Do Disney’s Penguins Know More About Social Media Than Twitter’s Bluebirds?
Despite rumoured losses and uncertain future revenue streams, recent valuations of Twitter put it on a par with such established names as Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer. But there’s social media business model that actually generates real profit rather than hype. And it’s all about penguins, puffles and igloos - Disneytm’s Club Penguintm.
Club Penguin is a social network aimed at children. I’ll leave a detailed explanation to Wikipedia, especially as my attempts to understand it have only been met with “Oh Dad” from my own kids.
Disney has resolved the classic marketing conundrum of 50% of budgets being wasted (we just don’t know which 50%). Club Penguin has spread by word of mouth and peer pressure - methods which are usually matched in extreme effectiveness and cheapness only by difficulty in execution.
You can take part for free, so its inclusive, but if you do join you get a much richer experience. So paying delivers real extra value. Its charging structure is also modest - currently less than a fiver a month in the UK. That means there’s rarely a budget sign-off problem from the decision making unit (parents).
There’s an online currency and there are many ways for currency to be earned, making the decision making unit feel good as it encourages lessons in work ethics. And those decision makers are also reassured by its levels of security and safety.
It links the on and off line extremely effectively. Being Disney, you can buy a shed load of merchadise ranging from cuddly Puffles (penguin pets) to penguin ice rinks. These all come with codes which can be used to increase your online currency.
The deal Disney made to buy Club Penguin was testament to their grounded business sense and the owners’ lack of greed. The price they paid was heavily linked to performance - and because it (apparently only just) failed to hit some targets, they got it for half price. But the owners were happy with this as they got a fair price in the first place - risk and reward at its level-headed sensible best. And it does actually make a profit.
So Club Penguin has great cut through with a difficult to influence, difficult to reach group. Disney has built a popular, profitable business that complements its core offering, promoted by customer advocates using word of month that fully integrates online and offline experiences. Isn’t that what many B2B marketers would describe as the social media Holy Grail? So don’t look to the Twitter bluebird to learn about social media success – the penguins may just have the answer!