Jack Myers is a great guy and an exceptional thinker and theorist. So I got a little chuckle when this opening line to his column hit my radar:
“Virtual Worlds™ are 21st Century versions of 1960s mind expanding drugs, but they are expanding more than just the mind. Virtual worlds and enhanced social networks allow us to explore new universes, expand our emotional range and depth, change the nature of communication and create different identities for ourselves.”
Well, okay. Virtual world and MMORPGs are indeed kinda trippy, a new experience that takes us to a different place where different rules apply. Cool. I can see how that can be compared to LSD or mushrooms or something (I speak purely academically and without any direct personal experience…LOL!). And I agree with Jack that they are expanding more than the mind. In reality, they are expanding a marketer’s arsenal to brand invasion and fattening online budgets beyond banner ads and keywords. All this to the detriment of the people who actually live in these worlds.
I have read a couple of articles that pronounce the death of MySpace, reporting on the migration of teens away from the marketing overkill that has innundated that virtual world. It’s as if P&G got into the acid business, or McDonald’s sprinking a couple of peyote pellets into their McNuggets. Yeah, dude. The Man is into our drugs, bro.
I know that many would disagree that corporate intrusion into these worlds is a bad thing. I’m a bit ambivalent to this blanket statement. As with everything in advertising and marketing, if the idea is good — if the work is outstanding and relevant and ground-breaking — then it will be accepted by people with open arms.
Second Life has recently positioned itself in mainstream media as a viable platform for marketers to ply their trade. Because of it, brands are jumping in feet first without even really asking themselves if they are wanted there. Many brand marketers don’t know what questions to ask the agencies that are working for them. They want to provide a compelling and pleasant brand experience, but fail to realize they have dropped themselves in a world where the majority of the population is not interested in first life issues, and does not want them there. Unfortunately, unless they immerse themselves in the world and understand its residents they can’t know how to integrate themselves in a relevant way for the people involved.
Are brands applying the same strategies in the virtual world as they are in the oxygenated world? In the oxygenated world brands try to connect with their audiences for the purpose of creating a relationship and a call to action: buy. Do their audiences exist in the virtual worlds, and if so, is it a place they want to see you? These are the types of questions that must be considered before entering virtual worlds.
Is the rush of brands into Second Life a bad thing? If you look at life as a great philosopher once said, “There is no good, there is no bad, there just is,” then you must simply look at what is taking place in Second Life as natural progression – a virtual evolution if you will. Soon, the original residents that don’t like what’s happening will move on to find or build their next Utopia.