Second Life: The Environmental Design Tool of the 21st Century

A Second Life view of the Dow Chemical Company's customer hospitality and business center at the '09 NPE tradeshow created by The Scott & Miller Group.

Recently, the Dow Chemical Company worked with The Scott & Miller Group, a business to business marketing communications firm with an award-winning reputation and a 45 year history of work to help the company both plan and design a customer hospitality and business center at the ’09 International Plastics Exposition Tradeshow, held in Chicago last June.

To address the needs of their client, the Scott & Miller Group implemented Second Life, the internet’s largest online 3D virtual world, to help design the center. Working within the software, the agency built a virtual replica of the 36,000 square foot Skyline Ballroom at McCormick Place, complete with furnishings, meeting rooms, workstations, kiosks, dining areas, a lounge and bar. They then invited Dow Chemical Company clients to login to Second Life and explore the customer center themselves using avatars (icons representing people) to evaluate the center’s layout and design on their own.

According to Greg Baldwin, communications manager of Dow Basic Plastics, the virtual 3D ballroom was an invaluable tool used for evaluating the effectiveness of the proposed layout and design of the customer center, which ended up drawing over 1,100 customers during the week the event took place.

“When you’re working in such a large space, it’s difficult to predict every nuance that will impact the look, feel and functionality of the room – color choices, deciding where graphics are needed and where they aren’t, or even arrangement of dining tables. I was able to login to the virtual customer center any time and feel confident about the final decision.”

Working within the Second Life universe to accomplish such tasks has its advantages. For starters, the ability to bring multiple parties and locations together in one identifiable virtual space not only saves time, money and resources, but the sustainability of a virtual space as a means of both presenting and communicating an idea is immeasurable. According to Tom Leinberger, owner and president of The Scott & Miller Group, this idea of implementing virtual worlds into event and program planning is growing increasingly in popularity.

“When you have access to a dynamic medium like Second Life which combines social and visual components and can help achieve resource and cost efficiencies, it’s reasonable to assume many more companies will be incorporating virtual world activities into their integrated marketing communications strategies.”