Building your brand on

Although this YouTube video is primarily focused on highlighting the paradigm shift in mass communications to 1-on-1 communication, the more important message here is about the opportunity to build a brand in a virtual, social environment.

Consistent with characteristics of a community, second life is made up of residents that create their world, their identity, and choose their friends. More importantly, they thrive on word of mouth recommendations. As viral communication thrives, Secondlife provides yet another platform for sharing.

Residents create avatars reflecting their personal identity in this virtual world. And many brands are already taking advantage of this. Avatars can visit the American Apparel virtual store to view the latest clothesline, buy Dell computers, and read news updates from Reuter.

And you thought is was all for online gamers, recently Secondlife became one of the cutting edge virtual classrooms for major colleges and universities including Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton. Administrators host lectures, inform students of projects and chat live outside of the traditional classroom.

The future of the virtual platform is at its infancy. At a virtual world conference in October 2007, IBM and Linden Lab announced plans to develop open standards that will allow avatars to roam from one virtual community to the next. The goal is let a person create a digital alter-ego that can travel to many virtual worlds, keeping the same name, look and even digital currency. And Secondlife isn’t the only opportunity to get involved.

If you’re not sold yet, there are hundreds of ad, design and marketing agencies dedicated to creating destinations and opportunities on Secondlife. If hundreds of companies are being created to simply service this platform, it’s definitely not a fad.

With the increase of clean-store policies, companies must build their brands out of store to influence that purchase decision before they walk in the door. And with consumers spending less time with traditional media and more time online, companies must shift dollars to reach them. Promo Magazine Industry Trend Report for 2007 reported that marketers are spending 32% of their promotional dollars online (only higher medium was Direct Mail) to generate promotional support.

From tracking consumer “IM” relating to your product to testing a new product before it hits the shelf, Secondlife provides research capabilities as well. These residents are early adopters and will champion new products if you give them the opportunity. Building brand loyalty takes time and trust, and Secondlife provides a highly-targeted medium to reach current and future customers.

Afraid of jumping in and taking a risk? You should be more afraid of getting soaked on the sidelines from your competitors’ cannonball. It’s just a matter of time before your competitors announces their presence. Andrew McGregor expressed this in the YouTube piece, but I agree. “In five years, the brands with the most social presence online, will also be the most competitive in the marketplace.”

– Contributed by Kelly Walz