Monday, August 27, 2007

Sara McLachlan - changing the world

I just came across this video from Sara McLachlan and associated data on Swivel a great data site in our Blinklist. Sara McLachlan has donated the $150,000 normally used to make a video to much needed spots around the globe. Why is this interesting? Well for one it ties into making the world a better place wich is always important. However, even more intriguing is when you can create more positive results with the same our less input. It's the equivalent to building a city that reduces pollution instead of creating it (which is under construction now in China). How does this impossibility happen? In short - technology and creativity - both for the city in China and Sara McLachlan. An artist can't simply donate all their production money to charity and expect to stay profitable and thrive. However, an established artist can use the brand equity they have built up and new technology platforms (inexpensive video production, YouTube, MySpace and more) to create, product and distribute to a far wider audience in a more engaging manner. I have no dougt this $15 video will drive more record sales, artist brand equity and social awareness all at the same time than the next $20M spent on music videos this year. You can't watch it and not be moved by the images, the great music and the causes. More importantly it will be hard to watch another music video without asking why the hell that artist does not do the same! See the official site and list of charities for "World on Fire" by Sara. Then, come back and tell me how other campaigns and companies can do more good, build their brand and change the world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Virtual Worlds Conference 2007 - Be 3D or Be 2D

This is the 2nd Virtual Worlds Conference that I am aware of and it should be impressive. The first one was in NYC and they received a bigger turnout than expected. I was unable to make it last time, but based on all the talk about virtual worlds over the last 6 months, I am sure it will be packed. Also, Sentient will have the inside cover ad of the program so make sure to take a peek.

Virtual Worlds Fall Conference and Expo takes place October 10 – 11, 2007, at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California. Virtual Worlds Fall is dedicated to helping businesses harness the power of virtual worlds to engage with their customers, partners and employees.

The conference program includes five tracks featuring over 70 industry leaders presenting the latest techniques and best practices. This conference will bring together more than 1,300 attendees to participate in concentrated discourse with their peers, network with colleagues, learn from industry leaders, conduct business, and see the latest tools, technologies and techniques - all in a fun and relaxed atmosphere.

Anthony Zuiker, Creator and Executive Producer of the award winning CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise (including; CSI, CSI Miami and CSI: NY), will deliver the opening keynote of the two-day conference.

Online registration is open, and attendees can save $400 by taking advantage of the early-bird registration - only $595 - until August 24, 2007. Registration information and conference details are available at

I am heading to register right now, hope to see you there!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Is it a case of the chicken and egg?

Virtual worlds, they are all the buzz. CEO's of Fortune 50 companies are claiming they are the next evolution of the internet. Gartner has publicly announced that by 2011 they believe 80% of the internet will have a "second life" (though they also warned about security issues this past week as well). Lastly, over 100 articles have been written about virtual worlds in just the past 6 months.

If you were to see all of this, you might immediately run down to your web team and say "I NEED A VIRTUAL WORLD PRESENCE." Which is exactly what a 100 or so major companies have already done, only to see that a nascent market is precisely that: a nascent market.

Don't get me wrong, I believe just like Sal Palmisano, IBM CEO, that virtual worlds are the next evolution of the internet, however we must first learn how to market within virtual worlds, how users of virtual worlds like to be communicated to, and how best to message our brand and position our company, products, and services. We must iron out the kinks and nail down security issues. We must bolt down the hatches, and hoist the sales.

I don't blame the companies completely though, as so many creative developers quickly jumped on the bandwagon and started spitting out their show-stopping creative and telling brands exactly how and why they should be in a virtual world. All of this without a single statement, quote, remark, or comment from an actual customer of (insert brand).

Did we not just go through this around the turn of this century when everyone had a website not because they knew how to leverage and use it, but because the guy next door did and the creative was just too cool for school? Did we also not go through one of the worst industry busts of all time, when the deck of cards on the Dot.Com era came crashing down? Did we not learn that we must first research, ask questions, talk to customers, understand usability, etc. prior to building the coolest creative ever?

I just got done spending a couple of hours on reading all the case studies about how companies have been successful designing and re-designing their websites because they took the time to poll customers, to run usability tests, and to understand the psychology of the users. Virtual world presences are basically 3-D websites, so why should we buck the process we have been using the past 5 years or so just because there is a new cool gadget out on the market?

If you are a marketer of a brand and you are reading this, I urge you to ask the question which comes first, the research/usability or the creative. If you think it is research/usability, then give me a ring. I can’t guarantee that virtual worlds are ready for your brand, however I can help you make a decision, keep you from second guessing, and allow you to focus on the things that matter. If you think it is creative go talk to the corporations already in virtual worlds. My guess is that a good many of them can't explain the current strategic direction of their presence (though they might have been able to when it launched).

Virtual worlds are definitely the next evolution of the internet, but until we as marketers start to understand that virtual worlds are not a chicken and egg proposition, that they are clearly research/usability first, creative second, then we will be stuck with 1 step forward and 2 steps back as big media has a heyday debating the viability of virtual worlds.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Don't blame the platform for failure

I just read this great article about not blaming a platform (in this case Second Life) if you have the wrong goals or poor execution. Read it here (article). What it states simply is that some platforms are made for selling, some for brand building and so forth. New immersive worlds need to be approached differently. See our earlier post titled It's about the "cliques". These new web platforms build relationships and are not the best place to just recreate a real-world store and expect the dollars to start rolling in.

Instead, businesses need to figure out the "why" to why they should be there. Just jumping in because you don't want to get left behind is not an adequate why - and we tell clients this all the time. Sometimes money is still best spent the old fashioned way (and not even with Sentient!) in beefing up customer service, buying TV spots, sponsorships and so forth. If you want to chat about who should enter these new worlds, why and how, please let me know.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Austin AdFed and Virtual Worlds

I recently had the pleasure of writing an article for the Austin AdFed newsletter about virtual worlds and marketing. Take a look here and let me know what you think.