Exploring Metabrands: Mystitool
Exploring Metabrands: Mystitool. Starting this series of examining Metabrands in Second Life, the first purely virtual brand under the spotlight is called Mystitool.
Interestingly, unlike a lot of the products available to purchase in SL, Mystitool is itself virtual – you don’t really see it. It’s operated via a HUD (a heads up display) placed in the main application window. So, Mystitool is a virtual virtual brand.
Think of Mystitool as your Swiss Army knife for Second Life, or maybe Batman’s Utility Belt. It’s an application that sits quietly in the background during in-world visits that quickly and easily enables a variety of useful tasks (in a useful if you’re in a virtual world type way) to be performed.
Importantly, these tasks are only of use to people when they are in Second Life – a key attribute for Metabrands. So, what does Mystitool do? Here’s some of the features:
- Teleport history: access to your last 36 teleports
- Avatar scanner: proximity alerts for residents close-by
- Favourite locations: quick access to 45 places you like to visit
- Quick rez: allows instant creation of chairs/tables or any other object
- URL catcher: stores all URLs mentioned during chat
and many others.
The Mystitool story
Behind every brand is a person, and the person behind Mystitool is a resident called Mystical Cookie. Interestingly she never expected or planned to get involved in SL until she realised she could build and create things, objects, and eventually products in SL. The ability to be creative was the driving motivator. Mystitool came about after buying her first plot of land and learning a few scripting techniques. As she continued to teach herself techniques in SL and having to use commands over and over again, she realised it would be useful to have instant access to scripts and other little programmes to have her life easier. In April 2006, Mysti started to create the application, so to get it to the level of functionality it has today has taken 10 months of continual development.
In the real world, Mysti works in the infrastructure engineering sector and prior to Mystitool had no experience of sales or marketing. In the virtual world, she has an ear thing going on.
Going commercial with a brand ethos
Mysti never planned to eventually start selling Mystitool in Second Life. Once the first version was available Mysti just gave it away for free to her friends. However, they soon started to tell her she needed to charge for the application because it was so useful (virtual world market research). Having never intentionally set-out to create a commercial product and also having no real sales or marketing experience, this proved to be a stage of research and testing.
A first selling price of L$900 was set (about $3,70 / ?Ç¬£1.82 / EUR 2.76) and expected sales were estimated to be around the 150 mark (reflecting her circle of friends, their social networks and a bit of word of mouth marketing). After an encouraging start (mainly into her social network), sales appeared to slow a little at this price so the decision was made to lower to L$396. Price-point testing in SL is a very easy thing to do and a lot more straightforward than real-world sales promotion and price shifting (no reprints of packaging for example). Sales soared at the L$396 level. So why L$396? In her words…
“because ‘L$400 seemed so boring and L$396 sounds nicer to me’.”
The naming process
The concept of name and naming conventions in virtual worlds is a fresh aspect in the field of branding. Do you go for descriptive names for services that are completely dedicated to virtuals worlds and therefore have no role or even existence in the real world? Do you opt for real-world permutations of names for products existing in both planes?
The story behind Mystitool sheds some light on the probable path of naming conventions for Metabrands. The original name was MyToy – a simple yet cleverly crafted reference to the reason it was invented in the first place – to assist Mysti as she had fun exploring creativity in SL. Drawing again from resident and friend feedback, it was suggested the name should be changed to MystiTool. A clever move.
As brands begin to emerge in virtual spaces, the creators of these brands are in many cases making solutions to problems we don’t face in the real world and in other cases, are yet to even be recognised as being required in the virtual world. As such, these inventors will (and should) become famous for creating them. Mysti has stamped her mark on this new category by including her name in the brand name as well as a reference to its use – being a tool – a useful set of services in a metaverse.
And at the same time, the brand name (with it’s implied personal reference) goes someway to expressing the brand values. First and foremost, Mysti makes things for herself and her friends. The ease and extremely low-cost of production in SL makes the process of selling the product very easy and therefore as painless as possible
The brand experience
SL is a thriving economy and when you delve into it a little deeper you begin to learn that there are people creating virtual products of all kinds of things. This means that the importance of having a brand becomes more and more important. The need to create differentiation, stand-out, recall and assurance will become increasingly more important.
The requirement to take a differentiated (yet relevant) positioning becomes even more important for new categories being created in SL. After all, you need to convince residents that this new gizmo is the answer to all their problems (particularly if the brand attitude resides in the ‘negative involvement’ area. Therefore, the brand experience is key here.
When you first visit the main shop that sells Mystitool, is becomes evident that the store is actually high in the sky – not on the ground like the vast majority of other businesses in SL (and the real-world too). This creates a different retail experience in SL but interestingly, this was not the intention. Mysti elevated the store to retain the residential feel of the region it’s located in – Blumfield.
So, once you arrive, you’re standing on a small parcel of land, simply teraformed to draw people directly into the store. The original design of the store was based on Mysti’s love of the Victorian Era, the shop was a victorian designed structure carrying many of the features and items from this era. After assessing footfall in in-store dynamics she felt it was slightly small and too cramped to serve as a shop so she created a new shop, still used today. Inside, the shop is extremely direct – simple shelving with clear explanations of MystiTool and its features.
A commitment to customers
With in-world pricing of virtual goods currently being extremely low there is very low involvement. Being don’t really worry too much if they buy something and never use it. However, prices will naturally rise due to simple economic factors and a growing population. Not to mention the impact brands will have in creating brand equity (and therefore more powerful pricing position) in-world. This being the case, as prices increase, the concept of cognitive dissonance will start to play a role in the purchase experience.
Products and services that do not deliver their promises will quickly erode faith in not only the seller but also in some cases the reputation of virtual world transactions. Mysti already has a solution to this. One that mirrors real-world activities to keep the customer happy and create customer satisfaction. In fact, it goes further than that and actually reinforces the product offering in a way on real brand can do without incurring significant additional costs of sale. Once you purchase MystiTool you will continually be offered the latest version as soon as it’s available totally for free for as long as you own it. How’s that for a guarantee?
MystiTool is also to an extent user-generated, therefore further increasing brand advocacy. Feedback and comments on improvements as well as beta testing is actively promoted to visitors to the store.
The future for Mystitool
Mystitool is a classic example of a Metabrand – a product created to serve purely virtual needs. Mysti has shown that it’s possible to take something originally created just for herself and turn it into a revenue stream, and as a result become a virtual brand. So where does she go from here?
Rather than branch out and launch new products or focus on taking Mystitool into other metaverses, she is concentrating on market penetration. Mystitool as a product will continue to be developed with additional features added over the forth coming months.