I’d Like to Buy the Virtual World a Coke


One of the most interesting speakers for me at THE Conference on Marketing held earlier this month in Naples, FL was Michael Donnelly, Global Digital Marketing Director for Coca-cola. He presented the case study of a contest held by Coke to design a virtual vending machine in Second Life. The machine was not to dispense soda cans, but experiences for Second Life avatars.

Examples abound of marketers trying to force fit old media formats into new media. The first web sites were basically print brochures. Most of the branding activity in Second Life still revolves around “impressions” as measured by the number of avatars who wear, drink or otherwise carry around your branded content.

Sure, the Coke design contest winners end up carrying around branded content as well, but the nature of the design contest, to my mind, really leveraged the unique character of the medium. One of the winning designs dispensed snowballs and allowed avatars to engage each other in snowball fights. Certainly a more resonant experience than spending In World currency to buy a virtual can of soda.

Michael’s approach struck me as an example customer-centric marketing at it’s best. Really getting inside the heads of the target audience “Second Lifers” and engaging them in ways they really want to be engaged.

There were a number of other general points Michael made also worthy of repeating:

  • “Criticism leads to conversation marketing. I’d rather somebody tell me something bad than to not tell me anything at all.”
  • “There is a fine line between taking advantage of the community and being a part of the community.”
  • “Always get the advice, council and permission of a community before entering it.”

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