Addicted to novelty since 2001

The Tricky World of Second Life Marketing

As regular readers know, I’m highly skeptical about companies marketing in Second Life today. It’s too early, I’m not sure they’re particularly welcome and, in most cases, I don’t see the return on investment.

That won’t always be the case, and I believe the MySpaces and FaceBooks of the future will look something like Second Life. Today, however, I would point my clients elsewhere.

Wagner James Au has written an interesting piece on GigaOm, reporting on a marketing survey (PDF). I’ll immediately disregard the survey, because they only talked to 200 avatars (which might, you know, mean 150 humans for all we know) and there’s no discussion of methodology in the document.

However, Au does go on to make some comments on marketing in Second Life, which are worth repeating:

The standard means of travel in SL is point-to-point teleportation, near-instantaneous transit from one x,y,z location to another. (Though it gets more press, Superman-esque flying is mostly used in short, localized bursts to get around obstacles.) P2P teleporting renders billboards and most other location-based advertising useless, and in any case, most SL marketers buy and develop on private virtual islands, where they can fully control the branding experience.

There’s also some really interesting discussion in the comments associated with this post, in particular this one:

There is a limit to the benficial effect of the ‘Flash Crowd’ aka the ‘green dot effect’ which is exactly that described by Larry Niven in his 1973 story of the same name – the sim gets laggy at fairly low levels and eventually the tp system stops working. Even if a company gets the Beatles to reform with Jimi Hendrix on guitar to publicise an event in sl, a vanishingly small amount of users would actually be able to attend. Companies need to go back to long, slow campaigns rather than a massive spend on shock and awe tactics. AOL Pointe in sl seems to have grasped that idea, for example.

I think most companies go into Second Life out of corporate hubris. It looks like a fun project for the employees, and it’s apparently what all the cool kids are doing. I’d love to see some more research or analyst reports on the bottom line.

2 Responses to “The Tricky World of Second Life Marketing”

  1. Mhairi Petrovic

    I agree with you Darren, it is too early for Second Life to be a viable marketing vehicle. Once the environment is more stable and more people can access it though, I see it becoming a great alternative to reaching new audiences.

    That said, apparently the Telus investment in SL is paying off so its a forum thats definately worth keeping a close eye on.

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