BMW vs. Mercedes. A strategic assessment

BMW and Mercedes are included in the Automobile case study.

BMW vs. Mercedes. A strategic assessment. Brands entering Second Life do so for different reasons. Some do it just for the PR (not an ideal strategy). Some do it because in many cases they have to be there (global tech sector companies) and others do it because it’s a strategic fit in terms of the target markets they position themselves towards.

Automobile brands (as this timelime shows) have been very quick to go virtual – for good reason – the audience profile of residents in SL closely matches their real world footprint. Both BMW and Mercedes recognised the value in attempting to leverage their brands in SL. This article uses the 7 Point plan for marketing in Second Life to compare how well these two companies strategically placed themselves into the virtual world.

At face value, examining the traffic these two brands have recently received to their islands, its extremely clear which company has been most successful.

BMW traffic: 319 visitors

Mercedes traffic: 4,348 visitors

Mercedes has generated over twelve times the traffic. So why is that? The Seven Point plan can explain this. Marks out of five are given to each company based on how well they meet each criteria.

Point One: Have a plan

BMW set-up in SL to primarily showcase their Clean Energy technology. So, clearly they had a plan. They didn’t dive in with re-creations of their entire production range. Instead, it was a tactical entry. Mercedes chose to integrate their upcoming launch of the new C-Class. Again, they had a plan.

BMW: 5 points

Mercedes: 5 points

Point two: Keep the builders at bay

This point relates to design being an output, not an input. Visual content in virtual worlds should facilitate the initial strategy. BMW chose to focus on clean energy. Mercedes decided to tie-in with a product launch. Visit the BMW island and the only design reference to clean energy are the two cars on stages, quite a way from the main teleport entry point. Visit Mercedes island and straightaway you see a virtual dealership with two C-Class cars on display and another one on a stage. The overall design of the BMW island, whilst being a clean design, is in most part wastage, serving no real purpose. Mercedes however, have built a test track around the island with the dealership and event area in the middle.

BMW: 2 points

Mercedes: 5 points

Point three: Integrate

This relates to using integrated marketing techniques to maximise synergy from virtual world activities. Brands should never view metaverses as standalone channels – they are just another channel to use. For example, real world marketing materials can easily be brought into Second Life. So, if I’m on an island showcasing clean energy technologies, I’d expect to maybe see a video (perhaps) or an explanation of exactly what clean energy is. Much the same as if I was visiting an island showcases a new car, I’d expect to see the car and obtain further information about it. BMW makes some links available to the clean energy website. Mercedes also does the same for C Class information.

BMW: 3 points

Mercedes : 3 points

Point four: Giving is better than receiving

In other words, brands should seek to engage residents and involve them with the attributes of their brands. Sitting back and waiting for things to happen is not a good idea. With zero cost of sale and easily mechanics to re-create objects in Second Life, the right strategy for brands is to make their virtual products freely available. On the BMW island, their is nothing available for residents. No giveaways, nothing. It is a static entity. Visit the Mercedes island and you can take a new C-Class for a testdrive around the island. This is one of the key drivers why Mercedes gets twelve times the traffic than BMW. But they don’t stop there. You can also download free mix tapes of specially created music soundtracks. Now, this doesn’t change the world, but it demonstrates a motivation to push the Mercedes brand into a virtual platform.

BWM: Zero points

Mercedes: Four points (if you could take the car with you outside the island, this would be five points)

Point five: Keep the seats warm

If you create a venue in Second Life that implies a presence from authorised personnel from a particular brand then you have to commit to having people available. Otherwise (and a perfectly good option) is creating a strategy and venue that does not need company presence. What’s interesting here is the difference in tone between BMW and Mercedes. As soon as you teleport into the BMW island you get an automated message saying BMW can not personnaly welcome you right now. If you have any questions, then instant message their representative (Munich Express). Adding to this, BMW then have a display communicating the specific times when a BMW representive will be available.

At 9.42 PST, there were no BMW representative on the island.

Compare this to the message you get when you first hit Mercedes.

This is about managing expections. Brands don’t have to have people manning venues in Second Life but if you state that you will, make sure that you do! A Mercedes representative (Mercedes Milestone) can frequently be found on the Mercedes island.
BMW: 2 points

Mercedes: 4 points.

Point six: Stoke the fire

This is about Entrance and Existence. An Entrance strategy relates to getting a brand into Second Life. Existence involves an on-going strategy of stimulating interest (and therefore visitors) in a venue. Second Life marketing strategies have to take into account both these issues. Think of stoking the fire as running sales promotions, or competitiions or even (on a B2B basis) in-world seminars. And, importantly, create events that are actually of interest to residents. There’s been no events to support the BMW venue in Second Life. Mercedes has done slightly better and organised aparty on the day of the C-Class launch. Both could do better.

BMW: Zero points

Mercedes: Two points

Point seven: Promote and cross-promote

This element is closely tied to the Integrate aspect. Promote and cross-promote relates to using other media channels to support in-world activity and vice-versa. BMW does actually have hyperlinks to websites communicating their clean energy initiative. More strategically, Mercedes created a blog site before their actually launch in Second Life. This was successful in terms of creating buzz around their virtual world project as well as enabling people without access to Second Life to see what they were planning.

So, the bottom line. Why does Mercedes Benz attract twelve times the traffic then BMW? Because they have considered the audience and population of Second Life and created a virtual strategy that meets many of the Seven Points for successful virtual world marketing.

BMW: Three points

Mercedes: Four points

The final scores:

BMW: 13 points

Mercedes: 27 points