Marketing Across Worlds

On June 18, 2006 by Christy

I?ve been enjoying travelling around Second Life (SL) and investigating, among other things, the marketing systems being developed. Why SL? Everything in SL is created by the ‘residents’ who keep their IP and can choose to give away or sell their creations. This virtual money, Linden dollars,?can be?converted into real US dollars and withdrawn from the game into your real bank account. So, rather than their being mainly advertising of real world products in a ‘game’ environment, SL has virtual products that are advertised in real life as well. It gets even more complex than that. But before I enter into a conversation, I should give a quick overview of the world. As of the 1st March (when Cory and Philip presented at Google) there was the following stats:

  • 150,000 residents (now 250,000)
  • 20,000 per day
  • 5,000 online in the evenings
  • 10 million player-created objects
  • 2,000 CPUs
  • One of the biggest one-world MMOGs (that refers to no instancing I presume)
  • Residents retain?IP of?what they create
  • Residents can sell what they create
  • Users buy and sell, US$5million per month, climbing 25% per month, average transaction is?$1
  • 100s of SL residents?=?fulltime job
  • AnsheChung.com, business for buying & selling virtual property, makes $175,000 per year
  • Residents: 43% female
  • Average Age = 32
  • 25% international
  • Main Revenue for Linden Labs: land use fees

There have been plenty of fascinating articles and discussions on SL and marketing recently. Namely:

This post is not intended to repeat the information out there, but augment it with my own perspective of the phenomenon. I’ll start by framing the marketing I’ve seen according to the direction of movement between the world of Second Life (SL) and the world of ‘real life’ (RL) or as Sherry Turkle called it, RoL: Rest of Life! Now, please note too that there are many more examples than the ones I list here.

Intra-World
These are products and services that are created and marketed within the SL world. They mimic RL approaches.
Examples:

  • I bought a t-shirt for my avatar that has two versions: a branded and non-branded version. I wear the version with the name of the creator on it, to advertise their business.
  • Rebel Hope in-world quest: hid a map that residents have to follow to find a free Lady Pirate Anne outfit for your avatar[forum announcement] [Second Style blog post]
  • At a Rave I attended in SL the other night there was one resident who was wearing an elaborate outfit with the permanent text balloon over his head saying: “IM me for a free Rave outfit”. IM means you contact them directly via text in-world. I did, and in the package was information about his product and his business in SL and where his in-world store is. There are lots of these examples.
  • Indeed, everything that you find in RL is in there: billboards, street-vendors, posters, classifieds and so on.

RL to In-World
Advertising in RL that drives consumers to SL, to in-world products and services. So the content is only available in-world, but the RL referrals drive people to the in-world business.

  • Anshe Chung: RL website that advertises the virtual properties you can buy in SL.
  • Second Style Magazine: RL website?that?covers the in-world products available in SL. Now, I especially love magazines like this because they remain ‘in-story’. I think we’ll see a lot more ‘in-story/in-world’ advertising and I plan to be a part of it. It shows respect of the created world. It shows people are having fun. And it feeds the God of Creation. In other words, I think it adds to the veracity of the imagined world.
  • Nylon Outfitters cameras: three SL videos were created to showcase the in-world cameras and placed on YouTube (Video Camping; Beautiful; The Motel) [Mention in SL wiki]

In-World to RL
These are products and services that began in real-life that have in-world (SL) advertising driving people to RL.
Examples:

In-World and RL
Now this is the most interesting, to me. These are?products and services that are available in-world (SL) and RL, and are advertised in both worlds too.

  • BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend in Second Life: The festival took place on 13 & 14th May with audio streams and (almost) live video highlights direct from the real world festival in Camperdown Park, Dundee, Scotland. Saturday line up included: Primal Scream, Snow Patrol, Mylo, The Streets, Muse with special guest appearance from Franz Ferdinand. There were over 12,000 Radio 1 branded radios and headphones distributed in SL (press pack). Interesting comments in SecondCast that they didn’t feel connected to the music. Obviously more effort needs to be put into making the space a new concert space, as opposed to a ‘shared experience’. What are the affordances of a virtual world?… [Rivers Run Red] [Rivers Run Red photos at flickr]
  • Mrs Jones (SL name: Fee Doran): RL clothes designer that has in-world versions of RL outfits. Rivers Run Red info] [RL website]
  • Regina Spektor: in-world space where visitors can sit back and listen to the album, created by Millions of Us. Rather than just being a referral, the space provides an experience that is unique to SL. [RL website]
  • Mata Hari in-world quest: Random Calliope (SL name) has created a game where the residents have to hunt through objects he leaves hidden, to find pieces of jewellery for their avatar. similar But the items?also have subtle referrals to the RL business site too. Basically, I get given, among other items, a whole lot of postcards, scans of the ones he sells in RL, and I have to read through the writing on them to figure out the story and the clues. I delve into this character’s history, just as those interested in nostaglia do. And excellent echo from business to play. This is an amazing game that I’ll be posting about soon. In the meantime, here is Anya’s great post about it.
  • CybsterSpace Club: an in-world club that streams in music by DJ Cybster. He has a RL website that refers back to the club. He plays podsafe music and his own and also podcasts these and refers to them on the website. There is an intnentional management of the identify of Cybster across these sites and worlds.
  • Cory Doctorow book launch:I loved this event, hearing about it. This event was the reason I signed up to Second Life. Cory Doctorow had a book launch in-world in which residents had created a look-alike avatar and giant books that you could read in-world. Cory’s avatar even signed a copy. [detail at NWN]
  • The New West: an exhibition that will display in-world created art at the in-world island ?Brilliant? and in RL at the San Jose Museum of Art, as part of the Zero One, ISEA festival. Interesting couple of names, among others, that are behind this: Tracey Fullerton and Celia Pearce. [RL website]
  • Tringo: started off as a game people can play in-world, that was so popular it is now be available for people to play in RL. It is a mix between Tetris and Bingo and was created by Nathan Keir (SL: Kermitt Quirk) and has been licensed by Donnerwood. It will be released on GameBoy Advance, Nintendo DS?and on mobile phones. Keir was paid five figures plus royalties. [Tringo Wiki] [Tringo in RL] [Secondcast chat with Nathan]

This RL and in-world relationship is the one I find the most fascinating. I’m even developing businesses that run in both worlds. There seems to be a trend towards multiple world approaches to marketing, look at how some companies have utilised the excellent storyworld creation techniques of Alternate Reality Games. But, like all things, the better ones are those that are organic. Products and services in-world that make sense to be there, that answer a need or create one that is relevant to that world.?What I like about products and services that were created in-world being available in RL is that they add magic to the real world. I don’t treat them in the same way, I have a different relationship to them, one that is full of possibility.

What I would like to see though, as I’ve said to many producers of repurposed content, give me the option of a fee for bundled products and services. Why not give me the virtual Mrs Jones outfit when I buy in RL? And why not give me the option of having the Mrs Jones outfit I buy in SL also delivered to me in RL? Perhaps skimpy clothes isn?t a good example, because not everyone looks like their avatar (that is the attraction for many). But the same approach applies to music, why can?t I have the option to buy a virtual CD object and audio files and have it delivered to me in RL too? I’d love that! Then my positive music listening experiences in RL and SL would feed each other. Now this is surround sound marketing: multiple world products.

Another thing, I noticed a lot of the RL sites for products advertised in SL have no reference to their SL counterpart. Why? This is a design issue I see in so much cross-media entertainment. You have to link all your content together, provide a map to the components/touch-points of your property. When I go to RL site that has no reference to all the wonderful effort that has been put into a SL space, it just looks as though the other stuff was created by someone else or you?re embarrassed by it. Not good.

Anyway, what are your views? Do you?like multi-world products and services? Why do you think they’re popular? And do you prefer ‘in-story’ advertising? What I’d also love to hear about are inter-world examples: in-world products and services that are advertised or offered in other storyworlds, like between Second Life and World of Warcraft (like that will ever happen!). The Sim Mafia are an example, they were in The Sims and are now in Second Life.