Marketing Second Life is something we all have an opinion about, and as such, Linden Lab has often taken a far amount of flak from users on the subject. I’m as guilty as anyone in this; in the past I’ve been particularly verbose on the subject through posts in this blog such as Business, Collaboration and Creative Growth, Tell me a story: marketing Second Life, and Advertising SL: the machinima effect (the latter of which has been somewhat overtaken by the Lab recognising the power of Draxtor Despres’ The Drax Files; World Makers series.
However, there is another potential marketing strategy the Lab is missing, something which was recently brought home by by a segment of The Drax Files Radio Hour.
During a visit to the Lab’s HQ for the show, Drax had a chat with Shaman and Kona Linden, both of whom were holding items of merchandise available to Lab staff – a Rubik’s cube featuring the Second Life logo on one face, and a FIC (Fêted Inner Circle) mug. Lab personnel have also seen out and about wearing a certain t-shirt proclaiming their leading role in provisioning virtual worlds.
Other items were mentioned as being available, leaving Drax to wonder why the Lab doesn’t market these goods to users; and he has a point. True, there are issues of the Lab’s international user base and the cost of postage – but these are things that can be factored-in, and if the Lab doesn’t necessarily want to handle the additional weight of merchandise orders, etc., itself, there are companies who will do it for them for a small commission on sales.
Certainly, the appearance of the merchandise has sparked discussions in a number of areas since the show. Ciaran Laval, for example started a thread over on SLU (although admittedly, it got somewhat sidetracked into a discussion of the meaning behind a particular term, which eventually involved Kevin Bacon – who said the six degrees of separation was dead?); others elsewhere have expressed an interest in having at least some of the merchandise, and other items that have been seen in the past.
Take the jackets that were variously sported by former CEO (and co-founder of the Lab) Philip Rosedale; these were oft been admired and a subject of attention at the likes of the old SLCC events; so why not make them available?
And how about an updated version of the 10th anniversary varsity-style jacket the Lab made available in-world in 2013? Replace the 10th anniversary logo with the SL logo, and it might well be something users would buy if offered in the physical world. I know I wouldn’t object to having the opportunity to buy one, although admittedly, that might be something a tad too expensive to produce and sell…
If I understand things correctly, there’s even a JIRA-related t-shirt, something which would likely prove popular within the coding community;
Some items made available in the past, such as a pendant, and Ciaran makes mention of Jack Linden once offering those at his office hours meetings a “bag of swag” (although where this was physical world items or not is unclear to me – I didn’t attend Jack’s meetings – but Ciaran seems to lean towards this being the case). Were they to appear again, they might prove popular enough to make it worthwhile.
The advantage to the Lab in making these items available for users is not just a potential (albeit modest) revenue stream through the sale of the goods – it’s the broader reach of marketing and promotion they offer. Of course, some might thumb their nose on seeing someone else wearing a Second Life jacket, but that’s no reason not to offer them; and a FIC mug in the office is a way to start conversations (and depending on the nature of the office politics, might end up being something everyone wants, regardless of whether they are SL users or not! :) ).
So how about it Ebbe? Why not give thought to making merchandise available to your users? Even if you only dip a toe or two into the water to see how things go, it might prove worth your while.