Branded Play At KidZania
KidZania is a faux town where kids dress up like professionals and exchange currency in a brand-saturated environment.
KidZania is a multinational chain of family entertainment centers, where kids ‘learn while they play’, trying out different professions that have been downsized and simplified in ways that are just downright fun. Children can dress up as surgeons, detectives, journalist, miners and radio hosts, while actually playing the part in a faux town the size of a soccer field. While kids are exchanging KidZos (official park currency) for burgers and makeovers, a bank teller is overseeing ATM withdrawals (each kid is given an ATM card and an account) and a journalist has got the latest scoop. A mock Congress of 14 children discuss the day to day operations of the park, while a construction crew in the Dubai KidZania fittingly erects a 25 foot tower, hoists and harnesses in all. At the planned KidZania in Santiago, Chile, children can pretend to be Chilean miners.
Though the concept is for kids to learn while having fun, its corporate undertones are relevant to its discussion. As written in The Morning News:
But when the children are learning factory work, it’s in a job bottling Coca-Cola, and when they’re working at a restaurant, that “restaurant” has golden arches. The dentist office is sponsored by Crest. The plane fuselage visible from the airport-style departure gate through which you access each KidZania franchise is branded, too. Corporate sponsorship is crucial to the KidZania concept. Companies can sponsor generic job activities, and other jobs are specifically built around the participating brands. Some sponsors fit awkwardly in the park: Selling Chevrolet to children is tough. The answer in these situations is often to put up a few computers in a booth where children can interact with the brand—in the Chevrolet case, by designing a customized Camaro.
Despite this reality, reports are that kids love the experience. The park also develops listening skills, as each activity is set up and curated by in-park staff. As children earn PhD’s, they at least form an idea of the responsibility that carries in a community. Others may discover they love the process of baking bread, or operating on robot dogs; all of this, before nap time.
KidZanias are coming to the U.S. within the next two years.