You might recall that, back in September, Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon and the Lab's director of Marketing and Communications Catherine Smith took a trip to Amsterdam, where it was revealed that they were seeking space for a new marketing headquarters for Linden Lab.
Well, the new office isn't open yet – that's coming in January – but Ms Smith has already relocated to Amsterdam, which actually made her a bit easier to catch up with for a talk about the new digs and new initiatives.
Massively: Why a marketing office in Europe?
Smith: The Amsterdam office is all about European market development and support. With 65% of our audience outside the US, Linden Lab is committed to developing and helping those markets and solution providers grow to their fullest potential. This is a continuation of our internationalization efforts already underway - from offering localized payments to providing more robust localized viewers and website. After the US, 6 out of the 10 most active countries inworld are in Europe so it makes good business sense to build a strong market development team to take our efforts to the next level of growth and visibility.
Massively: Linden Lab has never really done much in the way of marketing that we can recall, so we're wondering how a dedicated marketing HQ fits in with things.
Smith: As you've noted in previous pieces, the Lab is evolving. This expansion is another indication of the company's evolution. Initially, all our PR came out of the US and as you've said, we haven't done a whole lot in the way of marketing but that's all changing. We know we can't approach marketing and PR from a "one size fits all" perspective and it's become very clear that each country faces it's own challenges in regards to their perception vs. the reality of Second Life and Linden Lab.
Massively: So, we're talking about a sea-change of sorts on the PR landscape, and a more proactive role for you?
Smith: As the head of communications and a longtime Linden, I bring a strong understanding of what stories and messages resonate and a good understanding and connection to the Lab. Personally, I'm really enjoying learning how to navigate the different kinds of media landscapes in our various markets, what types of social media are most prevalent and where different countries are in their adoption and understanding of Second Life. We've also just recently hired Edelman PR to help with our worldwide PR so the timing was right for me to come out and start up the new office and start working with the new international teams. I mean, what an incredible opportunity!
Massively: You're already out there [in Amsterdam], though the office isn't actually operational quite yet?
Smith: It's in the Jordaan and should be open in January and it is going to be super cool. All I can say is that the building houses dozens of creative companies, including the Dutch designer Moooi, whose designs are over the top and definitely SL-esque. Right now I'm working out of my flat and Katrin Linden will be joining me in Amsterdam in February as the new Germany Country Manager.
Massively: Any other significant shifts to further support the European markets?
Smith: The next hire will likely be a Senior Director of International Business Development [there's a link for those interested in applying for the job – Tat] and we anticipate hiring 5-7 more market development folks throughout the year. We will also be hiring a senior person to look after our network and infrastructure as we are moving servers closer to our end-user markets (and our first center outside the US will be Europe!).
Massively: Why Amsterdam, particularly?
Smith: Amsterdam provides easy access to some of our largest markets (Germany, UK, France, Netherlands, Spain, Italy). Amsterdam has a superb network infrastructure and we'll be opening our first EU colocation facility here in 2010. Also, Amsterdam is a desirable (and easy) city to live in and is a city of the world which helps our recruiting efforts. It doesn't hurt that it feels a lot like San Francisco and a lot like Second Life.
Indeed, since September we're seeing what looks like a strategic change in the Lab's PR and marketing: The change from LewisPR to Edelman PR in December; a YouTube ad campaign; and an affiliate program.
The Lab normally plays its successes close and its strategies even closer, but its a good sign that the Lab feels that Second Life's potential mass-market appeal is getting closer to being realized, and that it needs to have the marketing ducks in a row in readiness for a push.
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