Monday, October 23, 2006

Research within Second Life

Understanding the mind of consumers remains one of the biggest challenges of any marketer. Many of us are trying to decipher consumers by utilizing well designed proprietary or syndicated consumer panels. These panels are supposed to represent as closely as possible the “true” consumer. They are used to provide the marketer with insights about the consumer’s motivation, feelings, attitudes, purchase intents, and many more things. P&G’s well designed Tremor business unit, representing more than 500,000 mothers and teens, or long established panels like Nielson, Simmons, or MRI are good examples of pretty successful panels. All of them are increasing their consumer reach and depth in order to provide more fertile insights and guidance for us Marketers.

But I feel that something is missing. Real, fresh, fast insights that can stimulate a marketer not just on a quantitative level but that can function as a springboard for insight driven ideation. So, what about Second life? Even the New York Times wrote last week about the increasing presence of major brands in the avatar world of Second life. Second life is an Online virtual world, in which every participant can create their own identity and pursue a multitude of activities without a limited number of rules. Wouldn’t it be great if you could deploy an idea, concept, or a brand into Second life and see in real time how the community reacts to it? It would definitely not replace the quantitative validation of a big size panel but it could instill faster and more refreshing feedback loops.

Why? Let me give you three reasons. With 2nd life a marketer has …
  • …real people interacting with your concept in a non-research environment
  • …the opportunity to change the concept within minutes and observe immediately changes in consumer’s reaction and interaction
  • … a low cost test implementation with a never ending lab environment

I think these three reasons justify exploring the validity of 2nd life as a research medium. Just to be clear, I believe a research strategy with 2nd life would be one component, but not the only one. But it could combine the power of real time input, creative stimulus and true reflection on consumer behavior.


Anonymous Sandeep said...

Interesting idea.. but keep in mind that the very reason people log into 2nd Life is to get away from their 1st Life -- to be a different person, live out their fantasies, listen to the inner child/demon, subconscious, etc. So:

-- if I knew, or even got a hint of, I was part of a markteing experiment while messing around in 2nd Life, my reaction may be very similar to that of John Locke's in the TV show Lost when he found out that pushing the button every 108 minutes was all part of a psychological experiment (for those who haven't succumbed to the powers of Lost, John pretty much freaked out in a mega way and questioned the point of existing in the first place)
-- And let's say people do play along with the proposed "tests" -- since people in 2nd Life people are most often trying to be who they are not, will their behavior be representative of their 1st Life?

At any rate, I will be very wary of products/services pushed to me in 2nd life from this point on :-) (unless I earn some 2nd Life currency to buy a virtual country)

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