — but only if it’s worth it, and fun.

  2. I’m not sure it will even work if it’s “worth it and fun.” I think, at this point, for pure population and when Avatars are online that going to where they are is still the big win.
    Have we seen any examples of company locations that have managed to maintain (and even grow) a significant community?

  3. Exactly Mitch! it does NOT have to be about who can build the biggest island with the flashiest buildings and such. It’s all about how to interact directly with the community where you are trying to reach people.
    This has always been the approach we wanted to take with the Virtual Thirst project and I feel really proud that we are doing exactly that.
    Talk to you soon. I’ve got to go record a SPOS for the big 50 show…..what to pick….what to pick… *grin*

  4. Mitch!! Great article. I really think marketers are missing the boat so far. It’s all about experience, as we know, but association is key. As a Second Life resident for well over a year now, I can tell you if General Mills opened up a Cheerios island I’d avoid it at all cost, (as you said). And if they started a contest I could enter as a one-shot deal? Ehhh.. it’s reasonably more interesting, but still very marketing’ish.
    As a resident, what would I love? I’d love for them to actually make something useful, fun and interesting, and give it to me, that I could use to enhance my Second Life. Brand name clothes are so few, and if I could wear a trendy-looking Cheerio t-shirt? I’d be all over that. Just like in First Life, I want to show others the brands I enjoy. So will I enter a Coke contest? No. Would I visit Coke island? Definitely not. Would I wear a Coke line of clothing, or walk around drinking a can of coke, just like I do in RL? Yes. Absolutely. I’m waiting for marketers to start STOPPING thinking about marketing “differently” in second life and start marketing normally, because then they’ll truly understand it’s really a virtual “world” and not just.. virtual. 🙂

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