::iimageleft(“UnitrinSL.jpg”,”Unitrin in Second Life”)::
According to Investor’s Business Daily, many ‘real world’ companies are acquiring property and generating a presence in the Second Life virtual world. Second Life claims to have 3.3 million registered users and is adding 230,000 users per week. The companies include some biggies like IBM, General Motors, Toyota Motor, Dell, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, and Reuters Group. Most are buying 16 acre “islands” which cost $1,675 plus a monthly maintenance fee of $295. The companies not only build virtual structures, but also have their real world employees staff the virtual world. These companies are attempting to build brand awareness as well as direct and indirect sales opportunities. Circuit City, for example, allows customers to arrange furniture in a virtual living room in order to help decide the best placements for televisions and surround sound speakers.
“Generally, real-world businesses are not looking at Second Life as a direct revenue generator, but rather as a means of brand extension,” said Philip Rosedale, CEO of Linden Labs. “Firms that commit to a long-term, creative presence in Second Life have an opportunity to interact with their community in new and innovative ways.”
Unitrin Direct, the direct marketing arm of Unitrin, Inc., has become the first auto insurance company to ‘build’ in Second Life. Their virtual skyscraper is modelled on the Unitrin Direct’s Chicago-based headquarter building. Rather than locate their building on an island, Unitrin chose to build in an ‘busy’ part of Second Life (probably because who would choose to visit an insurance company). Once inside the lobby, you can get a real-world auto insurance quote. Eventually real Unitrin employees will staff the lobby to talk to you about your insurance and answer your questions.
“We’re excited to offer a new way to introduce customers to our direct business model, which allows us to reduce overhead and pass on the savings to customers while still providing first-class service,” Tom Mercer, vice president of marketing at Unitrin, said in a press release.