"Second Life will go down as having served as an important test bed for virtual-world marketing. A few intrepid brands have been pioneers in this arena. Most are lemmings," says ClickZ editor Sara Lieb.

Not that there haven't been successful brand presences in the virtual world, perhaps most notably Starwood's hotel prototype, aloft. The fact that Aloft was part of an integrated, participatory campaign was a large contributor to its success, but the real boost Starwood got from the campaign was PR. Gallons of media ink, real and virtual, covered the then-innovative project. Pure first (or nearly-first) mover advantage.

Aloft ran its course. The property is closed. The real estate it occupied on was donated to a deserving nonprofit. And that was the plan all along.

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