Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Second Living

So, I’ve now been an active daily resident of Second Life (hereafter referred to frequently as SL) for roughly a month now. Active was initially a euphemism for shopping (for clothes, sunglasses, cigarettes!, you know the stuff you need to live), but has since become active in a much richer sense of the word.

I was prompted to finally take the plunge after a spate of internal agency email ‘chatter’ regarding SL started picking up and I realized no one really knew what they were talking about – myself included. I’d read quite a bit of the mainstream breathless buzz surrounding this ‘new frontier’ and a bit of the SL? WTF? stuff being written and seen some very intriguing personal accounts coming out of SL – but I hadn’t experienced it. I hadn’t lived a second life.

And, now that I’m in I’ve found that I’m in as the person, the gamer, the sci-fi/fantasy geek, the unapologetic escapist that I am and have willingly and completely left the professional marketer behind. At least the Real Life/First Life (hereafter referred to as RL) marketer.

I’ll try to explain.

Having been in for a few weeks and having to leave my avatar where he stood (or sat) upon returning to RL, I was struck by the near overwhelming desire to have a place to ‘go home to’. So, a little over a week ago, I decided to go ‘home hunting’ for a place to rent/lease/buy. While out exploring different regions, I was timidly approached by a noob fresh off Orientation Island for help. Apparently after two weeks ‘in country’ I appeared (to someone only hours-old at least) to have ‘gone native’. So, with that validation, I now considered myself a resident as opposed to a tourist. And my perception of the (second) world immediately underwent a distinct shift. It’s almost the identical shift my sense of place (and self) underwent when, living in Paris years ago, an American tourist approached me asking for directions – in French.

But I digress. Suffice it to say, I have a home now. (A second home, if you will – I’m renting a nice little two room hillside condo on Parva.)

So, it’s as a resident that I offer some these thoughts on RL brands in SL:

My avatar wears SL brands exclusively (by SL designers from SL stores). The notable exception is a beautifully rendered pair of Adidas from the Adidas SL store – and I’m almost constantly conflicted about wearing a RL brand.

With that single exception, my current position is that I don’t need RL brands but more importantly I don’t particularly want RL brands in SL. And, my sense is that for the most part the people who spend the most time there don’t either. That’s not to say it isn’t ‘doable’, but it’ll take some more time for me to get a fix on how RL brands might best integrate themselves into SL for them to be accepted and widely successful. Regardless, nobody in SL seems to be interacting significantly with the RL venues/brands.

As an escapist that appreciates immersive experiences virtual and otherwise (i.e. video games, books, film), the lure of ‘living’ in SL has been very seductive. It’s a rich, varied, sometimes stunning world once you begin to explore beyond the commercial centers. And that’s just what I was doing – exploring, looking for a place to call ‘home’ – when Justin in IT sent this article from Fortune.

"Real estate deals may be slowing in the real world, but in the three-dimensional online one of Second Life the market remains hot. Now Coldwell Banker, one of the nation's largest real estate brokerage firms, is entering Second Life, aiming to help bring order to the chaotic world of virtual real estate."


It’s safe to say, I don’t want to live in a Coldwell Banker home in SL. I won’t debate the need for a RL real estate broker (Real estate! It’s in the job description fer chrissakes!) But, I want to use an SL broker (or more accurately in my case the SL classifieds) to find an SL home designed by an SL architect.

Ah, crap. Here’s where I get all hypocritical an’ shit. Okay, there are going to be exceptions. Full disclosure: The Adidas aren’t the only exception to my RL-influenced belongings. I have in my condo a pair of expertly rendered reproductions of Mies’ Barcelona chair. And, here’s an example of where I think an RL brand missed the boat; DWR could have/should have been in there crafting the officially licensed pieces. As it is, SL designers are lovingly crafting beautiful replicas of mid-century modern classics (you can buy a perfect replica of Phillip Johnson’s Glass House! To live in!). So, who needs DWR?

At roughly the same time that Justin had sent the Coldwell Banker article, Meredith, our new business guru, was asking me to write a white paper on my initial experiences in Second Life and my thoughts on how our clients might benefit from presence in SL . My reaction, as you might guess, was that the paper I’d write would not be what the agency nor our clients necessarily wanted to hear. I’d have a hard time separating the "Second Life for Second Lifers!" SL resident from the RL "Strategically this could be a smart translation of your brand into the virtual space." marketer.

Then I came across this blog posting from Eric Kintz, VP of Global Marketing Strategy & Excellence for HP, and realized that I couldn’t have said it better myself. Certainly not without completely forsaking the escapist in me.


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