Friday, May 30, 2008

Thinking About Stardoll at the LSA

I am blogging today from the Law & Society Association conference in sunny Montreal, where I just presented a paper on the exploitation of children's affective labour in corporately-owned virtual worlds. The panel I was a part of, organized by York University professor (and CRC in Law, Communications and Cultural Studies) Rosemary Coombe, revolved around intellectual property and immaterial labour, and granted me the opportunity to meet and learn about the work of four legal scholars doing excellent, provocative, cutting edge work in this area (names, details and abstracts can be accessed here).

My talk today was a reworking of my ongoing study of the commodification of kids' digital play, reviewing some of the ways corporate entities appropriate and marketize kids' emotional investments in online communities and virtual worlds. I talked about BarbieGirls and Neopets (again!), but could very well have mentioned this article which appeared in today's online edition of Forbes (written by Sramana Mitra) on teen fashion site Stardoll. Here's an excerpt:
Stockholm-based Stardoll features more than 330 dolls and tens of thousands of virtual garments and accessories. It is also the No. 1 site worldwide for pre-teen and teen girls, according to comScore. The site has over 7 million unique visitors per month and 16 million registered users from 200 countries.


Stardoll, like Vogue, earns revenues from advertising. Advertisers on Stardoll include major fashion and entertainment brands such as Donna Karan, LVMH, Disney and Sephora. Stardoll also earns revenues from products sold in its virtual shop. The site sells between 60,000 to 180,000 items per day.

Surprisingly, Mitra maintains that the site has not yet been used -- at least extensively -- for market research. But she also proposes that sites like Stardoll are just what the market needs..."an inexhaustible, ever-ready focus group that could help retailers cut back on excess purchases. Something like a social network." While I'm doubtful about her assertion that Stardoll has not yet begun to exploit its users/data in this way, she sounds right on the money in her hypothetical scenario of "how this might work":
Zara, a retailer based in Spain, launches a virtual collection on Stardoll, which becomes an instant viral hit among pre-teen and teenage girls. Let's say seven designs in the collection bubble up to the top as the most popular, each with an average following of 1.2 million girls. Knowing this, would Zara need any other focus group or market research to figure out exactly what is striking a chord with its target consumers?

If Zara becomes really disciplined, it can pre-launch each season's designs into Stardoll, collect market feedback and provide that data to its stores around the world. Zara can also do geographically targeted research through Stardoll. For instance, Zara's Florida stores can look at data for Florida consumers, while Los Angeles stores can drill down on what teens in L.A. like.

I wonder how just certain she really is that this type of thing is not already unfolding. I'll have to sneak another peak at Stardoll and its corporate communications once the conference has ended.


Shaping Youth said...

Sara, I'm sure you've seen this one, already, but the Dizzywood folks just shared it with me on the BarbieWorld premium content bit...

And yes, I'm with you on the 'shudder' re: mousehouse ad testing...;-) Need to pull a couple of these and update...Are you on yet? The community has some interesting folks involved... ttys, Amy


Anonymous said...

Stardoll is not a real business. They steal celebrities intellectual property. This is not fair to the people who own the copyrights.