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.
The 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.