With Bin Weevils consumer products now rolling out, Samantha Loveday finds out how it’s making the leap from virtual to physical…
“At the end of the day, in terms of engaging with a kids audience, it’s still strong creative and character development that counts; content is king."
These are the words of Amelia Johnson, co-founder and commercial director of BinWeevils.com, the online platform which currently has 2.2 million active players per month.
First launched back in 2008 as part of Nickelodeon.co.uk, the series of short interstitial animations quickly became one of the best performing areas of the website. This led to Prism Digital building BinWeevils.com as a standalone online platform, and it hasn’t looked back.
“It’s very rewarding to be among a number of strong children’s entertainment brands that are able to offer kids around the globe new ways to socialise in safety, interact, game and create,” Johnson tells ToyNews.
“There have been a number of digital environments built for kids that haven’t cut through, usually because at some level the characters, environment and gameplay haven’t resonated successfully with their audience. When you have over two million converts returning to interact with your brand on a monthly basis, this is an incredibly powerful position to be in.”
Indeed, just like fellow virtual success stories Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin, BinWeevils is now making the move into physical product. There are currently 12 UK partners signed up, the majority of which have come on board in the last six months. Product has already begun to roll out with Egmont launching a monthly magazine in February, and Macmillan planning eight book titles.
In addition to this, Panini will release the first trading card collection in June, and Character Options’ toy line will follow in the autumn, supported by a significant advertising campaign. Apparel, accessories, homewares and bedding deals have also been signed.
“We really want to be looking for those product areas which effectively tie into the online platform,” Johnson explains. “Unique codes to unlock exclusive in-game items are important, but we really want to take that connection further with products that interact with areas within the platform. Other product areas of interest include music.”
Consumer products, says Johnson, are an imperative part of building that “playground buzz” for BinWeevils. “We know that BinWeevils.com is engaging kids like never before, as they spend up to half an hour each visit totally immersed in the property. One of the challenges has been ensuring that potential partners and retailers really understand the power of a digital platform. We then have the responsibility to work with our licensees to ensure our brand attributes are encapsulated cleverly in physical products.”
Johnson believes that, while the potential is there for more virtual worlds to break through, there is a pre-conception that they are an easy way to achieve a large audience. She’s quick to point out that they still need to have all of the attributes of a traditional children’s property, and without a strong and consistent audience consumer products opportunities are going to be limited. “This is what we see as the main difference between TV and online properties, where with TV brands, licensees are willing to sign new brands on potential future coverage, whereas online properties need to have an existing loyal audience to gain interest.”
So, could TV be a potential future move? At the moment, the focus is on making sure that there is continuous development and reinvestment in the core digital platform, after all this is what all the other components feed from.
“By the end of 2012 we are confident that BinWeevils.com will have made a strong impact at UK retail to build for an even stronger 2013 and beyond,” Johnson continues. “In five years’ time, we see BinWeevils being properly established in the home territory of the UK, fully expanded into other English speaking territories and also up and running in Europe. Then, with continuous development of the platform, there is no reason to believe you cannot build a long-term loyal audience, as is developed in other mediums like television.”