An interesting article from the LA Times called Virtual marketers have second thoughts about Second Life. It basically details some of the failures found from advertisers in SL including:
- Starwood Hotels closing up its virtual hotel (my guess is for no traffic).
- Best Buy's Geek Squad Island was empty (not surprising)
- Dell Island was deserted
- Sun Microsystem's Island was blank
- American Apparel's store closed up shop
- Of course casinos, brothels, and strip clubs were packed
What does all this mean? Well a bunch of these companies just jumped right in and basically put up some virtual billboards, spent some money, and found out what a lot of us SL citizens already know. If you don't make products that enhance the experience or if you don't build a SL destination then guess what marketers - nobody cares. Seriously, the only benefit that some of these companies received was free PR, but that time is over. Let's take a look at the examples from the article from a SL citizen:
- Starwood Hotel - why would I go there unless there was a major SL event or party being held? I wouldn't. Sure you could see what a room looked like, but couldn't you do that already?
- Geek Squad - oh so I have a problem with my PC and need the Geek Squad? Then how am I there now? Seriously, the Geek Squad guys can help but they are geared towards helping less techie folks right? I'm sure they are found in abundance in SL...
- Dell - you right now get better 3D rendering of what their PCs look like on their own website
The only surprising company mentioned that closed up is American Apparel because as I've pointed out before there is a serious lack of decent men's clothing in SL. Sadly though I never found them when searching for clothing in SL, so perhaps that's where their problem started in the first place.
I get asked often enough from clients and business friends about marketing in SL. You know what I tell them:
- Don't expect to generate a ton of real life traffic or sales from a SL store front
- Figure out a way to participate with the community
- Build a SL product, give clothing, hair, etc for free, or how about just hosting parties
- Make a true destination that avatars want to visit
- If you make a destination or build a product that enhances the community, that should translate into brand awareness and perhaps some earned media in First Life
If you can't build a product, make a destination, or develop a 3D execution of your brand you are wasting your time. So it isn't surprising that a lot of these companies closed up their SL shop. Marketing in Second Life involves using your imagination.