Have just finished watching a very short Channel 4 programme about Second Life – featuring a woman who not only makes a healthy living selling jewellery, flowers and all sorts of other stuff inside the ‘game’, but also met her husband (rendered on-line as a rather trendy-looking blue metallic robot, rendered in real-life as a rather scruffy-looking geek), which prompted me to write the blog entry about Second Life that I’ve been meaning to write. Turns out that I’m hardly ahead of the curve on this – the BBC’s Newsnight current affairs programme was broadcast from Second Life back in January.
So what’s my insight? Well, there’s been much written about how Second Life will transform the world; here are a few thoughts about the impact it will have on marketing, particularly online marketing. Apologies if you’ve heard these before.
Firstly, let’s think about who’s going to be spending most of their time inside Second Life. I predict an inverse-square distribution of time spent in the game; or, put another way, 20% of users (‘residents’) will spend 80% of the time in the game. In fact, I reckon the skew could be even wider (perhaps something like 5%/95%). This means two things:
The people who spend most of their time in the game will be less engaged with the off-line world;
Most people who have a Second Life avatar will spend comparatively little time in the game.
The first of these is a delicate version of the criticism voiced by my wife when I mentioned the marketing opportunities in Second Life: “But all the people in there will be no-life geeks; so you won’t be able to sell them anything other than beer and pizzas”. Now, beer and pizzas are big business, but she probably has a point. These folks are perhaps too busy spending (and probably earning) Linden Dollars to respond to First-Life marketing very much.
For me, the second, much larger group is the more interesting one. These are people who may duck into Second Life occasionally to see a ‘live’ performance by a new band, or to visit an interactive tie-in for a TV show (geek threshold notwithstanding). I was interested today to discover slrul.com – an implementation of the Second Life API by Linden Labs (the game’s makers) that allows you to hyperlink directly to a position within Second Life. So I can envisage a future where an appreciable proportion of the population have access to Second Life (perhaps via some kind of visitor avatar, removing the need to register and create an avatar) and make frequent short visits to specific places within the world.
Once there, there’s the opportunity to start to build a profile of those visitors, and serve them marketing in the online environment which would be customised to them. I haven’t spent a lot of time in Second Life, but I’ve not yet seen much branded advertising; there’s an opportunity to use the same advertising real-estate in the game to serve different ads to two (or more different people – much as the same creative position online can be used to deliver different ads to different users today.
There’s more to come from me on this topic, but I’m going to close off this post now, as I have other stuff I have to get on with. Any thoughts?