"Media consumption is changing faster than we ever thought – particularly in the world of kids,” explains Stephen Molloy, Stardoll Media’s SVP of sales.
The website on which girls create characters and dress them up in the latest fashion trends has seen its userbase accelerate past 200 million.
Recently, big toy companies like Mattel, LEGO and Hasbro have leveraged Stardoll’s audience in a number of high-impact toy advertising campaigns, in which girls can interact with brands, take part in themed games and activities, and purchase branded virtual goods for their ‘MeDolls’.
As Molloy says, media consumption is changing. But what advantages does the site hold over traditional forms of advertising like TV, and more importantly, how is it different to its competitors in the virtual world space?
Molloy explains: “Well, the reach is very much there – in the UK we have over one million unique visitors each and every month, and I would say our strength is our dedicated focus to girls.
“Their needs and wants and interests are different to boys, and the reason our users come to Stardoll is because they can come and create and design their own things.
“When a brand comes in, we can enhance that and give users real world tools, or IP that they can bring into their experience.”
Molloy cited Stardoll’s work with Furby as an example of its strength. To illustrate, Stardoll’s Furby club had over 100,000 members sign up. In contrast, the brand’s official Twitter feed only has around 18,000. Users also purchased 376,000 Furby-related virtual gifts.
“It’s bringing the brand into the user experience and that’s a key unique selling point for us,” says Molloy. “The vast majority of stuff we do with brands is integrated – it’s integrated campaigning.”
What do you do when you need a new outfit?
You’d probably hit the shops, try things on, see what goes with what and spend some of your money. But Stardoll offers an alternative experience.
In Stardoll, the fashion experience has been built to be like real life. The Star Plaza is the site’s online shopping mall, where girls can go to buy clothes with earned, virtual cash or real world funds. Available are Stardoll’s own brands like the goth-chic Fallen Angel or the Parisian inspired Bonjour Bisou.
This year, Mattel released a line of fashion dolls dressed in eight of the most popular Stardoll labels. Already strong sellers in the US, the dolls hit the UK this Christmas.
Katie Bell, global director for business development at Stardoll Media, says: “Mattel approached us some time ago because we’ve got a massive community of girls on the site and they wanted to be able to reflect all of the different styles and dolls that the girls are dressing up.
“The interesting angle of what we can do with the dolls is there’s an opportunity to work with different designers, because girls are massively into fashion.” Interestingly, Star Plaza
also sells virtual versions of desirable real world fashion labels like Ugg and Miss Sixty, while Harrods has opened its own Star Plaza shop where fashion-hungry girls can treat themselves to in-vogue offerings from the likes of Roberto Cavalli and Gaultier.
Blurring the lines between virtual and reality even further, American department store JCPenny has made the Stardoll label Pretty n’ Love into a proper clothing line. Members of the site can now buy and wear these products in real life. They even had a hand in its creation.
Bell adds: “We asked the girls to then go and create something for that brand. The community voted on what design they thought was the best and JCPenny has taken that to the point of manufacture. Which is fabulous – the girls totally love it.
“They like to get involved and a real valuable relationship is created.”
For Bell and Molloy, this combination of brand interaction and insight is something only Stardoll can deliver.
Bell says: “Brands can see what’s trending and selling, and they can do product testing before getting to the point of manufacture.
“We help brands understand what their audience really wants.”
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