Friday, June 15, 2007

Beanie Baby 2.0

I hadn't talked to my mom in a while, so I decided to give her a ring. My little brother (10 years old) picked up the phone and the conversation went as follows:

Tyler: Hello?
Me: Hi! What are you doing?
Tyler: Oh nothing, playing on the computer...
*Mom picks up and interrupts*
Me: Hi Mom!
Mom: Hi! Are you at work?
Me:, why isn't Tyler playing Wii right now?
Mom: Oh, because he just bought a Webkin.
Me: A what?!
Mom: Yeah, a Webkin. You haven't heard of Webkinz?
Me: No, but I'm going to look them up right now.

Little did I know, I was getting schooled by my 10 year old brother again. Anything that took precedence over the Wii was important in my book. My brother teaches me all kinds of useful media information, including: 1) is all the rage; 2) Tamagotchi is cool again; and 3) even elementary school kids "love being online". It's really no surprise, actually, since sites like Disney and NickJr. are constantly improving their offerings to appeal to this audience. What is surprising, however, is how sophisticated they really are.

Webkinz, I found, are stuffed animals that come with unique codes. The codes are entered on the main site, which also marks the "adoption" of the virtual version. This animated pet avatar comes with its own room on the site, a food item, furniture, and currency known as "Kinzcash". Most gaming and activities allow users to earn more Kinzcash for their pets. Needless to say, stores can't keep them in stock. At a fairly low price point (averaging around $10), parents view them as affordable, and kids don't need to do weeks of chores to save up their money either.

This successful bridge between offline and online worlds opens many doors for manufacturers as well as advertisers. An example of this would be themed Webkinz (Disney characters, etc.) that also live in special branded environments on What concerns parents is the amount of time and attention that kids are investing to take care of their pets. They also feel that it keeps their kids glued to the computer when they should be outdoors.

Ultimately, Webkinz are a combination of Beanie Babies, Tamagotchis, MySpace and Neopets. I'm not sure what my brother will teach me about next, but I'm pretty sure I need to schedule regular conference calls with him...just to find out what the latest craze is.

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