Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Is Second Life a dip or a cul-de-sac?

Last week my colleague Eric Brunker posted about the recent wave of Second Life bashing. He was a little ahead of himself -- the biggest bash of all came a few days later in Wired, in the Frank Rose story How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions On A Deserted Second Life and editor Chris Anderson's Long Tail blog post, Why I Gave Up Second Life. There are robust comments at both links that offer the pro/con give-and-take, mostly centered around the not-enough-to-do-in-SL/not-enough-traffic-in-SL reasons given by Rose and Anderson. Erick Schonfeld seconded those opinions on the Business 2.0 blog the.next.net, as well. Wagner James Au from New World News not only disagreed, but put forth an interesting argument that SL marketing in the short term creates something of a long tail for a brand (an argument with which Anderson, who created the Long Tail, did not disagree). Au also says (and has said before) that Second Life marketing is simply waiting for the killer marketing app that will in the long term bring value to SL marketing efforts.

The idea that Second Life marketing is doomed and corporations are wasting their money there is a classic example of missing the forest for the trees, in this case missing the virtual forest for the Second Life trees. This is essentially the point Eric (Sentient Eric, not Business 2.0 Erick) made in his post. There are other marketing/media/PR bloggers saying much the same thing -- for example, B.L. Ochman and Shel Holtz, who says "more forward-looking competitors stand a better chance of being prepared when the scales tip." Paul Hemp in a Harvard Business Review blog, said "It would be a grave mistake to dismiss the notion of marketing and selling in virtual worlds simply because of the shortcomings of Second Life."

We concur. Here's some food for thought from Business Week's April 16, 2007, article The Coming Virtual Web:
"The Acceleration Studies Foundation ... (a non-profit research group that has set out to define the 3D Internet) assumes much of its vision won't materialize until 2016 — and some participants think even that date is ambitious."
Here's another way to look at it: Is Second Life a cul-de-sac, a cliff, or a dip on the path to virtual world marketing success? According Seth Godin's latest short-but-thought-provoking book The Dip, knowing when to quit is a matter of strategy. It makes sense to quit if you're in a cul-de-sac or a dead end. If what you're in is a Dip -- "the long slog between starting and mastery" -- then it's important to "lean into it...push harder" because people (and companies) who "invest the time and the effort to power through the Dip are the ones who become the best in the world."

If the 3D Internet does not come to true fruition until 2016 or so, which companies are going to be best poised to take advantage of its marketing possibilities -- those who waited until everything got figured out by someone else, or those who pushed through the early, tough years, gained experience, and figured out how to make it work?

1 comment:

Paul Janowitz said...

Second Life is just one of many virtual/mirror/extensible world platforms - in short the 3D internet. Google Earth is also part of this and has been downloaded over 250 million times in less than 2 years. It has created an immense social mapping user base. This is future of the web and we are in the dip. Companies like IBM that have always lead are pushing through this and will be leaders in the next web evolution.