Second Life: Marketing Fool’s Gold?

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Brands continue to launch operations in Second Life with the hopes of marketing their products and services to a completely new audience.

Skeptics, however, doubt that such a strategy has any long-term sustainability and is just another example of the bandwagon mentality.

While no one would disagree that staying ahead of the technology curve is a good thing, one has to constantly gauge factors such as feasibility and return on investment when deciding to jump headlong into a new venture.

As Second Life continues to be inundated with brand marketing, these are the issues that now begin to spring up for marketers.

Indeed, this is one of those touchy subjects that makes you really examine the thought process associated with embracing new advertising platforms.

Eric Kintz, Vice President of Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence for HP, gives some great insight into the very real concerns that are facing marketers looking to set up shop in Second Life.

He gives ten points in all, but these two bear particular mention:

The model’s scaleability is further threatened by a corporate IT backlash. According to a recent survey by Sophos, 90.4 percent of IT pros want to block users from accessing Second Life and other similar sites; and 62 percent find it essential to block users from accessing from their corporate PCs. The reasons include increased IT security risks; burden to company bandwidth, and wasting valuable business time.

Brands are not staying true to the Second Life values. Second Life is about realizing your fantasies and being something different than you are in real life. Many avatars have a different gender than the subscriber or take animal forms. However most brands mimic their real life experiences and value proposition in Second Life.

Brands have also disrupted the local economy by offering some of their goods and services, prompting a backlash by residents. 70% of Second Life residents are disappointed by the branded experiences.

Kintz raises two valid points that have a fundamental impact:

·    It’s difficult to market to Second Lifers when their access is being blocked

·    When 70% of your audience is disappointed, your strategy isn’t working

Is it really worth it to invest so much time and energy to establish your presence in an online world that 1) really doesn’t want you there and 2) stands to have its access restricted by IT professionals?

If you’re just now deciding to set foot into the virtual realm with your advertising, Second Life may not be the sturdiest of ground to take your first step.

Second Life: Marketing Fool’s Gold?
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  • Chris

    I am the founder of a small search engine optimization firm who also found Second Life only a few months ago. However, I didn’t spend any money, just did a few things within the world to earn $L, Second Life’s version of currency. We actually sell our web services for the cost of these Linden Dollars which we use to build our virtual offices or we just convert it to real $USD currently and send it to paypal.

    However, Placing a grphical classified ad paying about as much as H & R Block (2500 $L per month) as well as auctions actually brings in about 20 new clients every week.. Odd because I would have never thought something like this would work. I would have never guessed that so many website owners would live/play in this virtual world.

    Will it last? Who knows but it’s surely fun for us while it does.

  • Coburn

    Most of these brand

    • ThatGuy

      Maybe Second Life is just…. better? And Entropia just… sucks?

  • Marc Girolimetti


    You may already know this, but most of the integrations are being completed by glorified software development shops who have no idea what to do with their clients once the builds are completed. I envision the final tasks as invoice sent, check is cut, check is mailed, check is cashed and project complete. On top of that the brands are seduced by the eye candy that these firms produce and don’t bother to dig deep into the issues that matter such as sustainability and ROI (Heck Reub Steiger from Millions of Us even said last week that we shouldn’t pay attention to ROI in SL. Huh?) and more importantly how to create a positive brand experience that is engaging and will create loyalty amongst the general population.

    I’ve said this time and time again, it’s not the brands that the community dislikes, but rather the experience. On top of that is the worse case scenario that the community has no idea your even there, which boils down to the basic principles of promotion.

    I’m going to cite RatePoint as an example. They are a legit corporation albeit a young and hungry start-up. They purchased a significant amount of banner space on many of the SL centric blogs and news sites, have worked with my firm to hire an in-world promotion team and had us build a simple cafe that could host 4-5 live music shows/week just to give the community something cool to do and to add icing to the cake, have hired residents to manage the cafe and book the artists. In three short weeks they are generating far more traffic than Pontiac, Nissan, Scion, AOL, Reebok, Adidas, Dell, H&R Block, Sony-BMG and every other big corporate giant. To kick a little more dirt in the eyes of the MegaCorps RatePoint is already asking “What can we do to improve this?”, which is going to leave the competition (for attention) further back. I can tell you, since we built it, their entire SL strategy and execution was completed at a fraction of the cost of what the MegaCorps invested. I don’t know what kind of Kool-Aid they’re being fed, but to them SL might as well be called Jonestown.

    As far as the IT Pros are concerned they’re concerns are silly at best. If it were up to them they’d only allow people to communicate via cups attached to strings. Any SL investment, from an internal stand-point, has to be looked upon strategically? What is this for? Who needs access? Sometimes it’s a few people who need that special portal opened. I think it’s the one Dr. Who uses. In other scenarios the whole firm may need access. This isn’t Minesweeper here. If a firm is in SL chances are it’s for a very legitimate reason and hopefully it involves revenue generation. Given that scenario the IT Pros should be saying “How can we help?” rather than “You can’t do it”.

    Executive Director
    Green Grotto Studios, Inc

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