W hat is the ultimate objective for any type of
automobile marketing? To bring potential new
customers closer to the cars, ultimately leading to a
test-drive and then purchase.
This KZero case study explains how virtual worlds are
being used by car manufacturers to position their
brands closer to aﬄuent target markets using
innovative new types of metaverse marketing.
Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 1
What is a virtual world? However, as the chart below left shows, other regions
and in particular Europe, have embraced Second Life.
The World Wide Web as we know it today consists of
static 2D pages. You visit a website and read/watch In late 2006, Second Life resident numbers broke
the information or media presented on it. Virtual through the 1m mark, helped by signiﬁcant media
worlds (metaverses) are diﬀerent. coverage. During 2007, resident numbers grew by 1m
per month and now (Jul 2009) the total number of
They are digital 3D environments accessed in real- registered accounts is over 19m.
time that allow people to explore, examine and
interact with the objects created within the world and However, even greater growth has been observed in
importantly they allow people to interact together in a virtual worlds catered towards younger audiences.
shared collaborative space regardless of their Stardoll for example, has over 34m accounts, Barbie
geographical location. Girls over 10m and IMVU over 39m. Appendix one
shows the KZero universe graph, an illustration of the
Second Life was the ﬁrst glimpse into the future of the
size and range of virtual worlds available.
Internet, a future of ‘Places, not Pages’. However, other
virtual worlds such as There, Kaneva, Stardoll and Using Second Life as an example, as explained in the
many others are now available for marketers in this following sections, the unique characteristics of a
emerging space. typical resident has expedited the take-up, and the
range of diﬀerent countries represented.
Why are virtual worlds growing?
Who is a typical resident?
The most popular commercial metaverse to date,
Second Life, is a global application, meaning that Second Life is not a gaming application. There are no
anyone can become a resident. Initially, North America scores, no ‘lives’ to protect, no objectives and no end-
drove take-up due largely to the fact that the result.
company behind Second Life, Linden Lab is based in
San Francisco. Comparison has been drawn to World of Warcraft, an
extremely popular MMOG (massive multiplayer online
game) but the only real similarity is the fact that they
Rest of World
23% are both virtual worlds.
US Importantly, whereas the average age of a Warcraft
player is 17, for Second Life, the average age is 32. It is
this fact which stimulated the interest in major brands
to consider entering Second Life. Below (next page) is
Europe the age range spread for residents.
Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 2
The graph below shows the regional breakdown of
fashion-themed world Stardoll.
Rest of World
Also of note and further interest to brand owners is
the fact that females account for 45% of users. A 43%
surprising, yet valuable piece of information. So, a Canada
combination of the average age and gender ratio has 4%
made brands realise that there are beneﬁts to be
reaped by developing metaverse marketing strategies. KZero has in-depth data and research available for a
wide selection of virtual worlds and is best-placed
Further analysis of the demographic proﬁle of to make media planning and virtual world selection
residents reveals that these people reside heavily decisions for marketers across the world.
within the Innovator and Early Adopter groups.
The options for car brands
Pre-December 2006, Innovators were the main types
As demonstrated in the following sections, there are a
inside Second Life, but, as explained by the Rogers
wide range of options available to automobile brands.
Technology Adoption Curve, Innovators act as a
These opportunities evolve around the primary fact
catalyst for Early Adopters. Whereas Innovators are
that virtual worlds are an ideal platform to recreate
very keen to trial new technologies, they have local
the experiences and brand values associated with cars
and the major manufacturers.
The media landscape
Recreating the product
Second Life aside, marketers now have a wide range The ﬁrst question often asked by automobile
of options available to them. And, importantly, companies is typically ‘can you recreate cars in Second
traditional media planning techniques can now be Life?’. The answer here is Yes, and to a very high degree
used to select the most appropriate virtual world for of realism.
the marketing objectives.
Furthermore, the interiors of cars can also be very
Diﬀerent worlds have widely diﬀerent resident bases accurately displayed allowing residents to see designs
from a geographical perspective as well as diﬀerent and features in great detail. Then couple to this the
age ranges - as demonstrated by appendix one. ability to sit in a virtual car and actually drive it around
Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 3
and suddenly you have a very engaging platform for campaign ‘Seven days in a Sentra’ was implemented
brands. into Second Life on a dedicated island.
Shown below is the interior to the Nissan Sentra. The primary objective was to introduce the new car
Avatars are able to zoom into close-ups of the
dashboard and other parts of the car. before it was available in the real-world and attempt
to engage the demographics of Second Life with the
new vehicle. This was done in a number of ways.
Firstly the car was re-created and made available to
residents. To create a higher degree of involvement,
residents had to obtain a cookie from a Nissan avatar
which could then be redeemed from a giant vending
For many people, Second Life was the ﬁrst way they
discovered the new C Class from Mercedes Benz. The
new model was created to an extremely high
But, being able to recreate a real world car in a virtual
world is the start of the project, not the end....
Integrating other marketing To create recall and synergy from TV, one of the spots
Just as integration across mediums such as TV, was streamed to the venue via interactive billboards.
print ,web and direct mail is a proven technique to So, Nissan was able to successfully launch the new
synergise marketing activity, Second Life can be built Sentra virtually to the residents of Second Life whilst
into the marketing mix eﬀectively. maximising existing marketing budgets with the
inclusion of real-world media in this virtual platform.
Nissan also used an in-world promotion to encourage
residents to test-drive the car.
As shown already by Nissan, Second Life is a platform
worthy to be used for new product launches.
The concept of virtual world integration was used ﬁrst
This is particularly true if the model in question is
by Nissan to promote the Sentra. The real-world
aimed at the demographic proﬁle demonstrated by a
typical Second Life resident.
Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 4
Mercedes Benz took this approach with the launch of
the new C-Class.
On Mercedes Island, a virtual showroom exists,
complete with downloadable brochures and on-hand
Mercedes Benz personnel.
The company recognised the opportunity to shape the
brand attitude of the cars by promoting them in
Second Life. A key feature of this campaign was the
ability for residents to customise the vehicles and then
even built a virtual showroom for them to display
The launch itself took the form of a virtual concert
their vehicles - a great example of enabling
next to the showroom open to all residents and well
consumers to contribute to the development of a
attended by the media. Following the launch event,
the new model was made available for virtual test-
drives around the island. Toyota has also carried this concept out of Second Life.
They took the Scion into There, the virtual world
Providing additional support to the launch was a
created by Makena Technologies. This concept involved
dedicated Mercedes Second Life blog, carrying news
the creation of giant Scions with nightclubs and other
of the activities happening on the island.
social venues located inside the cars.
Just as websites need to be ‘sticky’ in terms of keeping
visitors on them, taking in information, Second Life NPD promotion
venues need to be interactive in order to engage However, Second Life (and virtual worlds in general)
residents. Proving how Mercedes Benz made this work can be used in ways other than the promotion of
with their virtual test-drives, their island is now used existing models for marketing purposes. BMW opted
competitively by residents who use the test-track to to use Second Life is an exploratory tool and
race the cars. communicate their ‘Clean Energy’ concept. The BMW
‘New World’ island displays models of their concept
Brand building cars along with supporting information for their Clean
Toyota (with their Scion range) was the ﬁrst Energy initiative.
automobile brand to enter Second Life. They recreated
three of the models in their Scion range and built a
virtual city as a home for the vehicles.
Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 5
Peugeot is also using Second Life for research and NPD
purposes. During May 2008 the company is running
the ‘Peugeot Virtual Challenge’ - a contest encouraging
residents to use their imagination, creativity and
innovation to customise their concept car, the 308
Achim Muellers, Head of Brand Relations and
Cooperations for BMW was quoted as saying:
"I'm fascinated by the creative element of Second Life. It
is consumer-generated content at it's best. A very open,
curious, extroverted, and challenging global
community, which makes it a very interesting one for us
to talk to. Initially we want to get into a dialogue, Community building
understand the community and take it from there. It is a US car manufacturer Pontiac, took the concept of
process with potentials in diﬀerent areas. Innovation is brand building to a higher level with the launch of
an important element of the BMW brand identity. Motorati Island .
Therefore we are always open toward new creative,
innovative concepts like Second Life.”
BMW then followed up with a second initiative, ‘New
World 2’, this time focusing on Eﬃcient Dynamics. This
second aspect shows new technologies such as the
Stop Autostart function.
Motorati Island not only showcases the latest Pontiac
Mazda Europe also decided to use Second Life as a models but also encourages resident participation in
platform to present NPD. Shown above is the Mazda several ways, all designed to grow and nurture a
Hakaze. The venue, Hagare Island allows avatars to community inside Second Life.
attempt a diﬃcult all-terrain course prior to being Firstly, all the vehicles are fully customisable for
given the car to keep. residents. Secondly, Pontiac decided to give away free
land on and around the island to residents wanting to
create virtual spaces related to the Pontiac range.
Thirdly, and most importantly, Pontiac regularly
organises in-world events on their island. These events
are supported by a dedicated website, Motorati Life
and include race meetings, concerts and interviews.
Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 6
Although Formula One racing attracts signiﬁcant
levels of coverage globally on TV, it is a sport that for
most fans is only ever experienced on that media
channel. Renault F1 has created a location in Second
Life that strives to bring fans much closer to F1 than
The venue has several areas, included a highly detailed
pit and paddock area showing a typical race-day set-
up, several re-creations of their cars, a media area
Engagement and involvement complete with downloadable press packs and other
One of the other car brands to enter Second Life is information, streaming video of races, and Renault F1
doing so for a completely diﬀerent set of reasons to virtual merchandise.
the existing companies. The Renault F1 team launched Renault will also have a regular programme of in-
their virtual presence in late May 2007. world events including interviews with their drivers
and as in the case with most other automobile brands
in Second Life, residents are able to drive cars (or in
this case go-karts) around a re-created race track.
Aside from the presence of oﬃcial real-world car
brands in Second Life, there is also a striving
community of car enthusiasts working on private
The island was arguably one of the most ambitious In fact, a search for ‘Cars’ using the places criteria yields
projects seen to date and is based around almost 250 results - a clear indication of the
engagement and involvement. popularity.
There are three main types of metabrand associations
with cars. Firstly there’s the creators themselves. These
range from individuals making new concept cars for
fun, through to virtual dealerships selling a range of
vehicles. Two of the more well-known Second Life car
designers are shown below.
Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 7
Who gets the most traﬃc?
A key objective when marketing in virtual worlds is to
get as many avatars as possible to ‘at least’ visit the
venue. Shown below is a traﬃc chart containing a
snapshot of visitors numbers for the month of
First shown is EM Cars. This is a three-man virtual car
company selling a range of diﬀerent vehicles as well
as maintaining a dedicated island - Motocity. The
second is Fox Motors.
The non real-world brand projects in Second Life are
marked as red bars. What’s of great interest here is that
the most popular venue shown is the Silver
It’s not by accident that the oﬃcial real-world brands Motorsports Complex, with close to 250k visitors,
in Second Life often choose to create virtual racetracks signiﬁcantly higher than any other venue. The
on their venues. Obviously, once you’ve bought a popularity of this location is largely explained by the
virtual car you then want somewhere to race it. number of diﬀerent car-related activities available
plus the concept of competition in the context of
On this basis, there are many places in Second Life to racing.
race cars, including several venues run by enthusiasts. Mercedes Benz and Pontiac (Motorati) are in second
One such example is the Silver Motorsports Complex, and third place respectively. Both these venues oﬀer
a venue containing drag racing, a banked circuit and test-drives and racing experiences, over and above the
many diﬀerent cars on display. provision of recreated real-world vehicles.
As explained in this document, there are several
marketing options available to automobile brands in
Two of the companies already with metaverse
presences have recently implemented brand extension
Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 8
initiatives designed to deliver non-vehicle messaging This oﬀering has been designed to provide a younger
to the audiences interacting with the virtual brands. audience with information relating to loans, with the
ability to take a loan in order to purchase a virtual
Mercedes Benz decided to launch a golf competition
on their Second Life island. This is an initiative
designed to foster the already large community of In summary
residents interested in their brand. The typical age of a The automobile category was the fastest sector to
resident in Second Life ties in nicely with the embrace metaverses as marketing platforms, with
demographic associated with golf, so this campaign is many of the major manufacturers creating venues in
a good example of brand extension. 2007/8.
The rationale for placing a car brand into a virtual
world is very straightforward - the medium lends
itself well to car creation and brand experiences and
the target audience of aﬄuent early adopters is to
close match to the markets focussed on in the real
What car brand owners have to consider is how best
to create a virtual environment that enables avatars to
enjoy using the vehicles and associated brand values.
Toyota has also implemented a brand extension
As shown, this may include the creation of race tracks
strategy, this time in the virtual world of Whyville.
and competitions, the ability to customise existing
Whyville is a metaverse aimed at 8 - 15 year olds with
vehicles, or the creation of entirely new ones.
a focus on educational learning.
The Scion range was also launched into Whyville and However, as these types of strategies are being used
following on from this was the creation of a virtual already by oﬃcial brands as well as existing amateur
loans solution oﬀered by Toyota Financial Services. enthusiasts, new entrants in this space will have to
consider new ways to engage the audience as well as
assess other virtual worlds now available which may
oﬀer diﬀerent experiences or cater to diﬀerent
demographics and audience proﬁles.
Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 9