Second Life – New Ways of Doing Business and Publicity Stunts
July 17th, 2007
Posted by Danny Allen
On Saturday, the technology blog TechCrunch jumped on the pile of people declaring the land rush in Second Life over. Referring to an article from the LA Times, TechCrunch said that there aren’t enough people in Second Life to justify buying, building and staffing a real-world store in Second Life’s virtual world.
The case was put a little more bluntly by an advertising professional I heard speak in Philadelphia who called Second Life a “three-dimensional, badly animated ghetto” that he would advise his clients to “run, don’t walk away from.”
Starting a store in Second Life seems to be a move very similar to Hillary Clinton joining MyGrito.com and Value Giant announcing that it accepts pesos. In each case, it is interesting to think about how much of each of those moves was actual outreach to a niche market and how much was publicity stunt.
It seems clear that Hillary joining MyGrito.com and anybody starting a store in Second Life was pure publicity stunt. After over a week, Hillary has 66 friends in MyGrito.com. That’s not enough votes to carry my apartment building. Similarly, at its height, Second Life had fewer residents than Omaha, and you don’t see everybody rushing off to open stores there, despite Omaha’s much higher quality graphics.
In both cases, it was a case of an idea capturing the imagination of the press, and by extension, the public, and someone utilizing that tool to their ends. For a couple of months, putting Second Life in your byline guaranteed that people would read your news story, so advertisers put up stores there for the simple joy of free press. Similarly, political candidates are getting tons of mileage from having cutting edge online presence, despite the low-importance of the young vote. Throw on top of that Hillary’s nod to the Hispanic market, and you’ve got yourself a news story (and 66 new friends!).
Pizza Patron and Value Giant are gaining free press with their actions while also sending a message that they encourage business from immigrants. It is very unlikely that they’re actually doing a ton of business in pesos.
In the case of Second Life, it’s a calculated press stunt. For Pizza Patron and Value Giant it is a press stunt but also a symbolic gesture. Maybe Hillary is legitimately reaching out to the Hispanic voter, maybe she’s just trying to get some free press.
On the one hand as marketers we could learn something from these actions. All of them worked to an extent (although Reuters is the only company I can think of in Second Life off the top of my head). On the other, it should teach us to be cautious of deciding too quickly that the rules have changed and that a new marketing vehicle really works just because someone else is using it. Second Life won’t succeed or fail on the backs of a Reuters outpost and John Edwards’ virtual campaign HQ; MyGrito and other niche social networks won’t necessarily thrive because Hillary’s on it; and you’d better grab US dollars next time you head out to Wal-Mart.
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