The Importance of Password Protection (or, Identity Theft at Home)

Over the holidays, my daughters each received a “Webkinz.” Okay, I didn’t know what one was either. It’s a stuffed animal with a code that you enter online. This registers your animal… you name it, you get an adoption certificate, and you can interact with your Webkinz virtually on the Webkinz website. Above is “Molly’s” room (she’s a polar bear). My daughter has decked it out with with a sort of ballerina Ice Capades kind of theme. She started with $2000 in Kidzcash. You can see down in the lower left corner that she currently has $164. She’s spent the money on things like a bed, carpet, wallpaper, a snowman, and food.

To give an idea on prices, the “Cloud Couch” costs $400. You can earn money by playing games in the Arcade, mainly hand-eye coordination games, but there are a couple of logic and brainpower ones.

Some of the interesting features are things like the Webkinz phone. Her cousins have Webkinz, and I assume she could chat online with them through the Webkinz site. They can also gift items to each other… my daughter got a cool Egg chair (which I think she sold) from my nephew. He received a football in return. All virtual, of course.

It’s sort of a mash-up between Second Life and Cabbage Patch Kids. I’m a bit confused about the reality/virtual thing, though. Sometimes we’re interacting with the “real” Molly, the stuffed animal. But when the real Molly is watching the virtual Molly, it becomes a bit surreal. For me, at least. But it doesn’t seem to bother my daughter.

We thought we’d keep it simple and have both kids have the same password to log in. My older daughter wanted to take care of my younger daughter’s Webkinz (that would be “Perky Ballerina”). So she logged in as her younger sister and spent ALL of her money. All $2000 in Kidzcash. There was like $14 left.

The Webkinz website has taught our family several things.
1. All age groups have their online community. I’m not sure this is a good thing, though.
2. Don’t let family members share passwords. Ever.
3. Kids have a hard concept with spending money on fun stuff vs. saving money for things like food. I can’t blame them… sometimes I want to do this as well.
4. The line between “real” and “virtual” gets more and more blurry every day.
5. By creating multiple interaction points, Webkinz has created a brand experience, both online and through the stuffed animal.

Focusing on #5, think about how your brand lives beyond the product, or the website, or whatever that point of interaction is. How can your brand create multiple experience interactions to create a relationship with people? My older daughter loves her Webkinz, and I’m sure part of this is because she can interact with it virtually. The younger one… she’ll have to save up before she gets to experience this.

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