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Brands Led Blindly Into Second Life Forest

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If a brand appears in Second Life and no-one is around, does it really exist?

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 27 august 2006

If a brand appears in Second Life and no-one is around, does it really exist?

As more brands enter Second Life, their arrival has prompted PSFK to wonder what the heck is going on. Linden Lab seems to be doing very nicely by selling ‘islands’ to brands where they build stores and what not.

We can’t help being reminded of the late 90s when brands rushed to create websites which no-one ever went back to. Today brands have learned from heir mistakes and are more likely to spend more money at the huge (traffic) portals than on their own site. They want to be where the internet users are.

Now, brands are creating experiences in remote locations in SL, away from Second Life residents. There are huge congregations gathering in clubs and fairs in Second life and these places remain unsponsored. Meanwhile everyone and their dog is setting up a translation of their real world bricks and mortar experience in places where there is no footfall.

Maybe the brands need to employ some of their retail planning staff in their decisions rather than their ad teams. To be fair, new arrival, Candian store TELUS isn’t on an island – they’re near a casino and the club THE MATRIX. Well done on that – but low marks for the execution of the store: they still have created a store based on the real world. Why are brands making such stores? Second Life is not a dolls house. In the Telus store, the mobile phones they sell are tucked away in a cabinet at the back of the store. Hard to find, hard to see. Why didn’t they make huge replicas of the items – like any real SecondLife retailer would have done? We were told to use Mouse View instead.

Residents operate in a completely new way in Second Life – they move in 3D, they teleport, the animate, they congregate – a store with a door and clothes rail doesn’t seem to really meet the opportunities available. Why are we applying real world experiences to Second Life when new experiences based on the physics of the environment should be conceived? Like we’re seeing on the web today, innovation won’t come from the brands, nor media – it will come from networked bodies of people exploring their new space.

Our final thought is on customer service and security – when we went to the Telus store to look at the place we got mugged by someone in the store wielding a gun – they blew us about a mile away. When I got back the sales assistant ‘Sparkle Dale’ told us that we were being rude for standing so close. I’m sure they have it on CCTV – if only they had a police force in Second Life to complain to…

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