No idea what Webkinz are? Good, I didn't want to be the only one. Apparently they are wildly popular children's stuffed toys. And they are also a testament to the power of social media in the hands of a company's customers.
According to Ad Age, Webkinz does no advertising for the stuffed animals. But what they do have, is a devoted network of retailers, and a very catchy viral component. Each Webkinz comes with a 'secret code' which the child owner can input at Webkinz's site. Doing so gives the owner a cyber version of their toy, which they can clothe and feed with 'KinzCash' they collect at the site by winning games and solving puzzles. The owners can create virtual 'playpens' where fellow owners can join the kids and share and play with each others Webkinz.
And a look at the site's Alexa info shows that traffic has been steadily climbing for months.
The 'media push' for the stuffed toys hasn't come from traditional marketing, but instead in the form of blog posts, newspaper stories, and mentions on shows such as "Good Morning America," "Regis & Kelly" and "Rachael Ray." Ah the power of good ole fashioned word-of-mouth.
The Viral Garden, Marketing, Webkinz
Mack - I never put 2 and 2 together on the viral aspect of Webkinz. I have 3 girls, all under the age of 10, and we have several. My wife even spends time "taking care" of them online with the girls to make sure they stay "happy."
The kids found out about them from friends. Maybe because it's one of those organic-type word-of-mouth things, it never even clicked how effective it is.
Innovation and creativity that speaks directly to the right market. Wow! What a concept. Too bad so many don't get it.
My 2 daughters (12 and 10) love Webkinz, and spend their money on them as often as they can.
They found out about it from their cousin, and they've hooked their friends.
Sooner or later, they'll move on to something else, but Webkinz DOES have WOM figured out.
Not only does Webkinz understand WOM, what I think is equally brilliant is their ability to monetize social networking. Each Webkinz stuffed toy is about $10, and of course you need to buy the toy to get the secret code. Then, you have to renew the "life" of your Webkinz annually (for another $10). Pretty brilliant, huh.....? And totally perfect for the little girl market.
As other commenters have already noted, the word of mouth marketing driving Webkinz is primarily child-to-child, which is how my sons found out about them (so its not exclusively the little girl market). Doesn't this raise some of the traditional "marketing to children" ethical concerns?
Matt - good point about ethincal concerns. Saying that, giving free toys away isn't new.
Years ago in France, Kinder gave you a code with each Kinder egg purchased, and you had to check their website to see if you had won a prize.
Webkinz are lot more advanced in terms of strategy but the concept is pretty similar.
Mack, I had del.icio.us'ed that article to blog about on BMA today, but then never got around to it.
The CEO of my company told me about them, and I've been fascinated by their marketing brilliance for months. His two kids are obsessed with them... along with Club Penguin (another great study for this demo).
Since leaving that post, about 10% of my traffic has come from referrals from people searching for the Technorati tag of 'webkinz'.
So the company definitely has bloggers excited about them!
My husband and I run a retail store and have been selling Webkinz since the middle of last summer. We have seen a steady increase that has continued to build, even since Christmas. Whenever a mom buys one for her kid to take to a birthday party, we can count on a spike in sales immediately afterward...every kid at the party decides that they want one, too. The last few weeks, we've had grandmothers phoning from hundreds of miles away (they have a good retail locator on their site) ordering literally 12 to 15 to dole out to all their grandkids in the months ahead. Needless to say, we are big Webkinz fans. But we truly to believe there's a lot of educational value to the games, etc., too. We admit to having "adopted" one of our own...ostensibly so we could learn about the product to talk to customers...but we still get online and play with our pet nearly every night!
My girls are crazy about these "stuffies" and are actively collecting them. One has 18 and the other one has 12. Webkinz is the rage at their school here in Philadelphia. Hallmark seems to sell them at the $9.99 price but other then them, the prices range. Isn't there a set price for these little guys?
These little things are amazing. My daughter (9) wanted one after my nephew got one for his birthday. They were sharing his code so that she can help him get KinzCash (or whatever it's called), and then wanted one of her own.
She has one now and spends a lot of time on the web playing with it. We just ordered her another recently as she really wanted the monkey and there were none when her aunt bought her the first one.
I find the games quite educational. She goes to a french school and struggles with her english. The webkinz are helping her with her spelling in a major way... hence why we encourage this for her.
Anyway... that was my opinion on them :)
My 2 daughters and son [mikaela whom is 9, sarah whom is 8 and matt whom is 9 as well] are crazy about them! Mikaela has 16, sarah has just 1 because she just got introduced to the popular toys and matt has 2. mikaela is sooo crazy that she's begging her father to let them go to the webkinz day thing. I know they are going because sarah and kaela are daddys lil girls. now they dont have to beg him... because we own a small webkinz store up in great falls, montana! lots of kay kay's friends come and spend their allowance there every 2 weeks. I can honestly say mikaela and matt ar egetting smarter because of Quizzys question corner. they find a ton almost everywhere we go! the mall, some resturaunts up in town and my oldest mikaela has 'retired' ones, and soooo many new ones. Matt loves his penguin and sarah is in love with her lil pig that we bidded on Ebay for like $0.01!!! lucky us! now we're waiting for pre orders for the chicken and american cocker spanial 4 kayla. the other kids aren't going green-eyed monster over her webkinz collection which is growing rapidly now. thats the WHOLE story for my kids love life of webkinz.
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