When: 2016/08/02 5PM SLT (PDT)
Destination: Model’s Workshop @ Second Life
We’re attending: Model’s Workshop and The A List! present: “Self-branding and Marketing” forum with Xavier Thiebaud
More information: Model’s Workshop in-world group: secondlife:///app/group/0b48687e-b400-6d60-5547-48b114c49c8c/about (copy the link to the local chat in Second Life and press Enter to get the URL to the group profile) | Model’s Workshop website | The A List! in-world group: secondlife:///app/group/c39e50d0-257e-dc11-b31e-14570cadab1a/about
Business is a crucial part of Second Life – we, the residents, either produce content or use it. Therefore it is reasonable to have a conversation about business practices so we all can enjoy and benefit from the growth of certain brands. However, such conversation requires adjustments to the virtual world, which lives by the laws that differ quite significantly from the ones the real world lives by. In some cases of our second lives, we enjoy more freedom than in the physical world, and in some cases, there is less. The Grid also undergoes changes at a much higher rate than the physical world… With all the tools available to residents in the second world, how does one create a brand that lasts?
Xavier Thiebaud has taken it upon himself to answer this question. This resident is most known within the Second Life fine crafts industry as the founder of The A List!, the group where selected content creators and event organizers announce the best events one can possibly find on the Grid. He is approaching the 10 years milestone in Second Life, and during most of these years he has been building a brand of himself, his name, along with the brand of The A List!, in the higher society of Second Life. This Tuesday, he has hosted a forum on self-branding and marketing at the Model’s Workshop, a foundation dedicated to assist models of Second Life in a whole variety of ways, and I suggest checking out the “About” page on the Model’s Workshop website for more information about these awesome people.
We have gathered in the Model’s Workshop auditorium and took some time to get acquainted with each other, before Suki of Model’s Workshow went up on the stage where Mr. Thiebaud was already gazing at the audience next to the photography of Steve Jobs along with his famous quote – “Think different”. Ms Rexen took a few minutes to introduce the venue where we have gathered, and then the forum itself has commenced.
Starbucks. Versace. Chanel. McDonalds. Mr. Thiebaud included the presentation which began with the logos of these and other companies, asking us whether we can recognize those. Some we could, some we could not. This is unrelated to Second Life, but personally, when I saw the Versace logo, I thought of Perseus, a fictional brand from the Grand Theft Auto universe – I could not recall the name of Versace, the real life brand with Medusa on its logo, but I knew that Rockstar Games, the developers of the GTA universe, mocked Versace that way, by making a brand with the name of Perseus, the Greek mythological hero who defeated Medusa.
Then Mr. Thiebaud has made a remark that branding a company and an individual requires different approach, and then has flipped through the photographs of real life celebrities. Most of the participants have recognized almost all of them. I recognized none of the real ones, but that’s another story. The only one I had recognized was… the avatar of Xavier Thiebaud himself.
Stopping at that one, Mr. Thiebaud said that even though many people on Second Life (higher society in particular, I imagine) know The A List!, not many have heard of Mr. Thiebaud himself prior to actually diving into The A List! – he could “make his name an SL house hold name”, but that was not his focus. However, those who consider branding their name and/or image (for Second Life models, this is all too relevant) have to be ready to put some significant work into it. One of the models asked Mr. Thiebaud about branding name vs. branding image, to which his answer was that “branding a name in SL is easier than an image, particularly because our image changes constantly”. But he has a suggestion to those who still consider to gain recognition by image – and that is adding something to our appearance that separates us from other residents. Cindy Crawford, one of the real life celebrities I did not recognize, has a mole on her face, which has become her trademark. Mr. Thiebaud suggested to cam in to his eyes – supposedly they were electric, and I would be able to say for sure, had he not wear glasses. He sticks to electric eyes, “because [his] personality is electric”, but allows himself the freedom in altering the rest of his appearance. One of the models had recalled that freckles was her brand back when she had started her modeling career in Second Life. All in all, while for models always staying fresh is part of the second routine, they can choose something in their appearance that will not be changed next time they get a new look – and make it their brand!
The second part of the presentation began with Mr. Thiebaud asking the audience about the size of their friends lists and the amount of groups in which they can post. After hearing the answers, he has shared with us his infamous story about the April Fools Day prank he has pulled on The A List! members by sending out a notice which went like “Steve Jobs will be on the Apple Sim in SL and first 5 get a free iPad.”. In his words, “In one minute flat it spread all over the grid, because all our members have groups of their own”. That is when he has realized how powerful the right kind of networking can possibly be. Another story from Mr. Thiebaud on the subject of the power of networking: “I told Suki one year I got all the DJ’s to do a mix of a sample from an old movie called The Warriors and the one message being played all over in all the clubs was 20,000 HARDCORE MEMBERS”. But Mr. Thiebaud suggests finding the right balance between advertising not enough and advertising too much. The A List! does not ever see the same notice appearing more frequently than once a day (and therefore is one of a few entertainment groups for which I myself have not turned the notices off). Ideally, one has to find their own way of balanced advertisement, and that includes the outreach to the public with the message you have got – for Mr. Thiebaud, it had been uniting all the finest of Second Life regardless of the field, with an exception of the adult industry, in one group, so people of all trades had the opportunity to explore the industries of Second Life other than the ones they work in, and “that’s where [they’re] different than the groups in SL”.
Suki Rexen asked a question about picking the right logo – once upon a time, she picked a butterfly as her personal logo and got criticized for that choice, since, supposedly, it has nothing to do with modeling. To which Mr. Thiebaud responded that logo can be anything, and if Ms. Rexen wants to go with a butterfly, that’s exactly what she’s got to do. The point is to assert the ownership of the name, or the image, or the word and let everybody know that it is yours and it will stay yours, however one should choose any of the above wisely, for it is going to stay with one for a long, long time. Mr. Thiebaud reminded the participants once more that one should send a message to the public with their brand, therefore being different, unique, rather than bluntly copying the existing, is the right approach to it. (I can relate to that. The Digitized was started in exactly that spirit – “to cover everything that deserves the coverage, but has not received it”.)
In conclusion, Mr. Thiebaud has summarized the ideas of the controlled marketing. First, he listed the ways one can give the opportunity to others to follow one – basically, all the known social media, an in-world group, and a blog do it. Second, he suggested that one should not neglect the opportunity to help other brands of Second Life, because most of them will help one in return – “it becomes less daunting when people help one another”. Third, he reminded us to watch ourselves and what we share with other users, because reputation plays a tremendous role in how people perceive you and your business. (Anshe Chung, with all her millions, had got a bad reputation not only thanks to the failed CNET in-world interview 10 years ago – all over the Web I can read the stories of the atrocious customer service and the unfair tactics she uses to keep the profits going up. I have never rented from any of the AnsheX lands, and I sure as hell will think a lot before ever renting from them. But that is another story.)
That is where we have ended, now ready to let the world know [insert the forum participant name here] is coming around and it’s better be ready for this. Big thanks to The A List! and Model’s Workshop for organizing this forum and allowing everybody in – there was a lot of information relevant specifically to Second Life (and perhaps even other virtual worlds) on branding, and I myself cannot wait to try out some of the strategies. I hope this summary has been helpful to those who consider branding themselves, but have missed the forum. Thank Xavier Thiebaud if some of the advises turn out useful to you too. I am only re-translating them.