Virtual Reality - Marketing in "2nd Life"

Second Life is "an online, 3D virtual world imagined and created by its Residents." Many people who how have a presence in the community take it very seriously, engaging in relationships, constructing their fantasy environments and visiting those built by others, and even engaging in commerce. Some consumer product companies are already paying for advertising in this virtual world. This poses the question: Will virtual communities become a useful tool for building product marketing?

A recent posting on the CSI Blog points the way:
  • An architect is using 2nd Life to help clients visualize proposed projects.
  • Architecture schools are using virtual worlds to study urban planning and designs.
  • Steelcase, the office furniture systems company, has a showroom in cyberspace. (See illustration above).
My guess is that the 5/10 rule applies: Don't overestimate its significance in the next 5 years, nor underestimate its potential in the next 10 years. That said, Second Life or other virtual communities could be a creative place for market research, branding, and maybe even virtual product testing. You can also use whatever you create there as the basis for a special promotion, publicity event, recruiting, and to create an impression of being an innovative company.

Bottom Line: Find some 20-something year old employees who grew up on computers and give them a chance to create a presense for your company there. It will motivate them to learn more about your business and how customers behave, and give them an opportunity to play with new ideas -- they may just invent the future of your business there.

Those who want more info on business opportunities can download a study here.