Second Life: Marketing Fool’s Gold?

    April 3, 2007

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.