Automobiles and Virtual Worlds


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Automobiles and Virtual Worlds

  1. 1. Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds 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
  2. 2. 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 37% 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. 37% Canada 3% Automobile Marketing in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 2
  3. 3. The graph below shows the regional breakdown of fashion-themed world Stardoll. Rest of World 16% US 37% Also of note and further interest to brand owners is Europe 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 social networks. 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
  4. 4. 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 machine. 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 standard. 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. Product launches 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
  5. 5. 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, brand. 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
  6. 6. 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 RCZ. 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
  7. 7. 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 previously possible. 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. Metabrands 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 projects. 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
  8. 8. 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 December 2007. 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. Brand extension As explained in this document, there are several marketing options available to automobile brands in virtual worlds. 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
  9. 9. 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 Scion. 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 world. 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