Did sex keep brands out of Second Life? No #@%!-ing way.
According to a posting on Techdirt today, the brain trust over at Linden Labs, the company behind Second Life (full disclosure: Mark Kingdon, who now heads up Linden Labs is an acquaintance) thinks the reason that brands never really warmed up to their virtual world is sex. And while I’ll grant that having a naked nine-foot-tall Tongan bodybuilder stroll through your virtual store may not be all that good for business (depending on the wares you’re peddling, of course) to blame sex for corporate disinterest in Second Life is to miss the point entirely.
The reason brands didn’t embrace Second Life is that ultimately attempting to do real things–i.e., shopping, press conferences, product testing, etc.–was a beating, a needless complication, a plate-spinning act. Yes, I’ve been present when Joseph Jaffe brags about how many people have shown up to shindigs he’s thrown for his company Crayon in Second Life. Fine, you got a hundred or even a few hundred avatars to stop by and see you and your pals moving around a room like bad Korean animation. But once the novelty had worn off, then what?
I’ve also heard Jaffe predict that the virtual world interface would replace the browser as the main way we do things online. Wrong, of course, and wrong for what should have been a painfully obvious reason. A good marketing program has no unnecessary components, just as a well-built machine, has no unnecessary parts and a well-written sentence has no unnecessary words. When brands asked their consumers to go to Second Life, they were asking them to play dress up. Consumers simply didn’t have time for it. The value exchange wasn’t there. Banishing sex to a new “nookie continent,” or whatever Linden Labs is going to call it, isn’t going to solve the problem.
What will ultimately attract consumers isn’t some sort of cockamamie electronic costume party. It’s simplicity. It’s being able to do things online almost just by thinking about them. Really great ideas are stunningly basic. Second Life’s fifteen minutes are up. Bring on the next thing.