Second Life, Second Chance

July 30, 2007

Yet another article lamenting the failure of real life brands to work in Second Life and yet another rebuttle from Wagner James Au.

To be fair to both sides the article from Wired doesn’t discuss any of the success stories and Wagner isn’t overly ready to admit that Second Life hasn’t been as lucrative as it could have been for many of the brands who’ve decided to give it a go. But as more moderate voices have reminded us, it is still early days for virtual worlds and to be fair there are just as many expensive marketing mistakes made in real life as there are in Second Life.

I got quite excited when I read Wagner’s post on New World Notes – ‘Wired and the Long Tail of Second Life Marketing’ – I thought he’d had some insight into how businesses could use Second Life to extend their tales as it where. This wasn’t his point sadly, but thinking of Second Life in Long Tail terms is probably a good start for any business.

While Chris Anderson’s point was that storage space and distribution logistics need no longer limit a sellers’ inventories, as a concept the Long Tail is more than that; it’s essentially about getting more people involved with a brand without incurring huge overheads. I’m still quite shocked at the amounts of cash spent on Second Life presences ($500,000 a year quoted in the Wired article, but I’ve heard higher from ESC employees!) and there are certainly cheaper ways of doing it. The first problem with most ventures into Second Life is that they are thought up be people who are unfamiliar with the medium, the second problem is that these ventures aren’t thought up by anyone with imagination. I know that’s harsh, but take a look at the real life branded presences in there, they might have very stylish builds, but that’s where the imagination ends.

Take a look at this.

I know it isn’t in Second Life but there is no reason why Second Life couldn’t do this kind of thing – it’s called KateModern and it’s a blend of social networking site, drama and ARG and it comes from the makers of Lonelygirl15. One of the crucial elements that KateModern uses that Second Life is worryingly thin on is story. I’ve been proposing that Second Life needs to be considered in the light of other virtual worlds like World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online, that ask players to engage with stories. While your typical Second Life ‘native’ caries out business, socialises etc., a quick glance at the number of sign-ups vs permanent residents shows that the former far outnumber the latter. Newbies need engagement and fast, they want games/tasks/quests etc. For many newcomers to Second Life a brand is a first port of call and in this sense it is the reponsibility of brands to make sure they want to stay.

For example the makers of KateModern could have decided that one of the characters has a Second Life residence that hosts multimedia and clues to the events portrayed on Bebo. As the story develops the Second Life set itself could change, perhaps clever players could learn when and where said character was going to be in Second Life where they could question/interrogate his or her avatar. In this context Second Life is just another channel with different interactive benefits.

Importantly companies going in to Second Life need to look at how they can use other mediums like Bebo, Myspace, Facebook, Youtube, blogs in tandem with Second Life. Part of the truth is that brands need to become content creators as much as product/service providers if they really want to see success.


One comment

  1. Hey Jack, trying to find your contact info. I saw your mention that Second Fest brought in 150,000 uniques– what’s the source on that? E-mail me at hamlet@secondlife.com. Thanks!

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