Marketers know the more time customers spend with their brand, the more loyalty they can inspire, and the more opportunity they have to market additional products. Not surprisingly, marketers have found that by offering free online services, such as tools, information, or fun activities, they can induce consumers to spend more time with their brand and increase sales.
No market segment has more successfully applied the use of games to support product sales than children’s toys.
Toys, Kids and Online Games
Children love to play, both in the real world and online. Toy marketers have successfully married traditional toys, such as blocks and stuffed animals, with online gaming for the pint-sized crowd. In some cases, the online game has become as popular, if not more so, than the toy itself.
Lego in Your Living Room and Online
Remember spending hours building Lego creations on your parents’ groovy shag rug? Kids still build on today’s laminate floors but they also dedicate equal time to playing games online at Lego.com. In the online Lego world, your child can play Lego games that correspond with Lego’s product line. Your child can build Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School with his Lego set and then play Lego’s Harry Potter’s Virtual Castle online game.
Given the popularity of their free online games, it’s not surprising Lego.com also offers online games at a price. Last fall, Lego.com launched Lego Universe, a multi-player online game in a moderated environment. Suitable for players aged 10 and up, parents need to purchase a DVD and game time to play.
Webkinz Creates a Virtual World for Stuffed Animals
Webkinz are stuffed toy animals for elementary or middle school aged children. This product is unique because when a parent purchases a stuffed animal, their child also receives a code giving them access to the virtual Webkinz world. Once logged in, stuffed pets become avatars, with their own virtual rooms, clothes and furnishings. Children accumulate points by playing games on the site. These points can then be redeemed for virtual gear for their online pets. Play more games, win more points, and your child can “buy” more stuff.
Until recently, Webkinz successfully motivated users to purchase additional pets by assigning an expiry date to accounts (typically one year). Unless you adopted (i.e. purchased) another pet, you would lose access to Webkinz’ online world. Webkinz recently changed this policy, much to the relief of children (and parents) everywhere.
Parents can also pay for deluxe membership, which gets them additional points, virtual gifts, and special site access.
Buy the Toy, Use the Site (and Vice Versa)
Using real toys to get kids into the online world has also been an effective strategy for marketers. By spending more time with the product, the child (and parent) are more likely to buy additional toys or add-ons. With parents restricting their child’s Internet access to approved sites, marketers needed a way to get their site onto the parents’ approved list. By using familiar toys as an introduction, marketers got their products in the home and on the computer.
Sometimes an online game provides the impetus to purchase a product. If your child’s friends are playing at moshimonsters.com, then it’s likely that your child will be begging to play there too. As she spends more time on the site, you might decide to purchase a keychain or t-shirt that features her favourite moshi character. If you want complete access to the moshi site, you need to buy a membership.
Adults Love Games Too
This multi-pronged marketing approach doesn’t have to be limited to younger target markets. Adults love games too, and any company can supplement its product line with fun online activities. Granted, development costs may place games out of reach of some companies, but even simpler offerings can become viral sensations. Witness the continuing popularity of Elf Yourself, the animated online greeting card branded by Office Max.
Have another look at your product line. Could an online game or app help you achieve your business goals? Maybe you could use online games, apps or tools to promote your products or develop a new revenue stream. Let the games begin!