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Heidi Klum In The Valley Of The (Star)Dolls

 

Eric Newman

Brandweek

December 10, 2007

 

NEW YORK—Virtual shopping/social play Web site Stardoll.com, which targets young women 9-17, has signed supermodel/entrepreneur Heidi Klum to promote her Heidi Klum Runway jewelry collection. The deal is part of Stardoll.com’s strategy to court their audience with upscale products and other offerings mainly from celebrities.

The site, similar in nature to Second Life, also has shops for singer Avril Lavigne and actress Hillary Duff and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. In October, through a deal with LVMH, the company added shops for DKNY and Sephora.

Klum will have a “store” in the “Star Plaza” section, where visitors can purchase virtual items from the supermodel’s jewelry line for their digital avatars, and check out her favorite clothes, bags, shoes and awards show outfits.

“I don’t just think about it as selling jewelry, [but] I try to make it about who I am,” said Klum. “I think it’s great to be in connection with young girls who are interested in fashion . . . It allows [the girls] to interact with those celebrities they are fans of and get an insight into what that person’s favorite clothes are.”

The Hollywood, Calif.-based Web site, which claims to have 12 million visitors, is seeking other high-end partnerships with such name brands as Stella McCartney, Vivienne Tam, Liz Claiborne and Henri Bendel. The goal is not only to offer young consumers more brands in which they’re interested , but also to enhance the site’s function as a destination for fashion news and play.

“For any brand that wants to reach the coveted [youth] demo, it’s a great marketing tactic,” said Matt Palmer, evp and gm at Stardoll.com. “The brands get a presence that’s integrated, and the [girls] are able to touch and play with their clothing virtually, reinforcing their brands and eventually leading to real world sales opportunities.”

However, this strategy has raised some red flags among consumer advocates.

“The real purpose of social networking sites for young kids like Stardoll, BarbieGirl and even Webkinz and Penguin, is to train kids to shop,” said Susan Linn, director at Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Boston. “It’s a good thing for the corporations to make a lot of bucks, but it’s not a good thing for kids. What these companies want to do it get children in the habit of consumption . . . and instill the idea that they deserve luxury products. It’s aimed at creating what the industry calls ‘cradle to grave’ brand loyalty.”

Others argue that children are already exposed to a hyper-consumer culture with the extravagant lifestyles portrayed on television shows such as the CW's Gossip Girl and reality shows like MTV's The Hills.

“Luxury is aspiration and a lot of those brands and those celebrities are fashion and lifestyle brand badges that today's teen and tween girls want a piece of,” said Paul Kurnit, president at Kid Shop, New York and a professor of marketing at Pace University, adding that he feels Stardoll does a good job of delivering for both its users and brands.
 


 

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