Colgate Smiles, they're contagious

Would you like a smile, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Online marketing is big business. Unfortunately, many companies approach it as a continuation of broadcast marketing. They replace billboards with banner ads and don’t take advantage of what an interactive environment can offer. As companies move into Second Life we see the same mistake being repeated as banner ads get replaced by ‘builds’ and again, marketers miss the power of interaction. One important exception is the Colgate Smile campaign in Second Life.

At the beginning of the Colgate Smile campaign, there were some criticisms of the build. The space that was built out was not as compelling as other builds. Yet these criticisms were mired in the broadcast marketing mentality. When you look more deeply, you find that the Colgate campaign as incredibly successful.

It started with a clear message tied nicely to the brand, a Colgate Smile. The message is clear, in Second Life and in real life. If you want a pretty smile, get Colgate. It is a great viral message. Smiles are contagious. Finally, it tied very nicely into Second Life. It filled a gap in Second Life in a very social manner. Avatars don’t smile. They should, but they don’t. There is a fix however, the Colgate Smile. As it stands right now, Colgate owns the smile market in Second Life.

This provides an interesting contrast to Toyota’s efforts in Second Life. I remember reading about Toyota in Second Life some time back. I went and sought out a Toyota dealership, and with my daughter, we bought a cute little car. We played with it for a while, and it is now buried in my inventory in Second Life. I rarely even think about it except when I see some other nicer car in Second Life. My experience of Toyota was of a ‘build’, a continuation of broadcast marketing. I looked at it briefly and moved on.

With the Colgate Smile, a person approached me in Second Life. They handed me a Colgate Smile package. I never accept anything in Second Life from a stranger without have a clear understanding of what I’m receiving, so I asked the ‘buzz agent’ what they had given me and why. We had a great discussion and I learned a lot about the advertising campaign from her.

I feel pretty comfortable in Second Life and am interested in the marketing aspects so my questions were different from what many people who received Colgate Smile packages were asking. Many of the people receiving Colgate Smiles were new to Second Life and needed help learning how to wear things and how to teleport. The Colgate Smile package included a list of places to teleport to that the creators of the campaign felt would make residents of Second Life smile.

Joni West, President of, which ran the campaign reports that the campaign more than doubled the previous one-on-one brand outreach in Second Life. The package was handed directly to over 30,000 unique Second Life residents. What is not clear is how many of these packages were passed on virally to other people. I know that I gave a copy of the Colgate Smile to several other residents.

I even added it to the avatar that Lillie Yifu created for Ned Lamont when he appeared on Virtually Speaking with Jimbo Hoyer. I haven’t spoken with Lillie about it, but I imagine it is something that master avatar designers will want to add to their creations.

The Colgate Smile campaign illustrates several key aspects of a successful interactive online campaign. It had a clear message. The message was viral. It gave people something that was useful to them and it was based on one on one interaction. Will other companies make the move beyond broadcast marketing to successful interactive online campaigns? For their sake, and for the sake of residents in Second Life, we can only hope.

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