Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Wonderful World of Webkinz

The Wonderful World of Webkinz

By Cory Treffiletti


Source: MediaPost Publications


Once in a while I come across brilliance, and this week I came across Webkinz (


The trend in social networking is to create and develop niche networks that reach a specific audience and encourage interaction.  Webkinz is a social network tied to a toy company that targets young children and places them in a virtual world that is safe, exclusive, and appears to be a lot of fun!


The deal is that you spend about $10 to buy the company's plush toys, which come with a code that enables you to adopt and interact with the avatar for your toy in their virtual world.  The Webkinz world is similar to Second Life and Sony's Home, but obviously targeted at kids.  You earn points from adopting other characters and you can use your points to decorate your home or do other things.  You can also interact with other characters, but only using one of the 900 preset discussion elements, so that your kids do not give away too much info and cannot be pursued.  It's a safe, fun, friendly environment for kids!


What I love about this is, it continues to signal the future of online social networking by tying the Internet to the real world.  The goal of the company is to sell the plush toys, but the virtual world is a hook and it keeps people coming back!  I read about the Webkinz first in Fortune, which noted that there are approximately 1.1million visitors who spend an average of 154 minutes in this environment (source: Nielsen NetRatings).  This is more than users spend in MySpace or Facebook, the two leading social networks online.


This world would obviously be an amazing place for commercial messaging, but so far there is none. There appears to be no easy-to-hijack elements of Webkinz  in which to incorporate advertising, and I think that's great.  The revenue model is purely based on selling the plush toys, and has made Webkinz one of the leading toy companies in the US.  It fosters an offline activity for online interaction.  Cross-media opportunities abound for Webkinz, fundamental of which is the push for consumers to buy more plushies.


So next time you are trying to determine how your brand can leverage the Internet, search out companies like this.  They do an amazing job of leveraging the Internet to push a product, and having that be the focus of their company.  I am sure they will inevitably revisit the social online component as well and blow that out, but I hope they maintain focus on the brand. 


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