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  Brand Advice in ‘Second Life’ and Beyond  
 
 
Posted 2007-02-06 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Leading up to moderating a SXSW panel on "Avatar-Based Marketing," I've been collecting relevant reading material, and I thought I'd share some recent selections with you. Feel free to add your own bookmarks to the comments section of this post.

Gary Hayes of Personalize Media gives us "The Brand Owners Guide to Joining the Metaverse," where 13 tips are presented, including some favourites of mine ("Don't Become Virtual Just Because You Can" and "Be Sensitive to The World") and some practical advice for development, such as "Design Multiple Levels of Navigation" and "If You Are Going to Provide Content Give Enough Choice." Also see Hayes' article "TV & Design Brands and Virtual Worlds."

Avatar Tateru Nino of Second Life Insider expounds on the subject of "Practical Marketing - physical business in nonphysical worlds." In summary, Nino's thesis is that attempting to replicate real products in Second Life is not only futile (since functionality can't usually be replicated) but could damage the brand. I'm not sure I agree 100%, but I encountered great example of this sort of disconnect with Telus' entry into Second Life: Virtual Telus phones didn't behave like phones at all, and didn't seem to offer enough value to consumers... ergo, why bother building a "functional" phone in Second Life?

Then there's a long series of reading material on MTV's Virtual Laguna Beach / Virtual Hills offerings, from Advertising Age's "Case Study: Marketing in Virtual Laguna Beach" (registration required), to Wired's "A Second Life for MTV" by 3pointD's Mark Wallace. Lastly, some quick hits: "CBS machinima ad for Two and a Half Men," Fox Atomic stages a machinima contest in Second Life, and "‘Nicktropolis’ Fails on Many Levels."
 
     
 
   
 
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  11 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by Giff-Forseti
February 6, 2007 @ 1:28 pm
     
 
I've never really had time to write up thoughts into a formal doc, but if it's interesting/useful for you Tony, here's a trip through some older posts:
http://www.bazaarblog.com/2007/01/07/word-of-mouth-wisdom-3-forseti-svarog-in-second-life
http://blogs.electricsheepcompany.com/giff/?p=249
http://blogs.electricsheepcompany.com/giff/?p=234
http://blogs.electricsheepcompany.com/giff/?p=210
http://blogs.electricsheepcompany.com/giff/?p=113
http://blogs.electricsheepcompany.com/giff/?p=44
http://blogs.electricsheepcompany.com/giff/?p=11
http://blogs.electricsheepcompany.com/giff/?p=5
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
February 6, 2007 @ 2:15 pm
     
 
"why bother building a "functional" phone in Second Life?"

I'd consider that to perhaps be the result of an issue I've often cited: marketers treating virtual worlds like the more familiar, more controllable, but effectively passive old school media channels. I suspect most people in the marketing community think of virtual reality as just a different kind of TV. And with TV, advertising talks at the consumer; not with the consumer.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Giff-Forseti
February 6, 2007 @ 4:56 pm
     
 
I just was forwarded this as well, a post by Gary Hayes which I need to look at more carefully but at first glance looks quite interesting (and I don't say that because he points to our projects):
http://www.personalizemedia.com/index.php/2007/02/04/the-brand-owners-guide-to-joining-the-metaverse/

Csven, I do think it is easier for marketers to go with old modes of behavior and thinking... I think there's a lot of adjustment underway right now, in part by virtual worlds but really in a bigger way by blogs, flickr, youtube, etc. The head of P&G;may talk about letting the consumer define the brand, but how well does that trickle down? Transitions in worldview always take time, with some way ahead and some way behind.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
February 6, 2007 @ 5:00 pm
     
 
> I just was forwarded this as well, a post by Gary Hayes

Giff, you mean the post I talked about in the second paragraph of my entry? :)

Thanks for the links and comments, dudes.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
February 6, 2007 @ 5:11 pm
     
 
Giff, that link is in Tony's piece above.

With regard to the rest of your comment, I agree. The same *does* apply to other avenues of communication. Thing is, how long does it really take for people supposedly connected to consumers to understand how the game has changed? The slow adjustment has, in my opinion, shown us a naked, over-compensated emperor.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
February 6, 2007 @ 9:31 pm
     
 
On the Harvard Marketing article
"Harvitar and Groupitar"
http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2006/07/harvitar_and_gr.html
Why marketing gurus and sherpas need to hook the inworld groups somehow to outworld capacity to have people talk in groups even while on Blackberry or at work.

I think there are a lot of insights contained in this piece critically examining the Harvard review, even if it is long and rambling. The chief thing to think about is the magic of game currency and game-sized low wages and low costs which keep the avatars buying -- and the problem of sustainability.

http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2006/10/dos_and_donts_f.html
20 things to avoid if you are a sherpa'd into Second Life. Widely linked piece.

"Practical Marking 101 From Panty Hog"
http://www.secondlifeherald.com/slh/2007/02/practical_marke.html
Disputes Tatero's thesis as completely unimaginative and unwilling to grasp the realities of RL Internet marketing that already go on in SL.

Why bother buying a functional phone? or even an SL dysfunctional phone? I submit to you something I once said, that the old CEO of the inworld busienss "Nexcom" even put on his profile:

"If you fail to see what the point is of having a telephone in Second Life, you're simply not able to see how sexy your avatar will look with this cool, modern gear on his belt".

Ok, that was a lot of free consulting there, Tony, so feel free to right-click on the avatar "Prokofy Neva" at any time and press PAY. Thanks!
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Giff-Forseti
February 6, 2007 @ 11:33 pm
     
 
"Giff, you mean the post I talked about in the second paragraph of my entry? :)"

Needed... coffee... sorry Tony!

Have you seen this one by the way? I'm not so sure how I stack up regarding "reverse branding" but it's an interesting topic:
http://www.brandweek.com/bw/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003538681

Csven covered it here (albeit with a yawn):
http://blog.rebang.com/?p=1150
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
February 7, 2007 @ 2:16 am
     
 
Why bother buying a functional phone? or even an SL dysfunctional phone? I submit to you something I once said, that the old CEO of the inworld busienss "Nexcom" even put on his profile:

"If you fail to see what the point is of having a telephone in Second Life, you're simply not able to see how sexy your avatar will look with this cool, modern gear on his belt".


Actually, I don't see a problem with Tony's comment. If expectation is not matched by experience, then there's a problem - whether the product is real or virtual. If an SL product promises to function exactly like the real world version, it should do that. If it looks like it's real world counterpart but functions differently, that should be clearly communicated to the consumer right off the bat. Failing to do so causes a problem... only not for people lacking a sense of immersion, but for those who are immersed. People who aren't immersed wouldn't react emotionally; they'd rationalize that it doesn't really have to work.

"(albeit with a yawn):

Damn right.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
February 7, 2007 @ 3:32 pm
     
 
Prok, thanks for the linkage, your Linden Dollar is in the mail :)

Giff, I have seen some of the reverse branding stuff, it's semi-interesting but I don't think the potential is anywhere near exploited yet. Not so much 'yawn' for me as 'hmmm' at this point.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
February 7, 2007 @ 3:59 pm
     
 
From even one Linden dollar, great empires have been borne, Tony, thanks! : )
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
February 7, 2007 @ 5:09 pm
     
 
To be clear, I'm not yawning at the concept but at the limited use for which it's being considered by those who I've seen discussing it. What I was reading was mostly limited to the kinds of reverse product placement that has been around for years. The kind that I'm not seeing much of is the truly 3D virtual kind where a product originates entirely in a virtual space and has a purpose in it and then crosses over.

What most people seem to be discussing is using a virtual space for validation of a potential real world product (and often not even one that's manufacturable much beyond printing t-shirts). Nothing wrong with that; my old "Smiley Face Savvy" entry is basically that idea on steroids. But beyond that, my ideas in this area were for

1) the development of a product inside - and intended for - a virtual space

2) selling it inside that and perhaps other similar virtual spaces to generate profit

3) then, if possible and worthwhile, using the proceeds from those virtual good sales to pursue real world product development (e.g. pay for tooling).

I've discussed this with a number of people over the past couple of years, including but not limited to Ilya Vedrashko (blogger for the MIT Advertising Lab) and Chris Carella (of ESC). I've even explained to Chris how I was thinking of Multiverse as a 3D shopping site for any 3D content... not just for Multiverse content (and unlike TurboSquid's 2D interface). Beyond that, however, such a 3D interface could be used to sell not just virtual goods, but also eventually real goods... because as you guys should know by now, I don't see much difference in them.

Now that's a long way from what most people I've seen discussing "reverse product placement" are considering. However, if you guys are seeing people talking about this in the same vein that I am, please share those links. I'd very much enjoy reading someone else's take on this.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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