Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Branding in Tween Worlds

Kids are consumers (virtually)! That was the message on the “New School” panel at the YPulse Tween Mashup on Friday. Speakers from Stardoll, WhyVille, and Cartoon Doll Emporium all recounted that young users of their virtual worlds wanted brands brought into their online environments.


Mattias Mikshe, CEO of Stardoll, said that users were begging for real
world brands (“everything from Gap to Gucci.”) This is what led them to
create “StarPlaza,” an in-world mall stocked with virtual brands (they
now have 9). LVMH-owned Sephora and DKNY just became the first real
world brand to set up shop there (featuring the same items as the
stores). Cartoon Doll Emporium, a similar “paper doll” site, is also
working with offline brands.

virtual world meets social network WhyVille has 3,000 different lines
of clothing—by 3,000 different girls. CEO Jim Bower says they want to
have a Whyville store with the designs from 12 year olds. But kids in
WhyVille aren’t immune to brand fever: one group of kids actually
created M&Ms costumes for their avatars. Over in WeeWorld,
users “consistently asking for brands to better express themselves,”
says Marketing and Editorial Director, Maura Welch. “By choosing to
wear the assets,” she says “the users are endorsing the brands to their
friends.” According to the site’s latest food and drink survey, users’
WeeMees (avatars) were jonesing for some Sprite, Gatorade and Cheerios.
As it is, they can already pimp themselves out in Armani sunglasses
while they pop Skittles.

According to Mikshe, the kids can “distinguish between being
marketed to and adding value.” Or maybe the marketing has just done its
job. The demand is there for the brand names, creating a pull rather
than a push scenario. And now that these brands can provide utility
online, they are becoming more and more integrated into the lives of
young consumers.

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