Evian has entered Second Life, providing people with upgraded avatars via in-world vending machines.

I don’t have data on this but it seems like there’s been a shift in corporate strategies toward products in Second Life. We’ve gone from “Let’s sell” to “Let’s give away.” Companies, I think, have decided it’s better to use their brands to add value to the Second Life user experience than to try and use it as another retail outlet. Not that there aren’t plenty of people still doing it that way (Armani just opened a retail location) but now there’s some different thinking going on.

I think companies are going to see higher return on investment from things like what Evian is doing, adding something substantive to the in-world experience, than in just trying to sell, sell, sell. If there’s no cost to adopt a new avatar look, or add a t-shirt or something along those lines then brand enthusiasts or even casual fans are more likely to indulge themselves and let the brand-flag fly.