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Too Fast, Too Curious. Cars in Second Life part 2

There are more unofficial cars in Second Life than official ones – this is the case not only with the automobile sector but with most other product categories.

So what do the real world brand owners do when they see their products recreated in virtual worlds? The 5 Rules of Virtual Brand Management explains the options available.

Shown below is a selection of the virtual cars created in Second Life by metabrands such as MH Motors, ACC, EM Cars and Fox Motors. Can you spot the odd one out?

Part 1 is here.

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Millions Of Us discuss virtual brand management

Millions Of Us discuss virtual brand management. Today at 6pm GMT/10am PST I’ll be joining a panel to discuss how real world companies can protect and management their brands in a virtual environment.

The event is being hosted by Millions Of Us and the other panelists include:

Eversheds jump on the bandwagon

Eversheds jump on the bandwagon. UK-based legal firm Eversheds issued a report today titled ‘Retailers need to be aware of fakes in the virtual world’.

Nothing strange about that. Plenty of companies are applying their expertise into virtual worlds now. However, having read the report it highlights a distinct lack of understanding of the dynamics surrounding Second Life (in particular).

The report highlights the unlawful trademark infringement taking place with unofficial brand representation….

‘Many brand owners such as BMW and Jean-Paul Gautier have decided to have a brand presence in Second Life.’

Incorrect. Jean-Paul Gautier ran a tactical campaign (Fleur du Male) in Second Life on third-party land. This was a one-off event which ended many months ago. Also, there are currently no retailers in Second Life promoting JPG products via the search functionality, nor there is no official JPG presence in SL.

‘if a replica product underperforms and is badly designed, this can be damaging to that brand’s reputation’

I’m not quite sure what the author means by ‘underperforms’. Virtual world products do not work in the same way as real world products. Cars do not stall. Shirts to not shrink. Food does not go stale. Also, given the highly competitive nature, not to mention fanatical attention to detail of the vast majority of designers in SL, the last thing the product will be is badly designed.

‘Even with the support of Linden Labs, it may transpire that the name and address of the real person behind the virtual identity could be fictitious’

There goes the ‘s’ again.

All in all, a very quick and dirty attempt to position themselves as an authority on virtual worlds. Now sure, companies issue these types of report in order to generate potential new business but the bottom line here is accuracy and a rounded opinion. This report misses the mark unfortunately.

The bigger picture here is that companies have to implement a planned and measured strategy for virtual brand management because collaboration with SL designers replicating real-world brands can potentially yield significant benefits for brand owners. There are several stages to consider:

1. Ignore

2. Remove

3. Observe

4. Endorse

5. Engage.

Furthermore, the comparison to real world counterfeiting is not valid. Real world companies do not have virtual world product-driven revenue streams (yet) so they are not losing money. And, if you actually look at a lot of the products replicated in SL, they are not the same types of products copied in the real world. Take a stroll down the streets of Bangkok and you’re not going to see any dodgy looking Ferraris, but you’ll find plenty in Second Life.

Unofficial brands in Second Life – the options for marketers

Unofficial brands in Second Life – the options for marketers. Although over 100 brands are now in Second Life, the number of brands represented on an unofficial basis is much, much higher.

People reading this post may well have their company or brand in Second Life without them even knowing. This raises some interesting decisions for companies in terms of managing this risk. But, as this article will illustrate, with risk sometimes comes reward.
Which categories are prone to unofficial representation?

As the typical evolution of avatars (residents) from a virtual consumption perspective leans towards personal customisation, the category most prone is fashion. This includes branded items such as jeans, t-shirts, shoes and other clothing. Lifestyle accessories are next on the list with items such as watches and jewelry frequently copied.

Cars are also extremely popular. Although there’s already a high number of automobile brands already in Second Life, there are just as many unofficial brands present.

Here are the options:

1. Ignore

There’s no such thing as bad publicity right? With revenue streams in Second Life for virtual products still comparatively low, there’s no real loss of company income. And, with SL being full of influential early adopters what’s the harm in our brand being presented to them? Doing nothing is an option, but it’s probably the worst option to take. Continue reading →

A key moment for Metabrands?

A key moment for Metabrands?: Products created purely for virtual world consumption, Metabrands, are a key growth area in Second Life.

This is driven by a soon to emerge trend by real world brands to realise that virtual world revenues will not be created by simply re-creating real world products. Instead, virtual world brand values (and subsequently real world) will be enhanced by creating products specifically designed for metaverse usage.

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Media attention and other coverage is currently being directed at Elexor Matador Jewelry, an in-world creator and store owner (here’s the Slurl). She is selling ten limited edition unofficial Cartier Himalia jewelry sets at L$10,000 each (?Ǭ£20 / $38) – signicantly higher than normal pricing levels in Second Life. Similiar products in the store retail at the L$250.

Continue reading →

Virtual trademark protection

Virtual trademark protection: The Reuters SL blog has an interesting article about the threat/opportunity posed/available to brand owners (and in particular luxury brand owners) concerning the replication and creation of unofficial products in Second Life.

The Reuters post mentions Benjamin Duranske, founder of the Second Life Bar Association and his excellent blog Virtually Blog, so excellent in fact, it’s on the K Zero blog roll. Continue reading →

Virtually Blind in Second Life

Virtually Blind in Second Life: One thing’s for sure. Virtual worlds are rapidly requiring services normally associated with the real-world. The first and most obvious service that comes to mind is real estate. No need to go into more detail here. But, an interesting new category emerging is Legal Services. And, in particular, trademark and copyright management.

This is been stimulated by the large number of shops selling virtual goods carrying logos and replicating designs of branded products such as watches, clothing and cars. Did you know there’s 16 shops in SL selling Ferrari’s? I wonder if Ferrari know this? They are currently NOT officially represented in SL.

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On this theme, a really valuable blog to check out is Virtually Blind in Second Life. This site is run by Benjamin Duranske, a US-based IP lawyer and self-confessed code monkey. Benjamin also founded the SL Bar Association. The SLBA is an informal professional organization that promotes the development of law in Second Life and assists attorney and scholar members navigate the Second Life legal landscape. Here’s their website.

Continue reading →

SL interesting places no 14: Paris in the 1900s

SL interesting places no 14: Paris in the 1900s. I wrote a story not so long ago about the unofficial Apple store in Second Life. This project was completed by a resident purely due to an affection with the Apple brand and demonstrates the high level of brand advocacy inside Second Life. On this note, welcome to Paris in the 1900′s.

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This is probably the most ambitious real-world destination project seen to date in SL in terms of both scale/size and attention to detail. Here’s the SLurl so you can see for yourself.

So how can this project be classified?

Firstly you could call it a history/education venue. The island was completed by residents with a love for Paris at the turn of the last century and therefore has a lot of value for people interested in immersing into a lesson in architecture.

Continue reading →

Unofficial brands in SL no.2: Premier League Football Clubs

Unofficial brands in SL no.2: Premier League Football Clubs. Second Life is a world full of fans. Fans of communities, technology, artists, music….an endless list. But from a product, or more appropriately brand perspective, SL is a breeding ground for people to express their love of brands. This post, highlighted an unofficial Apple Store promoting a full range of current apple products in a virtual store modelled on the Manhattan store.

Learn about Static Merchandising

Number two in this series of unofficial brands in SL, focusses on many brands represented in SL without the official support of the brand owner. Over on Kiva Island in the L&A Commerce centre, you can find a shop selling (for about a $1 a time) replica shirts for Premier League football teams. The shirts have been created to a very detailed level, showing the club kit design as well as the sponsor. For example, here’s the Manchester United home shirt with the sponsor AIG.

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And here’s the Chelsea FC shirt with sponsors Samsung.

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And here lies the debate – whereas the Apple Store was not produced for commercial benefit, residents in SL can actually buy these football shirts – therefore paying the person who created them. IP rules in SL state that all IP ownership in SL resides with the person(s) who created the object in question, but clearly as shown here, it’s a little contentious.

Continue reading →

Unofficial brands in SL no.1: Apple

Unofficial brands in SL no.1: Apple. Attempting to leverage brand advocacy is a key objective for the companies already in Second Life. What SL brings to the table is the platform to create engaging customer experiences and an interaction in a brand, product or service at a higher level of involvement than a website.

Peeling away some of the layers of SL reveals some interesting activities relating to brands and more particularly brands UNofficially represented. This means residents are going to considerable lengths to create virtual representations of the brands they like….or in some cases, must even love.

So is this good news or bad news for the brands in question? On the one hand, many brands have unofficial representations in SL. The companies in question therefore have no control over the appearance, positioning or usage of their products – in a way, they are bootleg products. The downside’s here relate to the lack of control over what appears in SL carry a brand name or a logo.
But is this bad news? Not really. Firstly, they are getting free advertising and promotion within SL. Secondly, perhaps a measure of the strength of a brand can be based (in the context of SL) on the number of people willing to re-create their products in their own time at their own expense. These people are truely brand advocates and I predict a growing trend with metaverses for companies to actually encourage the unofficial representations of their products.

The first case in hand is Apple. Apple currently does not have an official SL presence. A big apple fan in SL has built a virtual Apple Store, modelled on the Manhattan shop. It even comes complete with a working glass elevator and a Genius Bar. Genius.
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