by Pixeleen Mistral on 05/10/06 at 10:30 pm
Is this part of the marketing campaign or a cunning plan to get LL shares?
by Pixeleen Mistral, Herald National Affairs desk
WkdSpirit Bayliss said “the minute you shot me.. it was personal” and SLLA member Arrian Burrel responded, “Well, you are a pawn in the capitalist game being played out here” as they stood outside the steps to the new Reebok store in Second Life. I had just watched WkdSpirit shoot Arrian, which seemed fair enough, since Arrian had previously used a noobie push gun to shoot WkdSpirit, and documented this in a YouTube video as part of the Second Life Liberation Army military campaign – if you can call two avatars a military. Over the next 20 minutes, tensions eased to the point that WkdSpirit made several suggestions to Arrian about how SLLA might be more effective in the future, and everyone parted as friends.
But the real story here seems to have more to do with interlocking media promotional stunts than anything else. Still, I did end up buying and customizing a pair of Reebok shoes for my avatar, solved the mystery of the british shoe fanciers I saw visiting the Adidas store Sunday, and marveled at the clever marketing approach that Reebok is taking – which will certainly generate repeat traffic to their island. It all makes a certain amount of sense once you accept the idea that RL marketing in a game ought to include a fair amount of drama, role playing, and perhaps gunplay.
The SLLA had previously made a name for itself by “attacking” the American Apparel store, which was good for some much needed publicity for the SLLA, American Apparel, and Aimee Weber. However, Marshall Cahill of the SLLA changed his group’s aims after that attack from a simple request for avatar rights and voting on basic Linden Lab policies to a more expansive platform encompassing a demand for shares in Linden Lab. Readers are to be excused if they have trouble reconciling this position with the virtual terrorist/anti-capitalist rhetoric of the SLLA members. When I asked if the SLLA was really just a viral/astroturf marketing tool, Arrian Burrel told me, “the american apparel store attack went in such a different direction than planned”, then continued to say, “kind of makes you think SL is populated with PR agencies”. No arguments there.
After the push gun slingers departed the Reebok sim, I had a chance to look around the store, and finally understood what was happening at the competing Adidas shop on Sunday afternoon. Last weekend, I decided I really needed some new shoes and stopped by the Adidas sim, while asking myself if I could really justify a pair of 250 prim shoes when so many avatars are scrounging for prims just to have a house over their head. Once there, I stumbled into a large group of apparently british shoe fanciers, saying things like “there are PR reasons why we want to do this” and expressing concerns that “others now might catch on to this and i want us to be first in our category” while discussing the possibility of getting something out by mid-October. Somehow, those ‘british shoe fanciers’ did not seem to be run-of the-mill blingtards on a shopping spree. When I tried to talk to them, they beat a hasty retreat – perhaps a case of secret shoppers being noticed?
But here in the Reebok store, it suddenly all made sense. The Adidas are quite detailed, but everyone’s look the same. Reebok’s SL shoes are customizable. Once you spend L$50 for the basic white model, you can go to a booth and change the colors of various parts of the shoes by clicking on a menu while looking at a rotating 3D model of the shoes. Even better, these shoes and seem to be modeled after an RL custom order shoe that Reebok makes. There does seem to be a strong resemblance between the shoes shown here and the SL version. Can metaverse residents look forward to having RL shoes made that match their avatar’s shoes in a few weeks? Some might conclude that if Reebok doesn’t do it now, Nike will shortly. Now if only we can get a mass customization Gorean slave silks maker to set up shop, and something for the furries, the SL/RL convergence will be nearly complete.
From a PR and marketing standpoint, the best part of the Reebok SL shoes is that you not only can customize the shoes for L$5 when you buy them, you can come back to the store anytime and change the colors again for L$5. Somewhere there is an evil marketing genius who really earned her pay. Repeat traffic to a store is every marketer’s dream. With this in mind, expect to see more emphasis on sticky sims – like sticky web sites – as this marketing fad grows. There is some question how this will affect in-world shoe makers, who prefer to sell a different pair of shoes rather than provide customizable shoes since the in-world shoe makers need to make their money in SL rather than RL. On the other hand, there does seem to be an eco-friendly prim-conservation aspect being able re-use the same shoes. I’m still trying to work out how the various SL shoe styles impact global warming – and lag.
And so I left the store and walked down 50 Cent Lane enjoying the wonky looking buildings and feeling somewhat pleased. At only 124 prims per shoe, I don’t feel too over the top, and can change my shoe colors for the winter fashion season, once I learn what the “in” colors are meant to be. There is one nagging question however. Marshall Cahill of the SLLA had contacted the Herald offices this afternoon to inform us that another military action was taking place. When I asked Arrian Burrel why they were attacking the Reebok store instead of the competition, she said that the SLLA “wanted to get in before the media cycle”. Odd that they should know that the Reebok hype would start soon. In any case, expect to see pitched battles between SLLA members and metaverse citizens with the wrong color scheme on their shoes, desperate to reach the store to update their shoe color. I’m glad I got mine before the real fighting starts.