It's safe to say Second Life is uncharted territory for brands in India but Tata Indicom has decided to take the plunge by launching a presence on the virtual real time 3D site. The telecom brand has announced the extension of their brand campaign 'Suno Dil Ki Awaz' on Second Life and will be kicking off the marketing effort with a talent hunt that will look at identifying amateur artists, musicians and photographers. The initiative was kickstarted by Irfan and Yousaf Pathan who are Tata Indicom's brand ambassadors and will interact with users on Second Life in their online avatars.
(Pictured, left to right: Yousaf Pathan, Abdul Khan and Irfan Pathan)
The main target of this marketing effort, according to Abdul Khan, VP, (Marketing), Tata Teleservices Limited are young, influential opinion leaders online, in an attempt to create a youthful buzz around the brand. The company is largely looking at word of mouth marketing to build up their Second Life foray.
"Word of mouth happens to be the largest influencer in purchasing telecom services, it's much more effective than expensive commercial airtime. Harnessing word of mouth is the most sensible thing any marketer can do," says Khan.
Tracing the root of the idea, he adds, "The idea to experiment with Second Life really came from looking at our target audience of young emerging India. It was an attempt to look at spaces which are cool, where we will be able to reach opinion leaders in the digital space."
Khan says that the most important component of this online foray will be in sustaining the virtual space that they have built on Second Life. For all the noise about top brands like Coca Cola, IBM, GE and Nokia enjoying a strong presence on Second Life, there are more than enough brands that have experimented with Second Life and failed. Khan says the critical factor will be to have a focused road map on the brand's Second Life presence. "Many brands in the past failed because they did not have a ready road map on sustaining their initial marketing effort. There has to be a constant buzz around the brand's Second Life space that should make young people want to actively participate online," he adds.
Users do not have to register separately on Second Life to enter this space, they will be directed there from the brand's website, www.tataindicom.com/sl.
The brand's Second Life presence has been made possible by their partnership with Indusgeeks, a virtual world development and services company that has created the online space for Tata Indicom. Siddharth Banerjee, founder and CEO, Indusgeeks Solutions says there are specific situations where using Second Life makes sense for brands. He believes promotional events and brand launches are an ideal stage for brands to get involved as it allows users to log in from anywhere in the world and meet in a common virtual world. Including Second Life in a brand's marketing strategy is useful for creating a buzz around the brand. "It's the only medium which allows complete immersion and interactivity with the brand and opens up the brand experience in all sorts of ways," adds Banerjee.
The foray into Second Life though begs the question of when traditional agencies will begin immersing themselves into online spaces such as these and be able to conceptualise, execute and develop such ideas for brands. After all, technology aside, they are the ideas people. Is that a domain that Khan expects will be largely untouched in a scenario where TV and print continue to rule communication budgets? Khan says that most brands at the moment depend on pure play digital agencies to address their digital strategy, traditional agencies will take their time to come around. "They are still navigating their way through the complexity of traditional media, it will take time before agencies will harness their digital capabilities."