Buildabear learns from the older kids

BuildABearville.com, hit one million users after its first month and now claims 2 million, is starting on a new direction of providing celebrity content as well. While this approach has been a mainstay of worlds teen and tween worlds like Habbo Hotel or There.com, Build-a-Bear seems aimed at a slightly younger audience. The company is hoping, though, that it’s still the right demographic and environment to get excited about spending Spring Break with High School Musical‘s Lucas Grabeel. Starting today, in-store purchases come with a a Celebrity Spring Break VIP Boarding Pass–an access code to a beach party zone hosted by Grabeel’s character and a free poster of him for users to hang in their virtual rooms.  “Many of our Guests are huge fans of High School Musical and High School Musical 2,”  Maxine Clark, founder and chief executive bear, said in a statment. “We are beary excited to have Lucas Grabeel’s online character in buildabearville.com to interact with our citizens and hand out a cool virtual prize.” 

Virtual Worlds News: Build-a-Bear Brings the Celebrity for Spring Break

1. Bringing in exciting, tween-targeted celeb (come to our site)
2. Pimpin’ in store purchases (go to the store)
3. VIP perks (special acknowledgement to faceless users)
4. Attaching access codes to an event (engage in our world)
5. Have a free item to customize your home (a. have something to help you attach yourself to our environment, b. what? you’re a free member and don’t have a virtual room? well, you can have this poster for when you do buy our product and achieve a virtual room)

SO BLOOMIN’ SMART from a marketing angle.  Exciting, subtle, and engaging.  My three favorites. 

I do have to giggle/sigh.  Those Buildabear folks LURRRRRRRRVE their “bear” infused words, they’re all over the site, and it cracks me up to hear the cofounder use it in casual PR speak.  Gotta wonder if they are mandated to use beary whenever possible – like how Disney store folks get sprinkled with pixie dust every morning (or is that a rumor that I’ve believed since high school?  wouldn’t surprise me).

I still go on record as saying that buildabearville is one of the most well-organized, cohesive virtual worlds for upper tweens out there at this moment (*insert wicked grin from Mr. Burns*).  Much better than Webkinz in organization, and a bit more showy/techy than Club Penguin. 

Plus, the art is fantastic – and stays in sync throughout the games & world. 

My so-so bits about BaBv would have to be:
a) their pre-message only text for free members (can’t do much socializing when you have to choose from a list of lame sayings – bring on the mods!).  Webkinz does this too.  Blah.

b) The user tool called “PDA” where quests, points, etc are kept is lamed out.  Sadly, the tool is kinda out-of-sight out-of-mind with placement & depth. It’s one of those good ideas that didn’t really work the way it should have.

c) upon logging in, they always ask you to see the tutorial or be placed in the town square – this annoys the heck out of returning users.

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