Second Life, the online virtual world created by Linden Labs, has become a magnet for online marketers of all shapes and sizes. It’s been used to hock everything from cars to political platforms. But all is not well in 3D marketing land, according to a study released last week by brand research company Komjuniti.
Komjuniti questioned 200 users inside Second Life to find out what they think of the marketing around them. What the company found was astonishing. Seventy-two percent of them said they were disappointed with the way marketers were using Second Life. Forty-two percent considered Second Life marketing simply to be a passing fad that brands really had no commitment to. Only seven percent said that Second Life marketing reflected a positive brand image and influenced their buying habits.
The results were “disappointing, but not entirely surprising,” said Dr. Nils Andres, Komjuniti’s managing director, in a statement. “All the hype about Second Life in the traditional media has served to raise people’s expectations to a level that the technology and the companies taking part simply are not yet in a position to fulfill.”
Instead of seeing billboards all over the place, survey participants said they wanted to interact more with different brands. When Second Life branding efforts die out, they sometimes leave branded shells behind. Participants said that gave them the impression that other Second Life residents were not interested in what the brand had to offer, even though the remaining structures may be visited by large numbers of people over time.
“Companies are transferring their challenges like-for-like from the real world, without creating sustainable solutions for the virtual one,” said Andres. The most positive branding came from hotel and retail brands because they have experience with real-world location-based marketing. But, he says, the key to brand success in Second Life is lasting engagement and well thought-out content to keep online residents interested over a long period of time. Short term promotions that become abandoned by Second Life users can result in long-term brand backlash.