Monday, July 30, 2007

Obligatory Second Life Post - July 30, 2007

Americans love discovering, selecting, customizing and interacting with their content. This can be seen with the success in sales of digital video recorders (over 15 million in market), such as TiVo, which allows users to decide when and what television programs they are going to watch. It can also be noted through the rapid growth of the virtual world Second Life—where users can interact with brands on a level never before available.

In its purest form, Second Life is a 3D virtual environment that is built and maintained by its virtual residents. Users engage as avatars to interact, play, do business and communicate with each other. Residents can trade or sell virtual goods and services to other Second Lifers, host live concerts, participate in public debate and engage in many activities similar to those done in real life. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Since its launch in 2003, Second Life has gone from zero users to 8.4 million, is growing at 30% per month, and has begun to host virtual headquarters for companies such as American Apparel, IBM, Starwood Hotels and Adidas.
Second Life presents a great opportunity for a company to interact with a more youthful target audience. Because Second Life’s population is almost evenly split between men and women and the average age is 32, auto manufacturers have already begun to use it as a media platform. However, although their efforts have been seemingly successful, many Second Lifers are upset about the intrusion into their virtual world. Many of them create virtual goods to sell, such as cars. When Nissan and Toyota gave away cars for free, many of the virtual car manufacturers were not only alienated, but suffered a loss of personal income.
When making an entrance into Second Life, you should be mindful and considerate of its users. The residents are not ready to see ads plastered all over the world they created, and they are quick to retaliate by using computer viruses, code hacking and virtual bombs to disable marketers. Any marketing initiatives should invite the Second Lifers to explore a dealership, like GM’s Motorati Island, but not force itself on the residents.
You also have to figure out how to find the residents, as many articles being published right now point out that many corporate attempts to have a presence in Second Life are ghost towns.

If you decide to use Second Life as a new way of engaging with prospective consumers, remember that “real world rules apply,” even if it is a virtual environment. Take what you know about guerilla and experiential marketing tactics and apply them when executing a campaign in Second Life

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