Vying for eyeballs in the ever-more crowded kids virtual world space isn’t getting easier, but London-based Target Entertainment Group believes its recent third-party pickup from Brand Champions has the stuff to cut through the clutter and engage girls ages seven to 12 online and at retail.
Target’s snatched up the worldwide licensing rights for Brit Chicks, a new virtual world four years in the making that’s launching at the end of this month. Built on several years of research into the tween girl demo, site creator and Brand Champions MD Denise Deane says the music- and fashion-centric story arcs that drive the world have been carefully plotted and designed to appeal to girls’ aspirational desires.
The virtual world revolves around three teens, Eva, Honey and Mica, who also happen to be members of the girl band Brit Chicks that’s just claimed the top prize in American Idol-esque talent show Poptastika. Accordingly, the website will allow users to become part of the band and create their own Brit Chicks avatars, touring to cities such as Tokyo, London and Moscow in search of international music superstardom.
‘While they are visiting, they are gaming with quests and mini-games and social networking,’ says Deane. ‘They will also have an agent who sends jobs and tasks for the girls to perform on their way to achieving celebrity.’
Along with the narrative, considerable research went into the consumer products potential of the property. Brand Champions conducted product testing and self-manufactured a limited selection of Brit Chicks SKUs for the Euro market. Tween-girl-friendly goods such as bags, stationery and mobile phone skins were placed throughout the Middle East, Australia/New Zealand and Southern Europe this past summer. The results were both encouraging and surprising.
‘We found that girls in countries outside the UK were a lot older than our original target,’ says Deane. In Southern Europe and the Middle East, for example, she says girls as old as 14 were fond of the products which widened licensing possibilities. And in addition to key tween categories like apparel and accessories, Deane and Target are looking to lock down publishing, health & beauty and arts & crafts partners to launch a UK-based mass-market program in 2010.
Interestingly, the site will remain ad-free and rely instead on a US$5-a-month subscription model like virtual world forerunner Club Penguin. What should really get things rolling, however, is a unique consumer marketing campaign that includes enlisting 150 Chickettes, or band ambassadors. The carefully selected group of tween girls will work with their mothers to seed and promote the site amongst their peers. The focus groups will also feed ideas directly to the site’s designers and discuss innovations and add-ons to the space. The end goal is to reach 28,000 registered users by the end of the first month of operations.