Second Life – What Marketers Should Be Paying Attention To

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Second Life and virtual worlds and what this new channel means to marketers. A lot of this thinking is based around the desire for every business to buy some land and build out a sim in Second Life for people (like you and me) to visit and be engaged with their brand, products and services.
It’s a tough sell for many reasons. First off, the cost of entry is significant if you consider that one private island (which is usually equated to buying a server) can only hold about sixty Avatars (or residents/people). That’s a lot of planning and development to launch something, that at its max, can hold about sixty Avatars (I know, you can add multiple servers and load balance, but that’s just more cost and technological hurdles).
It got me thinking: if I were a Marketer (which I am) and I wanted to connect with Avatars in Second Life (even if the real ideal outcome for me would be a lot of real life PR), what is the logic in building an area and hoping people come to it? Why aren’t Marketers taking on the ethos of Experiential Marketing from the real world and driving that through the Second Life channel? Why not go where the Avatars are and speak to them versus building glamorous property on a land mass and hoping that people will come… and come back time and time again?
I keep thinking about an example I saw from Max Lenderman over at Experience The Message where a toilet paper launch was done by building gorgeous toilets into the back of an eighteen-wheeler and parking it outside of music festivals. Odds are when you have to go and you have the choice between a port-o-let or these magnificent thrones that are cleaned to a bright shine after every use… well, I think we all know which line we would choose. And, when you’re taking care of business, you’re pretty much engaged in the brand experience.
The same is true for Second Life.
If you’re a car company, why not go where people are congregating (like the casinos and sex clubs) and start handing out cars or test-drives? Why not go to the people instead of hoping that they someone transport to your private island?
Beyond needing a presence in Second Life because everyone else is doing it, I think Marketers can see the many magnificent opportunities if we simply start embracing the channel for what it is – an immersive experience. If we can agree that Second Life is an immersive experience (which I think it is), then I’m hoping Marketers are on the same page about creating experiences for Avatars in Second Life that don’t just look like a product launch which is shortly thereafter neglected to the point of brands owning Second Life slums or the virtual world equivalent of a Ghost Town.
Marketers can learn a lot about Second Life by taking a look at what Experiential Marketing wins are happening in the real world and lead from there.


  1. Excellent post here, Mitch. Maybe this is where some companies are going wrong in Second Life. Spending thousands and thousands of dollars to build an island because it’s in vogue, but then not knowing how to engage the existing community once they’ve done so.
    Businesses too often delude themselves into thinking, “If we build it, they will come.” Well, we may go there once or twice, but if there aren’t a series of activities beind held there that are meaningful to us to keep us going back again and again, then that island will just be another empty one.
    Bravo for suggesting this, Mitch. Marketers should give this approach serious thought.

  2. Great post Mitch. I’ve been getting more involved in Second Life the last few months. Partly because we’re having an AIMS event in March – The Marketers Roadmap to Second Life. But also because I’m curious about the world and what people are doing in there. Having wondered around some deserted islands and stores I agree that marketers should look at what they can do where people are already hanging out.
    A couple of months ago I read that Food Jammers (a show on the food network) was setting up a lemonade stand and showing clips of the show while an avatar served up lemonade and conversation. I haven’t found the lemonade stand yet but I really like the idea.

  3. Marketers in Second Life that do choose to build would also do well to read – several times – The Timeless Way of Building, by Christopher Alexander. The book, on the surface a book about architecture, talks a great deal about how our interactions with a space define that space. Our interactions with that brand define that brand. In Second Life, if the interactions happening in your space aren’t the ones you want, then the space is not aligned to elicit the brand response you want. A good read.

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