Thursday, July 26, 2007

Welcome to Barbie World

Barbie is being reborn — she’s got outfits galore — but the doll also has some unusual features as this Barbie, who is smaller, also functions as an MP3 music player. Barbie on a memory stick which when her feet are plugged into PC docking station comes alive. She comes with, pages and games, virtual shops and online chatting functions on the Web site. Within 2 months 3 million have signed up and Mattel is apparently adding new users at the rate of 50,000 a day. And this is still just in its Beta version. has been pitched by Mattel as the world's first global online community designed exclusively for girls. When a girl registers on the site, she can create a personalized virtual character, design her own room, shop with B Bucks (virtual money) that she earns, play games, watch videos and have real-time chats with other girls. Girls can create and choose their own virtual characters, fashions, accessories, faces, expressions and hairstyles. This also extends to each girl's room, colours, floors, backgrounds and furniture. With children’s leisure-time habits shifting online, toy companies are responding with new products that can be fun both online and offline. This represents a change not only in the design and function of toys, but also in how toy makers use their Web properties.

Next is Zizzle, the company that makes Pirates of the Caribbean toys. The concept behind Web-connected toys is not new and was experimented in the late 1990s but stalled in a large part because Internet connections were too slow. The Walt Disney Company, last year, it introduced a digital camera that lets people download images of Disney characters from its Web site to their photos.

Merchadising is part of the total rights package and publishers have the content. Transferring this and fully leveraging it into the merchandising world is often a bridge too far, but publisher now have are in a perfect position to leverage the IP in many potentially different ways.