It’s not escaped notice that a part of the job advertisement for a new Linden Lab company spokesperson lists “Plan and execute a broad PR strategy for communicating Linden Lab’s industry leadership and rebranding efforts” as a key responsibility.
The two words “Second Life” are, I believe, a lousy brand name, overloaded as they are with all manner of inappropriate meanings. In fact, the name – when originally selected – was not at all popular among many employees of Linden Lab itself, for just that reason.
However, “rebranding” covers a lot of territory, and doesn’t always include changing the name or logo of the brand itself.
Sometimes rebranding is better referred to as “repositioning”, casting an old brand in a new light. Changing its image, if you will. Certainly Second Life’s image is less than stellar, even if the service is used and enjoyed by many.
A rebranding example would be a popular brand of analgesic in Australia. A major product contamination incident forced the recall of products from retail outlets some years ago, and the brand lost considerable market-share to competitors as a result of the loss of trust in the product. The company worked hard to rebrand the product. Not by changing its name, or its logos or trade-dress, but by hammering home the message of how “trustworthy” the brand is.
Since that campaign started, I don’t believe there’s a shred of marketing for the brand that doesn’t reiterate how well-trusted it is. “Australia’s most trusted,” they say or, “Trusted by more Australians.”
Mind you, if you were armed with a well-equipped laboratory and a mass-spectrometer, you likely couldn’t discern the slightest difference between this product and any of its cheaper, more generic competitors.
Media literacy lesson: Watch out when a brand tells you how you should feel about it. If the brand says it is cool, or it is trusted, or it is hip – well, it probably isn’t. Either you already think it is what it is, or you don’t. It’s rare for a brand to tell you what its image is if the image is actually true. In approachable terms: Smiling Jim doesn’t smile very much, except when he’s taking your money; Crazy Eddie isn’t crazy, and apparently neither are his prices; and as for Honest Bob – well, I’ll leave that to you.
Bonus marketing lesson: “If you’ve got nothing to say, sing it.” – If you can’t even manage the above without choking, sing your company name, a slogan or a phone number. At least people will stand a chance of remembering it.
So – back on the topic, at last – Linden Lab’s rebranding efforts for Second Life are hard to pin down. I wouldn’t absolutely rule out a name change as “Second Life” is a rubbish name for a “shared creativity tool” – if that’s where the Lab wants to pitch the image.
Certainly there’s only so far the image can be repositioned, however, without actually going the whole-hog and changing the name – but that would be a huge effort.
I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.