Marketers take advantage of children’s social networks to target younger age groups.
General Mills: Millsbury
With 1.3 million visitors per month, the General Mills website has become a hit with school-aged children. Users can design and name their own avatar and enter a world of games and learning. The educational aspect is mostly centered around nutrition and your body, as expected with a food company. But there is also a museum stuffed with facts and activities, an art class, online books and articles. By clicking on links to other companies, children can earn Millbucks, which they need to purchase outfits, furniture, clothes, toys, pets, and accessories for their virtual life. Playing at the arcade, where there are about 20 games to choose from, also earns Millbucks.
Ty: Beanie Babies 2.0
Toy manufacturer Ty did not want to miss out on the online trend. So they added a tag to some of its iconic Beanie Babies, giving their young owners the access code to enter the virtual world. Although there are lots of cute animals hopping around on the colorful site, the games may seem boring and not very educational to many parents. Kids, however, may take interest in the history and imaginary world of Beanie Babies. They can also chat with other members and write their own chapter about their Beanie friend, and that personalization feature may appeal to many kids.
Bandai: TamaTown.com and Tamagotchi connection
Bandai has also tried its hand at the 2.0 market with TamaTown.com, where users can have their Tamagotchis — the original digital pet — interact online. Now they can watch movies together, play games, and connect with a big, supercute Tamagotchi online world. The makers of the iconic keychain-pets surely don’t want to give in to all the new online competitors, but the fact that they originated the trend and have an established line of real-world products that can easily integrate with the internet surely works to their advantage.
Most children would love to have a pet, and most children like to play computer games. To connect these two kid-favorites is a win-win situation. So more and more websites offer ways for kids to raise a virtual pet, to care for it, and interact with it through it with others. There are Neopets, Superpets, Marapets — you name it. The user numbers are in the millions and in peak periods there are between 1,000 and 3,000 kids online at a time on each site. Many companies want to profit from this trend and develop their own version of a playful online world, where kids rule. Unfortunately, not all sites are smart and child friendly. It just is not enough to throw some colors, cute looking creatures, and a chat function online. Hopefully the kids and their parents are smart enough to weed out the ones that just want to market their products as fast and cheap as possible.
What do you think?