Sight, Sound and eMotion: Making a Case for Marketing in Second Life


Media extends our ability to interact with the world as well as our ability to retrieve and share information. As we move forward in the digital century, our extensions are growing in number and becoming increasingly human. The seismic shifts in how we communicate in the [twenty-first] century pose new challenges for marketers, but forward-thinking marketers view these challenges as opportunities.

Newspapers extended media’s reach through sight; radio through sound; and television through site, sound, and motion. The Internet added a layer of social interactivity to what television had previously provided. Virtual online worlds add a new dimension to this paradigm; an unprecedented social dimension. While there are many manifestations of the new social interactivity, from Blogs-to-Podcasts-to-Wikis, one can argue that the most compelling manifestation for marketers is the virtual world called Second Life. This article briefly explains what Second Life is and is not and explores why marketers should care.

What Second Life Is and Is Not

For those of you who are not familiar with it by now, Second Life is a 3D virtual world created by Linden Labs and propagated by its residents. Upon entering Second Life, residents create an avatar — which may or may not bear similarity to their own likeness — and venture into this unique world. When people first hear about Second Life, they oftentimes liken it to The Sims, World Of Warcraft or other MMOG’S (Massively Multiplayer Online Game). Although there are similarities in graphic implementation, Second Life is quite different.

What Second Life Is Not

1. Second Life is not a game.
2. There are no winners (by any formalized standards).
3. There is no predetermined purpose, and there are no rules other than such minimum regulations as are necessary to maintain a peaceful community. Generally, if you can dream of doing in Second Life, it can be done.
4. There is a real human being associated with every avatar; there are no non player characters (NPC’s).

If Second Life Is Not a Game, Then What Is It?

I may not be as heavily ingrained in the world of Second Life as some, but I seem to be doing a lot of evangelizing these days for the opportunities that exist for marketers in Second Life. I have formulated my own simplistic description of Second Life as “a 3D version of the web.” This description is admittedly vague, but it has value because it disabuses people of their natural misconceptions.

When referring to Second Life, I never use the word “game,” rather I refer to it as a “platform.” Given that much of my evangelizing is done with respect to marketers, or people in related industries, I tend to highlight the economic structure of Second Life (the Lindex- which “works by matching existing buyers and sellers of L$ currency together to automatically reach the best price for currency” ) and the real world brands that have embraced this new platform (American Apparel, CNET, Adidas, Major League Baseball, and Vodafone to name a few).

If people are still not convinced, I reference the barrage of articles written about Second Life in the past few months (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Businessweek, Wired, and many more). With or without my evangelizing, I know that it is merely a matter of time before Second Life is a concept as commonly known as “podcasting.” Disruptive technologies are generally met with fear before adoption, but the adoption cycle is not far off in the case of Second Life.


  1. I had no idea what “Second Life” was, till I read this article. I then created an account on “Second Life” immediately. I am a changed man! “Second life” is the future! If everyone on myspace would switch over to “Second Life”, there’d be less technical problems, and a more exciting way of communicating. This was a very informative article.. Thanks Adotas!

  2. But what’s the avatar represent? Does it respond to the same stuff my real ego does? Like in “real” life, I’m a committed environmentalist and wouldn’t touch an SVU if someone gave me one, but in Second Life, where it’s no more real than I want it to, why not have some fun and tool around in that gas guzzler — a return to the halycon days of childhood where I could afford to occasionally irritate the world (mainly may parents) for the pure fun of it. I have enough trouble figuring out real world motivations, let along virtual ones presented through some second(?)party persona whose relationship to reality is literally an enigma wrapped within a mystery.

  3. GREAT article and kudos to Starwood Hotels for launching a hotel chain in-game that seeks to enhance Second Lifer’s experience. I’m always fascinated when anyone, especially marketers, would be hesitant about getting their virtual feet wet and signing up for an online phenomenon like Second Life. We are not in a time any longer where playing it safe is an option. Having a presence on portals like Second Life, MySpace, and so on is a must. Having a podcast/videocast for your company is a must. Long story short-you may not like or even “get” what Second Life is all about, but you’d better start learning since your competitors will.

    -John C. Havens

  4. Nice article Adam. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the paragraph towards the end about 2L not claiming to be a ‘reality’. It is whatever we make it out to be: a sandbox to try new things, a place to launch a new product or idea, an on-line world that is merely an extension of our off-line life, a place to learn (like your CC Chapman example), a bridge to connetions around the world, or whetever else our imaginations will create. As for me, I have enough trouble staying on top of my first life, so I’m not sure how well my second life will keep up with this new world.

  5. very well put. succinct.

    why it is that marketers don’t see second life as a new frontier and an incredible opportunity that rarely presents itself (nearly carte blanc channel until recently) absolutely escapes me.

    thanks for your insights. and thanks for the evangelism – you are reaching more than the choir with your message. well done.

  6. Definitely on point here. I think the buy-in from major corporations that are in a position where they’re trying to gain traction from a younger marketplace is amazing. The tough sell will be the corporations that are maintaining their empire and are least likely to take risks and move deftly.

    However, those that do will most surely benefit.

  7. […] In a recent article that I wrote for Adotas I touched upon the subject of Second Life and the distrust that many felt towards the idea of virtual worlds. I likened the virtual space to reality television in an attempt to give a common point of reference so as to disabuse people from their trepidation. […]

  8. I have to say, before I read this article I wasn’t even sure what an avatar was. But after checking out the site, I can see why you are so excited about it. Thanks for turning me on to Second Life.


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