Think SL residents are opposed to real life brand presences? Not true.
According to the research report, Real Life Brands in Second Life, released last week by Market Truths, 49% of SL residents think the presence of real life brands is positive; and about a third have a neutral attitude.
This is just one of the sometimes surprising findings of the only statistically rigorous market research study done to date on SL resident attitudes toward brands (that I am aware of – Komjuniti study referenced below).
Market Truths did allow me to share the report with the attendees of the recent Virtual Worlds 2007 conference in New York where I presented several of its key findings, along with other SL data and virtual world marketing issues.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing of those findings is that residents were asked to name and react to up to ten brands they have encountered in SL. Of the 21 brands ultimately named (unaided), four do not actually have an official SL presence. They are, however, still getting positive brand impact from their “unofficial” (or perceived) presence.
[Update: 158 brands were ultimatly named in the unaided awarness question. The 21 named in the report reflects mentiones by 3% or more of the participants, and who had no affliation with the companies named.]
The 35-page report goes on to examine the perception of individual SL initiatives by major brands, and how each has helped or harmed the perception of that brand in real life. One brand, who has no official SL presence, garnered a negative RL brand perception due to its perceived SL presence.
[Update: Microsoft, who has no public SL presence, had the greatest proportion of negative mentions, however overall, they gained a more positive than negative perception as a result their SL presence.]
Overall, the Reuters' SL presence comes out on top with residents – both in SL and RL.
Real Life Brands in Second Life directly contradicts conventional wisdom that SL residents are against RL brands coming into SL. In fact, residents see some real benefits to corporate presences, such as credibility for SL and more resources for infrastructure; even while they harbor fears brands will harm small content creators and put upward pressure on land prices.
When asked what activities residents would like to engage in with their favorite brands (whether currently in SL or not) co-creating products and customizing products were among the top three of the eleven preferred activities.
Finally, the report points marketers to some important implications for their SL presences, including several tactics I’ve written about before such as the importance of effective in-world communications strategies, RL and SL integration and quality experiences.
The study is grounded in recognized research methodologies, including statistical sampling, quality control techniques, panel validation and adjustments for biases and panel member time in SL. You will find a thorough discussion of the research methodology included at the end of the report.
Last week German agency Komjuniti released a survey of 200 Second Life participants that reportedly showed 72% of respondents “expressed themselves as being disappointed with the activities of companies” in SL, however Komjuniti also reported more than a third of respondents weren’t even aware of “the branded presence.” A few statements in the Komjuniti press release didn’t ring true to me, so I went looking for the study. I was unable to find the study itself to look into this seeming discrepancy - only the press release announcing the study - which does not indicate the methodologies used or the activities studied. Of all the online reports and posts I have found about the Komjuniti survey they each only reference the content of the press release.
The conclusion Komjuniti draws from their study is: “The brand sites on Second Life currently look like they’re being treated in pretty much the same way as advertising campaigns, placed with the hope of getting high visitor frequency and good PR scores”.
It is impossible to tell whether the Komjuniti survey was a statistically representative study, if it considered factors such as participants’ time in SL, business ownership in SL, or if the survey was devised by active SL researchers – any of which could impact the overall outcome.
Given the wide disparity in the findings of these two studies, I’d be intensely interested in seeing the Komjuniti study and its methodology in order compare it to the findings of the Market Truths study. I suspect the differences come from the focus of each study: Komjuniti seemingly focused on customer service/interaction while Market Truths focused on brand perception impact and not a specific activity.
The Real Life Brands in Second Life research report is available for purchase ($200) at the Market Truths website.
If I find the full Komjuniti study I will update the link here.
April 6, 2007