Coca-Cola is the latest brand to venture into the virtual world of Second Life as it seeks to further its commitment to the teen market online.
Coca-Cola already has its own virtual world, Coke Studios, which has attracted 8 million registered users since its 2002 launch. The drinks brand denies the move into Second Life is an admission of Coke Studios’ failure, saying instead that it is "fishing where the fish are".
Announcing the move at a virtual press conference in Second Life on Monday, Michael Donnelly, director of global interactive marketing for the soft drinks giant, said Coke intends to fully immerse itself in the culture and community of Second Life.
The move into Second Life has been developed by six-month-old agency Crayon, as well as an advisory panel of Second Life residents. Its move into the online game will be supported by a contest for users to design a virtual Coke vending machine that will "fulfil virtual wishes".
Entries to the competition, which will be judged on "creativity, cultural fit and brand fit", can be made through Coca-Cola’s YouTube and MySpace pages as well as at the newly-installed "Coke Pavilion" in Second Life.
Second Life now has 5.6 million registered users, yet fewer than 1 million are active each month. Donnelly, however, says the projected "hockey stick of growth" for Second Life is promising. He adds that Coke’s move into Second Life is as much an exercise in learning how to operate within virtual worlds as reaching the consumers who are already there.
Donnelly admits to being concerned about how "Second Lifers" will react to a Coke branded presence. He says research has identified possible pitfalls and adds/ "We did not want to create yet another branded island and assume people will come."
In a separate move, games brand Atari is reportedly plotting the launch of its own online virtual world as it seeks to capitalise on the digital phenomenon.