People have been talking about commercial builds at SL9B – some complaining, some defensive.
Perhaps it would help to look at what I think is a really good commercial build, and see if we can draw up some guidelines from that.
A build that I think is really excellent in the 7Seas Fishing exhibit, which I believe both celebrates the spirit of SL9B AND promotes their brand in a non-aggressive way. It gets the balance, for me, about right.
So let’s see how it does that.
If you approach the build from one side, you wouldn’t even guess it was 7Seas. It’s a huge birthday card – Happy Birthday Second Life! it says and we made you a card. All around, the accoutrements of card-making are scattered – crayons, a glue stick, scissors. Walk around, and the card is revealed as 3D, A friendly octopus is springing out to offer a cake. Now you might notice that the crayons as branded 7Seas, and there’s also a stencil sign on the floor for 7Seas Fishing Game – but it does not detract from the card and the fun giant octopus – it looks part of the range of crafts that went into creating the card.
To one side, there’s a board with two free gifts on offer – one of the special ‘fish’ and the other a free rod, so that you can try the game out for yourself. The gift is one of the best ‘joke’ fish that can be worn to swim around you – a LOLcat fish, specially decked out with a birthday hat, a paper chain – and it releases the words “Happy Birthday!” It’s a really fun gift, and very much in the birthday spirit.
And that’s it. A fun birthday build, a nice gift, more information about 7Seas with the gift but no attempt to thrust the whole of their range of equipment at you. It’s taken some thought in the planning – and so should you have taken some thought if you have a birthday exhibit. The branding is there – but it’s integrated into the build in a clever and amusing way (the stencil and the crayons). And the gift is a planned and a fun one – following the birthday theme.
And at the end of the day, which is going to leave a better impression with visitors – the 7Seas exhibit, which makes you smile, or an exhibit that contains no effort to follow the birthday or community theme – that simple exists as a trade stand with information about products?
Based on what I’ve seen here, there are some stores (and companies) whose products I certainly won’t be buying. But I definitely think it might be time to update my 7Seas server and put it out on my dock. And I don’t think I’ll be alone.
So what are the guidelines that we can follow?
1) Respect the occasion. Try to reflect the themes of the birthday celebration and the idea of community. And not just your current community – presumably you hope that being at the Birthday will grow that.
2) Establish your brand, but don’t aggressively over-market. Make it clear who have created the exhibit – but not by making sure that your exhibit is hidden beneath the weight of your logo and/or company branding.
3) Give a fun birthday gift – something complete in and of itself that people can enjoy. You might want to hook them – but there’s no need to bludgeon them.
4) Make a deliberate effort to get away from the store format. Surprise your audience, or intrigue them. Make them laugh first and acknowledge who it was who made them laugh second.
5) Above all, avoid giving the appearance that this is just your store with the vendors taken out. That makes you come across as lazy and self-serving. And that’s really not a good look for any organisation.