Brands Could Learn from Users in Second Life

  |  July 7, 2008   |  Comments

A new report compares corporate-built environments to user-built spaces in Linden Labs' virtual world Second Life.

Second Life's appeal to marketers has attracted integrations from t-shirt giveaways to flying cars. In some cases branded locations were documented to be deserted while other integrations have had wider success.

The report, "Serious Games for Marketing: Learnings from Corporate and Amateur Efforts in Second Life," from One to One Interactive's T=Zero research division, compares the efforts of corporate- and user-built locations in the virtual world based on aesthetics, popularity, and marketing to analyze why user-built sites seem to gather more visitors than name brand counterparts.

"Some people will say there is a little bit of an anti-establishment trend, a little bit of a homegrown ambience [in Second Life]," said Tyler Pace, a grad student at Indiana University School of Informatics, and one of the authors of the report.

Pace finds Second Life residents might "perceive a corporate invasion." One key difference between corporate and user builds is corporate builds tend to be larger. Even if a venue has the same number of visitors, a larger corporate site will appear less populated due to its expanse.

Approaches to marketing locations and events also differ. The report finds users tend to market their events predominately within Second Life itself, using billboards and other resources the realm provides to its users. Corporate residents tend to use "out-of-world" marketing channels such as blogs, corporate Web sites, social networking groups, and advertisements. Greg Verdino, chief strategy officer at social media consulting agency Crayon, argues corporate brands should integrate social media and community capabilities rather than simply creating branded spaces. For instance, he pointed to successful interactive corporate applications by book publishers involving virtual author tours and readings with authors.

Brands that Verdino has seen successfully participating in Second Life include IBM, H&R Block, and NASA. H&R Block has offered tax advice during tax season, and IBM channels tech support through the virtual world from its Web site. NASA uses Second Life as a co-collaborator space to work with non-NASA contributors on projects.

One to One Interactive sees other science and research organizations using Second Life as a collaboration space. "I see still today some solid adoption of virtual world spaces from companies, institutions, B2B, and on the research side," said Jeremi Karnell, co-founder and president of One to One Interactive. "We are beginning to see a lot more adoption in that area."

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