Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Golden Age of Marketing?

I attended a discussion with about ten marketing types from all over the world - Australia to Phoenix (and three of us from Boston!) regarding the recent Forbes Magazine article describing how corporations were bailing on sl (http://members.forbes.com/forbes/2007/0702/048.html). Attendees included, in part, Shava Suntzu, Anastastia Cazelet, Samson Francis, Barbarella Noel and a writer for sl identified as Wire Writer (profiles available). We met outdoors in a space that looked like the Esplanade, with seven Hatch Memorial Shells surrounding us. I think we were floating above the clouds.

The conversation was led by a marketing strategist curious about corporate presence in sl. We (well, they. I was just observing but welcomed by the group) talked about how it’s not good enough that corporations build fancy looking sims in sl – they have to host events and create community in order to participate (be successful) in-world. As one of the attendees pointed out – avies don’t need to eat or sleep so what’s the point of creating, for example, a Starwood Hotel. Interestingly, IBM has 4,000 employees present in sl (but no one knew quite what they were up to). Participation and creativity are key in sl. Successful projects were noted, such as Steelcase, who sponsored a chair design contest, 1-800-Flowers, who sponsored a flower arrangement competition, and a Ben & Jerry’s competition sponsored by Esheep. It’s the immersive nature of sl that makes it appealing, and the group pointed out that people open up more in this environment than in typical brainstorming sessions. Meetings in-world are more productive than a typical conference call.

The marketers in the group then got very “market-y”, discussing how to use sl to drive brands into the community, and how sl communications will allow visitors to perceive in a more “deep” way certain marketing campaigns (isn’t this what cultural organizations are struggling to do?). I got worried about being spammed in sl. The beauty of the metaverse now is you can avoid all advertising, cell phones, suvs, soul destroying things from rl…Anyway, we all stopped for a moment to appreciate the idea that we had a diverse group from all over the world, that we could “hear” one another speak, review conversation, and that no generation gap was perceived. The conversation turned to the book by Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place (hey, hc’ers, have we discussed this yet?) – home and work representing the first two places we inhabit, but what are our third places? Coffee shop? Church? Library? SL? A bit of a golden age in sl right now I’d say…

Shava’s response to Forbes’ article is here: http://slbizreview.com/2007/06/28/forbes-has-a-dirty-mind.aspx.