Yay or Uh Oh? Enganging adults in youth VW

Pretty much every youth-oriented virtual world has older outliers way outside its target demographic. That’s something the upcoming LEGO Universe has acknowledged explicitly, and, by the way, it looks more and more exciting to me personally pretty much every day. Other worlds, like Mattel’s BarbieGirls.com, are going even further to embrace the olds.

“We really want to give parents a place on BarbieGirls that is designed for them and speaks to them,” Rosie O’Neill, Senior Brand Manager, Barbie Tech, told me at Virtual Worlds 2008. “What you’re going to see us launching in a few weeks is a new section called Parents’ Place. Our campaign around it is all about E3: Educate, Empower, and Engage.”

Mattel’s goal is to help parents feel comfortable about their children’s online habits, but since one of those E’s stands for “Engage,” it’s not a whole lot further to start talking about measuring engagement.

For an analogy, it’s been a while since I woke up in time to watch Saturday morning cartoons, but I remember a fair amount of commercials aimed at parents watching along with their kids. At least, I’m assuming Downy wasn’t trying to convince me to go out and purchase our household’s fabric softener.

So, to bounce the idea back to K Zero (or anyone else marketing in virtual worlds),  is it time to start looking at  kids worlds as a way to reach out to parents? 

Virtual Worlds News: Marketing to Parents in Kids Worlds?

Three thoughts on this:

a) All people coming to a site (kid or not) = fan.  So making it accessible without insulting core demographic can, yes, be very important.

b) Woot: creating an environment regarding education, empowerment, and engagement to help parents understand the awesomeness and not-so-awesomeness about online media for youth  these days (especially of the VW kind).  Rocks.

c) Reaching parents through kids worlds?  (re: the last theoretical question about marketing & parents) <–That’s like the handle to a door that leads to a whole world of sketchville.  Marketing and Parents = a battle coming forth in regards to their equal interest in the youth media space (namely virtual worlds).  Start targeting the parents on top of kid targets?  Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee… I’ll privately step out of the room for that convo.  That ain’t a battle I want to see, or be associated with.

I understand helping parents understand the structure & environment associated to the world created for children… but to then start peddlin’ to ’em?  It’s like saying “we know you don’t like us in here, anti-marketing mom, but hey… look what we can do FOR YOU, wanna buy a new washing machine?  Come on, it’ll be fun.  You can match it to your child’s virtual washing machine and make it a bonding experience, Ooooo.”  

Well, maybe not to that extent.  But there is a lot of salt in open wounds with marketing to parents in a youth environment. 

But on the flip side– what would a parent do if its a marketing scheme aimed at them IN their own “parent” side of the world???  “We’re going to educate you on how to keep your tater tot safe in dolly dolly land, and then pedal some dolly dolly land gifts for birthdays and maybe a new washing machine too.”  Will parents notice it as sharply as they noticed it with their children?  Mommabear-idis is strong, youngling… much stronger than my-choice-me-along-idis.

Anyway… anyone else have any thoughts on this?  Any points I missed, over stepped, or went too far on?  Do tell.

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