Second Life = Marketing Tool?

I recently attended a social media seminar in San Francisco and the speaker mentioned Second Life numerous times.  I must be behind the times because I didn’t know much about Second Life or how to leverage it from a marketing perspective.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to educate myself and the readers of this blog.  It is a fascinating concept:

First and foremost…

Dwight’ Second Life

According to Wikipedia (trust me, this is the shortest definition I could find), Second Life (abbreviated as SL) is an Internet-based 3D virtual world which came to international attention via mainstream news media in late 2006 and early 2007. A free downloadable program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called “Residents”, to interact with each other through representation of himself/herself (alter ego), providing an advanced level of a social network service combined with general aspects of a virtual universe. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade items (virtual property) and services with one another.

So how do you leverage this virtual world from a marketing perspective?

Well, according to marketingstudies.net, here are just a few examples of how companies are using the virtual world right now:

a) IBM
IBM owns about 24 virtual islands in Second Life, using this virtual land to help companies like Circuit City build their own virtual retail stores, as well as hold IBM’s own internal conferences.

b) Sears
Sears launched a “Sears Virtual Home” showroom prototype, where potential customers can browse Sears products, play with product colors and even create a whole garage.

Their eventual plan is to allow users to re-create their living rooms and such and furnish them with Sears products, seeing how they would look in real life. The next logical step for Sears is actually allowing customers to order directly from Second Life and have the delivery done in the real world.

c) Nissan
Nissan is giving away virtual models of their cars and allowing the virtual world’s users to drive them on a virtual race track.

GM and Toyota on the other hand are selling virtual models of their cars for a few $, of course in the Second Life currency Linden Dollars.

d) Ogilvy
Ogilvy, a full service marketing agency, and many others, are using Second Life to recruit employees –> people with real-life experience in Second Life, to work on client projects for the virtual world.

e) Starwood Hotels
The owner of the Westin, Sheraton, and W chains set-up a new hotel in Second Life, prior to doing it in the real-world. Their aim is to observe how people use the hotel, and then try to use that knowledge when building the real thing.
[source: BusinessWeek]

They are actually hoping that the virtual world residents will be able to save them money, by preventing them from making mistakes when building the real thing.

f) American Apparel
This real-life clothes company is selling virtual clothes to the residents of Second Life, for about $1 or less per item. They’re hoping this will boost their sales in their real retail stores.
[source: BusinessWeek]

g) Adidas
Adidas jumped on the bandwagon by doing a store featuring their latest shoe. But, they went beyond just offering the product as a simple virtual item, actually adding features that demonstrate the product to the consumers –> when wearing the shoes, users can jump and even use a test trampoline within the store.
[source: Future Lab]

h) Autodesk
The software maker is building a virtual place to interact with a community of architects, designers, engineers and others. [see their invitation]

The question right now is whether the virtual world provides any true marketing value. Personally, I see it as an opportunity for the consumer to interact with your product and to create a sense of brand loyalty. Your thoughts?

1 Comment
  1. Mella
    February 6, 2009

    Fantastic post!!! Cheers!

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