Engaging Tweens Outside the Store -- and Outside Reality

Media Morph: ScapeNation

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ScapeNation
WHAT IT IS: A virtual social network where 7- to 14-year-old "Scapers" can chat with each other, play games, go shopping and fight against evil villain "Darkness" -- all while building brand awareness for Tween Brands, owner of value-based retailer Justice .

WHO CREATED IT: Philadelphia-based independent agency Red Tettemer spent 14 months developing ScapeNation for Tween Brands, along with development partner A51 Integrated.

THE GOAL: To turn a marketing initiative into an entertainment franchise. In the coming weeks, Justice stores will roll out ScapeNation trading cards and gift cards. The site might eventually license its logo to products sold in Justice stores and beyond, leaving the possibility open for a merchandising line, a TV show or a book, said Steve Red, Red Tettemer's president and chief creative officer.

HOW IT WORKS: The belief at Tween Brands is that to reach its core audience, it needs to engage tweens outside the store. Enter virtual hot tubs, flat-screen TVs, cheerleading games and more. Tweens can make purchases by having their parents buy the virtual currency, ScapeBucks ($1 equals 500 ScapeBucks), or accumulating ScapeBucks by winning games. Prices for goods range from free to $2,000 ScapeBucks. Tween Brands said the monetization through micro-transactions is "added gravy" to the site's entertainment mission.

WHO'S USING IT: Since the site's soft launch in mid-February, Scott Bracale, Tween Brands' president-marketing, estimates that 60,000 tweens have signed up. But ScapeNation hopes to attract the 10 million girls that shop every year in Justice stores, along with their brothers. He said many social virtual networks for tweens skew young, so ScapeNation will target 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds. Parents, relax: Kids under 13 can't open accounts without your permission.

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