One of this morning's headlines really stopped me in my tracks. Over on CNN.com, under the headline Real Cars drive into Second Life, Peter Valdes-Dapena reports:
General Motors' Pontiac division is spending thousands of dollars to create a make-believe dealership that will sell make-believe cars for as little as a few dollars a piece....The dealership will exist, so to speak, in Second Life, an on-line virtual world....For now, at least, the Pontiac dealership will offer just one model: the Pontiac Solstice GXP. But you can have it in any color you want.....Stripes, spots, plaid, purple daisies. No problem....Surrounding the dealership will be Motorati Island, 96 virtual acres that GM has bought and will give away, lot by lot, in "land grants" to Second Life members interested in building car-culture oriented business...Pontiac is entering a space already occupied by two of the brand's Japanese competitors.
The story has an image gallery to go with it and goes on to talk about a consultant working with Scion on it's Second Life initiative.
This is pure brilliance and has me wondering who at these car companies is so on top of things that they not only spotted the Second Life opportunity, but convinced management to unlock whatever marketing dollars were necessary to make it happen. It also made me wonder whether big old stodgy slow companies that make molasses look fast (for example, automobile manufacturers) need someone like a Chief Web Officer (CWO) whose job it is to be on the constant lookout for these sorts of opportunities, to separate the wheat from the chaff, to come up with a plan of attack, and be the first mover.
In addition to spotting Second Life and devising a clever plan to give their own company a second life, a CWO's job would have been to spot things like the blogosphere, folksonomies, podcasting, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and other potential communication mediums and figure out how to participate in those communities.
I'm not saying such initiatives will always be a success. They may very well fail. But it's the companies that take risks like these that will ultimately hit home runs and that will leave all of their competitors with their jaws on the ground.