Drawing Up a Virtual Marketing Plan

A new company called crayon aims to help companies maximize their Second Life opportunities.
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The chasm between consumers and marketing is widening, and this disconnect is creating the need for new marketing ideas to help businesses navigate Second Life.

Second Life, the massive multiplayer online world, allows anyone to log on through the Internet at any time and create 3-D computer-generated avatars. These identities are then free to explore the endless virtual world that San Francisco-based Linden Lab has synthetically created.

Many companies have made the virtual leap and created homesteads in Second Life, including

Starwood Hotels

(HOT)

,

Nissan

(NSANY)

,

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

and

Reebok

(RBK)

. Many others are gearing up to invest more time and money in the unorthodox world.

These are the kinds of investments that absolutely get the attention of Wall Street, says marketing maven Joseph Jaffe, and it's yet another benefit that cannot be overplayed enough.

"That's our reason for being," Jaffe says. "Our clients need to make sense of this change, and we need to help them identify these less cluttered approaches."

Joseph Jaffe is the president and "chief interrupter" of

crayon, a new marketing company. Prior to launching crayon, he ran jaffe LLC, where he worked with companies such as

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

,

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

,

American Airlines

(AMR)

,

TiVo

(TIVO) - Get Report

and

Motorola

(MOT)

.

In addition, Jaffe maintains his popular blog, "Jaffe Juice," which provides commentary on all things regarding new marketing.

Crayon totes itself as a shape-shifting company that specializes in new marketing for a new consumer. In addition, the marketing company's services include consulting, agency and M&A advisory, and custom publishing -- what Jaffe calls a "mash-up."

"Both the world and consumers have changed while marketing has not," says Jaffe. "Crayon is bridging that gap."

Jaffe is proud that crayon is a company of bloggers, podcasters and Second Life avatars. "We're people that actually live it, and it defines who we are. I'm as much these things as I am the CEO of crayon," he declares.

Crayonville Pavilion

Crayon is helping marketers, advertisers and public relations professionals better understand SL, as well as all the changes, challenges and opportunities offered in the so-called metaverse. The company's business is conducted at the Crayonville Island boardroom in Second Life. The informality has become a big appeal to employees.

"Everyone in this company has an avatar and is an owner," Jaffe notes. "When you act like an owner and you think like an owner, you go out and do it. This is what we're hoping to achieve, and I'm proud of the result."

The company opened for business last Thursday, simultaneously introducing itself in both the real world and in Second Life. Crayon's solutions include a suite of strategic and advisory services, creative ideation and implementation, change management, and empowerment training programs. Each combines to create a new form of marketing that Jaffe is championing.

"Second Life is investing in the future, and new marketing is the safest bet anyone can place," Jaffe remarks. "Nontraditional, bold decisions are transforming everything. You can't be all things to all people. That's abusive frequency and customers get fed up."

Jaffe believes in penetrating Second Life's culture and economy because it is offering an experience no marketer has had before. "Marketers haven't had the chance to engage with consumers. The Internet has become a conversation and customer service tool. It was an inevitability that this needed to be formed."

In addition, Jaffe believes that SL has removed some of the geographic hurdles that companies must grapple with when expanding globally.

"For us, it was a no-brainer to become a company of practitioners to get a remote, global company," he says. "When you play it out that way, you naturally arrive at Second Life rather than think of it as a gimmick."

To Jaffe, entering SL is not just watching a civilization birthed. "You're actually a part of it," he says. "I tell marketers it's not a reach-play. Second Life is about a very special group of people that are opinion leaders, innovators and early adopters. These people are pioneers just by being, as opposed to by doing."

For crayon, the goal and the responsibility is how to shepherd and guide companies, such as current client

Coca-Cola

, to smartly and strategically invest in SL.

"Companies need to learn to invest in the community and the economy without replicating what they do in the real world," Jaffe says. "We have an obligation as a partner to, in a way, be protective of the client as well as Second Life."

Jaffe's believes companies now have the responsibility to invest in the future. "It's an obligation to their shareholders to invest in the what-next and the what-if. Traditional media continues to decrease in its effectiveness and efficiency."

Crayonville Virtual Headquarters

Along the way, this means companies must be willing to make mistakes, take risks and, most importantly, be willing to experiment. Consumers are fundamentally outgrowing marketers and advertisers, Jaffe says, and they're not waiting up.

"Someone told me that senior marketers have got to the position by managing and mitigating risk," Jaffe continues. "The ability to continue to grow momentum and equity will become less a function

of that and instead being able to take risks and be risk-inclined."

In other words, the writing is on the wall for Jaffe, and he's chosen to read it.

Robert Holden is staff reporter Robert Holmes. He reports often from Second Life.