In the wake of the collapse of teen-targeting Webcaster Digital Entertainment Network and London-based fashion retailer Boo.com, most teen sites are treading lightly for fear of falling prey to the same fate. However, one hub that’s going like gangbusters is Kibu, a month-old on-line hangout for girls ages 13 to 18 that has recently tapped new executive talent to max out registration, expand the Web site’s content and spin the brand into off-line venues.
Newly appointed VP and editor-in-chief Lori Gottleib will initially concentrate on beefing up Kibu’s Faces, a crew of slightly 20-somethings who serve as hosts for the site’s 21 sponsored theme channels. ‘They’re kind of a cross between a big sister and an MTV DJ,’ she says. ‘They’ve gone through the experience of being a teen girl recently, so they’re able to guide girls through everything.’ In addition to providing on-line advice on topics like School Survival, Hair, Music and Money on-line, the Faces go out in the field and talk to girls where they live via initiatives like mall makeovers and sports outings. The group will soon be joined by guest Faces to discuss issues like Politics and Art.
Lisa Shevach, Kibu’s new VP of marketing and content development, will be put to work bringing aboard new sponsors for each of Kibu’s on-line channels. Some recent signings include Maverick Records for Relationships, Columbia Records for Music, and Barnes & Noble.com for Books and Writing. Kibu designs on-site promo pages for the sponsors so that girls never have to leave the Web site to get info on the sponsors’ new products, contests and giveaways.
Shevach will also help kick off a bimonthly e-mail newsletter campaign this month, and a loyalty program called Kibu Box later this summer. New registrants will be able to enter a contest each month to win one of 10,000 Kibu branded boxes containing six to eight cutting-edge product samples provided by the site’s sponsors. ‘Initially, it’s a great marketing opportunity for our sponsors and a brand-building loyalty initiative for us,’ says Shevach. ‘But ultimately, we’re looking to make it part of a regular subscription-based sampling program.’
Both Shevach and Gottleib are heavily involved in gearing up for the August 17 launch of a San Francisco-based studio that will be the off-line Kibu hangout and the Faces’ new digs. ‘Our focus groups have taught us that although the on-line experience is a big part of girls’ daily lives, they also want an off-line experience,’ says Gottleib. ‘Girls like going to the mall and to the movies because they like interacting with other girls. This is an opportunity for them to meet other Kibu girls and the Faces.’ Hoping to pull in a large number of local girls, as well as girls who are passing through the tourist hub on vacation with their families, Kibu will offer daily Faces-hosted activities at the studio, including interactive sessions on hair and financial advice. The idea is to eventually broadcast the studio goings-on in real-time on the Kibu site via Webcams, but for now, digital camera photos will suffice.
To promote the studio launch, Kibu is running an on-line sweepstakes for tickets to the launch party. The company has also employed street teams in key cities like New York, L.A. and Chicago to hand out bottles of glitter nail polish directing girls to the contest entry area on-line. Another grassroots guerilla tactic employed to build buzz around the brand in general is the use of graffiti teams that draw variations of the Kibu logo on sidewalks in well-known urban venues like Central Park and Washington Square.
Prior to joining Kibu, Gottleib served as director of prime-time series development at NBC, and Shevach was senior manager of marketing for BananaRepublic.com.