Giorgio Armani in Sl: Virtual Brand Extension?
This weekend I decided to check out the Armani site that I heard had opened in Second Life. I reviewed many of the opening announcements that are available by searching “Armani in Second Life.” Many of these announcements contained similar content but did not include a SL location. After reading how Armani wanted to integrate RL with Sl I concluded that perhaps I could locate the SL Armani site by visiting the RL Emporia Armani site. I thought that perhaps Armani had a section devoted to the virtual site in SL similar to what the House of Nyla has. I was wrong – there was nothing at all I could locate on the RL Armani site about what and where the “virtual Armani” was all about. I thought this was really a strange “disconnect” considering all the splashy opening announcements I had easily located.
After digging a little deeper with my searches I finally found the Armani SL location on the map. I was kind of surprised to see only one large box-like structure and nothing else on the map and there were only 4 avatars on the entire island. (Note: I made several visits back since then and no other avatars were there.)
How do you locate the Armani store in SL to check it out for yourselves? You can use the SEARCH tool and type “Armani” under “PLACES.” On the map it is the “ARMANI via Manzoni” region. [138,79,26] Here is the direct teleport SURL.
I teleported over and was again surprised to see what looked like a replica of a RL store in the middle of nothing else really. A section of road with no cars leading to what looks like a subway entrance leading to nowhere but a black room and a big parking lot that made absolutely no sense to me. I am sure this all makes perfect sense in RL.
I did locate a big screen that I was hoping would inform me about how the store was set up but it did not work and there were no signs around to inform a visitor about anything on the island or how the store concept was set up. I could not locate any informational area.
The store itself has lots of display windows but when I tried to “Touch” the doors nothing happened. It was not until much more exploration that I discovered by accident that the doors were actually set at “phantom” so I could just walk though. I flew up towards another avatar on the island and asked about the store – he seemed very disappointed in the building as well as the overall quality of the virtual merchandise.
That is when I was determined to locate an entrance and tried to simply walk through one of the doors and was pleasantly surprised that I could enter that way but I wondered how may others before me just gave up.
The inside of the store was kind of odd – it was obviously set up as a replica of RL – something that is not really acclimated to SL. The successful fashion boutiques’ I have visited in SL are set up differently then a RL store to merchandise in a virtual environment – this obviously was not. I did locate multiple rooms stocked with fashion merchandise but could not find anything at all that was available either to purchase or complimentary, hence my perception that this was another “disconnect” and an ”odd” setup.
At this point I decided to ask the avatar outside in the courtyard to assist me with locating the fashion products he stated earlier he saw inside. It took him a bit of time to locate them again. He teleported me over to see a wall with about 10 products. [ Note: the exact location of the display is 86, 121, 26] Each dual image display had a SL product and a RL product that linked to the Emporia Armani Web page. After checking the links for the Rl products I discovered that very few links actually opened a comparable product page on the Emporia Armani Website and the same [Product] Red eyewear page links to many of the 10 fashion products.
The two visitors I met there were very disappointed in the overall quality and I must say the presentation did seem kind of unprofessional. A visitor does expect the highest standards from an established RL fashion brand but it was painfully obvious that the RL brand was totally out of their element here and did not consider it important to establish stratigic partnerships with SL professionals that have successfully developed and marketed fashion products and brands in SL.
This effort in Sl by Armani seems disconnected from any knowledge or experience of what a virtual world like SL can offer. A virtual world is not simply a mirror of the RL brand. A virtual world can serve as a “brand extension” for a successful RL brand.
After my visit I dug deeper for other reactions to the Armani store in SL. I discovered that the results were not pleasant to many that visited as this article in the SL Insider titled, “Armani Screws Up,” Posted Oct 18th 2007 2:30AM by Tateru Nino will tell you. The post titled “Ophelia’s Gaze: Iris explores (and deplores) Armani’s official site in Second Life,” on Monday, October 15, 2007 in New World Notes was particularly critical – but rightly so. The RL Armani brand is of the highest caliber – so the expectations for virtual brand extension naturally are equally high. Check out all the comments on Second Style Fashionista Blog entry by Grazia Horwitz titled,” Measuring With Different Standards?” posted October 17, 2007.
After my visit was over I did locate a YouTube video titled “Giorgio Armani Second Life Interview with Style.com” of Mr. Armani walking through the site – that’s when I discovered that walking through the entrance doors was the proper way to enter. I thought it was strange that the YouTube had no audio only text. Wouldn’t it have been better to have real audio? Here is the link to Style.com announcement of the Armani store in Sl.
Mr. Armani would have been well served to locate the top fashion professionals in SL to partner with him to develop virtual versions of his RL brand in SL. The first task on their list (there is still time to do this right) should be to make all the displayed products in SL into virtual fashions and not just empty prims. As a visitor to the store in SL, I totally did not get that at all? What’s the point?
SL prices for all products should be reasonable with all profits going to a charity Mr. Armani supports. Armani T-shirts should be offered as a [Product] Red item for a donated amount the user selects.
I noticed that other then the Armani store, the rest of the island is deserted. The RL Emporia Armani has a special section for the [Product] Red items to help fight AIDS in Africa. Isn’t it a logical step to integrate charitable causes in SL as well? Mr. Armani could easily start building a community for his SL venture by welcoming charitable causes he supports to establish a presence around the Armani store in SL.
SL is a “community” and all communities need involvement, dedication and patience to build. Charitable causes in addition to the [Product] Red Fight AIDS in Africa cause like maybe Fashion Fights Poverty and Aid to Artisans and perhaps fashion educational institutions from Italy can help to build the community and the virtual brand extension. It would not hurt to establish a MySpace and Facebook presence also to promote the communities. Everything needs to be connected with multi-directional informational channels to the RL Emporia Armani. Consideration should be given to removing the doors and roof (on the 2nd floor courtyard) in the Sl Armani Emporium – to make it more inviting for avatars, after all this is a virtual world not the real world. Oh and if you are going to expand your Website to include online services (as was mentioned in some of the articles announcing this venture into SL) – add something like the MVM personal dressing room option for your users to try the garments on before they order.
In short – virtual partners, information, charity, education community and linking will lead to successful brand extension in SL. Please don’t give up Mr. Armani – it took a lot of courage to initiate a presence in the virtual world, you are to be commended for taking that step. You are a real pioneer. Your staff should learn from their initial missteps and work to understand and develop your virtual community to expand your brand and your charitable causes.