Virtual Goodness

27 Oct 2006

Marketers at Procter & Gamble are testing a revolutionary marketing tool that, through the power of computer-generation, is saving them years of traditional research. The reactions, behaviour and experiences of consumers are being played out for them to see thanks to "the Cave" – a walk-in three dimensional room that projects the visitor into a virtual world.

Given P&G’s clients comprise A-list supermarkets like Tesco, J.Sainsbury Asda and Boots, the cave is able to recreate, in every detail, the interior of these high street stores, The FT reported.

Cave visitors can walk through and explore the aisles, ‘picking’ products that catch their eye, or turning them round to read labels or sell by dates before they proceed to checkout to ‘buy.’

As consumers explore their familiar shopping worlds, albeit virtual, watchful marketers at P&G are tweaking the store layouts, displays, product design and overall packaging.

Interesting as that sounds, P&G is once again giving it’s own interpretation on the theme that has been proven to be succesful for other web services. Just like the launch of Tremor, their own word of mouth network, The Cave is very similar to what is now going on in Second Life. It’s the idea that counts, but rather than following the other brands into the Second Life saga and creating the experience on location, P&G fights swims against the stream and chooses to create it’s own virtual world, of which they’ll have full control.

“In three months we have done work that would previously have taken us two years,” Gianni Ciserani, P&G’s general manager for UK& Ireland said in an interview with The Financial Times.

He added that before the virtual cave, the company would need to persuade one of their retail clients to overturn one of their stores for a pilot – an experiment that means time and money for both parties. (read more via CustomerWorld)

That said, the industry in Second Life is booming as never before. Three months prior to the targeted date, Second Life welcomed it’s 1.000.000th visitor. With all these new people streaming in to share the experience, it still requires quite some pc-savvyness to move around and explore what Second Life has to offer.

Very often, newbies find themselves lost in a place with no directions and they don’t know where to go to participate in social events or gatherings. That’s why an online travel agency sees its business booming by offering guided tours to new citizens of the virtual life.

Synthravels is based in Milan, Italy. The concept of Synthravels is by Mario Gerosa and by Matteo Esposito of Imille. Mario Gerosa is a journalist who has a long experience in travel. He has worked for many years as senior editor of Condé Nast Traveller Italy and for the most renowned travel magazines. He is a member of the GIST, the association of the Italian Travel Journalists, and of the OMNSH, a French association of video games researchers, and he has been organizing in-world meetings with famous Second Life residents for a project of the Indiana University. In July 2006 he launched the project for the preservation of Virtual Architectural Heritage.

After a quick registration procedure, you’re invited to list the parts of Second Life you wish to explore and one or two dates/time settings that best suit your schedule. Synthravels then promises to contact you and arrange the guided tour of your choice.

Apart from travelers, the organisation is also looking for guides, so if any of you know some nice spots and cares to make some money touring around newbies, sign up at Synthravels. Your digital red umbrella is waiting for you. So are the tourists.

If you think the story ends here, no, we’re not even getting started.

Dutch politicians Arda Gerkens (SP), Zsolt Szabó (VVD) and CDA-candidate Ad Koppejan (CDA) are following the footsteps of the American presidential candidate Mark Warner – who got interviewed in Second Life by Cory Doctorow from BoingBoing – and are trying to run a part of their campaign in Second Life.

In the next couple of weeks they’ll teleport theirselves to places which are frequented often by Dutch people, according to EPN’s director Tom van der Maas. On these hotspots, they’ll be flyering digital campaign brochures in the hopes to win the hearts of the geeks and somewhat more regular Second Life citizens.

Politics is one thing, you can also decide to move your social benefit organization to the world of Second Life. Why shouldn’t you? After all, Second Life has its own U.S. $64 Million annual economy, an independent media, its own currency, and a thriving virtual real estate market that allows you to purchase land and structures. It is reported that over 3,000 entrepreneurs are making more than U.S. $20,000 a year, selling not just real estate, but coding and distributing everything from clothes to body parts for your avatar in Second Life.

Social projects have found their way into the virtual game, like the American Cancer Society who has raised over $40,000 this past spring by conducting a virtual walkathon in Second Life, just by strawling around and making people aware of the organisation, asking them for donations.

To get a bit of an introduction, have a look at this short YouTube snippet of a visit to Better World Island, where you will find Camp Darfur and other social benefit organizations. These organizations are interacting with online visitors to provide education, raise money and offering an alternative way for people to learn about their efforts, all online.

Susan Tenby, the Online Community Manager at Tech Soup, has taken the lead in involving her organization and in forming an ongoing non-profit discussion group on Second Life. She is currently in discussions on an effort to setup a free nonprofit office complex, and is developing a directory and Frequently Asked Questions for nonprofit newcomers in Second Life. (read)

That’s quite a remarkable twist, but not at all unexpected. Where people flock together, a social feeling always occurs, and online communities are very well known for their cooperation to benefits and social events.

Posted earlier on i-wisdom

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Posted by Miel Van Opstal in 2.0 +, Marketing, Social Networks


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