Monday, June 18, 2007

Toys Gone Virtual

Interactive websites help sell classic dolls and toys to a new generation.



With more than 90 million web users
globally under the age of 18, many traditional toy companies don't
want to make kids decide. The goal is to build brand
awareness with a new generation. These sites are built not only
around the latest high-tech toys and games, but also around some
going back more than 50 years. 



Barbie isn't the only doll going virtual. American Girl Dolls,
another standard in the marketplace, is also turning to the
internet. AmericanGirl.com features "Fun for Girls,"
an editorial-content section with games, polls, quizzes, craft and
party ideas, book excerpts and other activities.

"We deepen a girl's connection to the brand and to a
favorite doll or story through the interactive programs that are
available," says Ellen L. Brothers, president of American Girl.
"For instance, girls can explore the worlds of their favorite
historical characters, play a game related to the new Girl of the
Year character or try a craft featured in American Girl
magazine."

Of course, it's not just dolls moving to the web. The folks
at LEGO, based in Billund, Denmark, have created an extensive site
surrounding the multi-colored plastic bricks that have been a
staple in toy stores internationally since their initial debut 56
years ago. Peter Hobolt Jensen, senior director for online
communication, who is globally responsible for the
LEGO.com site, says it gives kids a place to experience the
products and be creative.  LEGO enthusiasts can upload and
share their own creations, take part in discussions on a message
board and create a model in 3D using virtual bricks.

At Crayola's website, the emphasis is on coloring online with
virtual products. "We're leveraging crayola.com to communicate the
full benefits of our innovative products," says Rob Walker,
internet marketing manager for Crayola.com.

In addition to virtual
coloring, a host of cards for everything from birthdays to Mother's
or Father's days are also available for designing and printing.
"We've built the site around Crayola's core values, which means
providing open-ended creative fun. We want it to be a place where
kids can explore and have fun, while we showcase our products,"

adds Walker

Hot Wheels website is one of the most
popular sites for boys, bringing speed, power and performance to
life through a variety of activities. "Boys love to race and
compete against each other and these site elements invite them
to experience the thrill of Hot Wheels driving, stunts,
customization, blasting and crashing right on their own home
computer
," Friedman says. 

HotWheels.com also lets boys create their own customized page to
capture high scores and gives them a place to track their Hot
Wheels collections online.



LEGO.com boasts 11 million visitors
monthly with an average time of 28 minutes
spent on the site. The
new BarbieGirls.com generated more than 1.5 million registered
users in less than two months. "Fun for Girls" on American Girl.com
is now attracting an average of 14.8 million visitors per year
. It
seems safe to say that kids are flocking to these kid-friendly
interactive websites. And some of the most popular toys of
recent generations are maintaining their popularity in the real
world through virtual world applications.

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