Major Study on Brands in Second Life

I just discovered through Ilya’s post a study of the Perception of the Presence of Brands in Second Life by CB News in partnership with Repères Second Life. It is an excellent study because it gives some spot on advice about brands in SL but also because it provides a snapshot of SL residents. Here are some of the findings:

The main thing learnt from the poll was that the presence of RL brands is perceived as positive by a great majority of Second Life residents: 66% believe that the presence of RL brands has a positive impact on SL, whereas 22% believe that RL brands have no impact on SL, and only 11% believe that RL brands have a negative impact on SL.

Some of the negatives about brands:

Few reasons for rejection. Criticisms are very dispersed and mainly about the fact that this universe should remain “parallel” and faithful to the original philosophy of freedom, creativity, escapism…

Experience of brands in SL is very limited to date. However, confirmation of the positive reactions to brands and the potential that this universe offers them: communication, product sales, co-creation process.

No RL brand has yet managed to build strong spontaneous awareness in SL (all brands less than 20%)

Brands they’d like to see in SL that are not presently there:

  • * 13%: IT (technology, computers, videogames)
  • * 11%: Clothing
  • * 10%: Culture (cinema, books, comics, record labels, cultural brands)
  • * 4%: Transport (cars, motorcycles, bikes, aviation)
  • * 4%: Food (sodas, alcoholic drinks)
  • * 4%: Luxury goods (cars, clothes)
  • * 4%: Leisure/Travel (travel agencies, hotels, amusement parks)
  • * 3%: Distribution (mail order…)
  • * 2%: Media (newspapers, radio, TV channels)

What makes a good brand in SL:

  • * 35% Appropriateness
  • * 27% Special Offers (freebies, leisure activities, attractive prizes, Linden winning games)
  • * 10% Visible Sim

On the first point, appropriateness, there are two categories:

Appropriate for SL:

  • * “Propose interactivity between players”
  • * “Be original, innovative”
  • * “Adapt itself to the SL clientele”
  • * “Make an attractive sim, have a designer building”
  • * “Create meeting places, have a convivial side”
  • * “Distinguish SL presence from RL presence”
  • * “Respect the SL codes”
  • * “Offer real utility in SL”

Appropriate for the brand:

  • * “Create things that you find in RL”
  • * “Remain loyal to the image of the brand”
  • * “Make activities related to the brand possible”

I can’t tell you how many brands DO NOT take care of these issues. Many of the sims I’ve seen are ugly, interaction-design nightmares, have very little relationship with the core brand and are ghost towns. Unlike a website a 3D environment needs to have a two-pronged approach: 1) it needs to have people there 2) it needs to be entertaining without people there. On the first point, I see a virtual sim for brands as needing to have the same goals as what good shopping center design has. Take this quote from Alvaro Portela, CEO of Sonae Sierra:

We try to create our shopping centers as leisure destinations. I would say that the shopping center industry has evolved into being a leisure industry all over the world.

Unlike other real estate sectors, shopping centers only retain their value if they are able to attract customers…they are live buildings. A shopping center that is empty is worth zero.

Quotes are from an advertising supplement, International Herald Tribune, Thursday March 29, 2007, page 10. On my second point, being entertianing without people being there. That one is there because it is the first step in getting more people there, and because many people do travel around SL by themselves. So, you need to create things that a single person could do whilst there, as well as things that encourage group activity.

The problem with assessing the value of big brands is that you need to drill down beyond the hype and beyond the initial traffic. Big brands will get interest from the media, which in turn will result in visitors to the sim. But the sim could be terrible and none of these factors would indicate that. What does indicate it is whether people come back, how long they stay there, what they do there, whether they tell other people about it, what they say about it and whether they contribute to it. If you have no way to measure any of these items then your design is wrong.

The study also presents impressions of some brands. It is an excellent resource for those considering entering into SL and for those that already are and need to make some changes.

Check it out: Survey post with link to pdf report

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