linked in facebook twitter rss

  • Interbrand
  • Brandchannel

your chance!
your chance!


virtual mall
by Shirley Brady
May 7, 2010

Habbo, which bills itself as the largest virtual world for teenagers, started ten years ago in Finland. The site now boasts more than 16.5 million unique visitors each month, with more than 168 million characters created in its first decade. Not bad for a fan site that launched as “Mobile Discos,” named for a Finnish pop band.

The free-to-join site subsequently became Habbo Hotel, named by its owner, Sulake, for the “rooms” its users can decorate and use as their home base, before more recently shedding the hotel to rebrand simply as Habbo to clarify its position as a go-to community for teens in 31 countries on six continents.

More than 90% of Habbo users are 13-18, with a roughly even gender split that’s slightly more male-skewing. Its teen users create avatars (dubbed Habbos) to interact with each other and with brand advertisers. They can hang out in public spaces, participate in virtual events, decorate their rooms and trade in virtual gifts, all of which may be branded.

For an example of how Habbo leverages its own brand and trust with teens to partner with other brands, look no further than last November’s launch of the biggest media sensation in recent teen history, The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Fans of Bella, Edward and the rest of the vampiric franchise could decorate their rooms with Twilight-themed virtual goods such as the Volturi crest.

In a similar vein, last year Habbo partnered with American Idol around sponsored in-game merchandising and customizable branded engagement. Sponsors could sign on for event signage, green rooms and virtual goods within the Habbo universe, pegged to Idol's eighth season launch.

Seventeen magazine also promoted its content through sponsoring a free virtual beauty salon to appeal to girls who found Habbo a cool place to socialize with their friends when school was out last summer.

Habbo also offers brands the opportunity to poll its members, such as its recent look at teen fashion consumption patterns. More than 60,000 users responded around the world, with a global ranking of Nike, Adidas and Puma as their top three fashion brands, with Lady Gaga the teens’ #1 fashion icon.

American girls listed their favorite brands as Adidas, H&M and Nike, while boys in the U.S. were split between Hollister and Aeropostale as their top brands, with American Eagle their #2 fashion brand.

How does Habbo know that teens connect with brands? A survey conducted in January polled more than 5,000 of its tween and teen users in the US, UK, Canada, Singapore and Australia to find out what they thought about branding in “their” digital hangout. Is it less cool than mom and dad picking them up from a party or friending them on Facebook?

Turns out the teens were more open to brands in Habbo than on Facebook or MySpace. Almost twice as many of them were willing to connect with brands in Habbo than on those social networks, and expressed willingness to associate with brands so long as they were deemed to be relevant and engaging.

Interestingly, 92% of the respondents were willing to take part in branded events and contests, with some 40% willing to produce content in tandem with these brand-related activities. Habbo says that’s almost double the amount of adults willing to engage in similar brand-related behavior. There was also a brand halo effect with 93% of the kids surveyed wearing virtual branded items “long” after a campaign had ended.

Phil Guest, EVP of global ad sales for Habbo, calls the community more of a mall environment than a schoolyard, in the sense that it’s a parent-free zone for kids to hang out and goof off with their friends.

That said, Guest says that Habbo is a safe place for its users and for brands to interact. Aware of parents and companies’ concerns about privacy and safety on social networks, particularly ones aimed at kids, he notes the series of controls and filters that empower users to create their own Habbo experience and block any users or situations that might make them uncomfortable.

It’s a brave new virtual world, to be sure, but one that kids are defining and figuring out ahead of their parents. The fact that brands can tag along and figure out the digital space too is cool with Habbo’s members, it seems, too.


Shirley Brady is Editor-in-Chief of brandchannel and Interbrand's Editorial Director.

 commenting closed Add Social Bookmark bookmark  print
 suggest topic  recommend ( 5 )  email

  brandchannel profile archive   2011  | 2010  |  2009  |  2008  |  2007  |  2006  |  2005  |  2004  |  2003  |  2002  |  2001
Dec 17, 2010 JanSport - Back in Style -- Barry Silverstein
  Going beyond the outdoor enthusiast market.
Dec 10, 2010 Cadbury’s Caramilk - Chocolate Tempation -- Renée Alexander
  Sinfully sweet treat draws flack from concerned parents
Dec 3, 2010 Howard Johnson - On the Road Again -- Barry Silverstein
  Symbolic of a bygone era, Howard Johnson’s restaurants dotted America’s highways through the middle of the 20th Century. How are they adapting?
Nov 19, 2010 V8 - Almost 80 and Still Making a Splash -- Barry Silverstein
  A grand old brand concocts new ways to reinvent itself.
Nov 11, 2010 Crystal Head - One Spooky, Outlaw Spirit -- Renée Alexander
  Comedian Dan Aykroyd pitches Crystal Head’s skull-shaped vodka bottle
Nov 5, 2010 Mark’s - New Name, Same Value to Canadians -- Renée Alexander
  Mark’s Work Wearhouse rebrands to simply “Mark’s” in Canada.
Oct 29, 2010 Biltmore - From Landmark to Brandmark -- Barry Silverstein
  If America had royalty, the Vanderbilts would qualify — and Biltmore is their legacy.
Oct 22, 2010 RedMoon - Pet Food Done Right -- Barry Silverstein
  Canada’s RedMoon creates custom pet food with a twist.
Oct 15, 2010 Clorox Green Works - Walking the Talk -- Sheila Shayon
  The #1 green cleaning brand in the U.S. aims to walk its talk.
Oct 8, 2010 Cuba - Still Sways to Che -- Renee Alexander
  The halo effect of Che Guevara on Cuba’s brand is still strong.
Oct 1, 2010 North Dakota - RU Legendary? -- Renee Alexander
  One of the smallest states in the U.S., North Dakota can't boast famous landmarks, but makes a big splash via smart branding and social media savvy.
Sep 24, 2010 Corning - Clearly an innovator -- Barry Silverstein
  How Corning brand became recognized for its leadership and innovation.
Sep 17, 2010 Kenmore - A classic appliance brand gets a makeover -- Barry Silverstein
  Kenmore, the classic American appliance brand, is getting a makeover.
Sep 10, 2010 Pinkberry - Seize the Whirl -- Sheila Shayon
  Brandchannel interviews Pinkberry CEO Ron Graves about how the brand is ramping up across America and internationally.
Aug 27, 2010 Sleeman - Notoriously Brewed -- Renee Alexander
  Sleeman Breweries may be owned by Japan's Sapporo, but it's proud of its "notorious" Canadian heritage.
Aug 20, 2010 Social Twist - Bring Your Friends -- Sheila Shayon
  Social Twist aims to turn social media into social marketing through the lens of trust and referrals.
Aug 13, 2010 Kit Kat - Extending Sweetness -- Barry Silverstein
  Kit Kat has mastered the art of line extension – the practice of producing many variations of the same brand in the same category – perhaps to the point of absurdity.
Aug 6, 2010 Sezmi - Personalized TV, at Your Service -- Sheila Shayon
  In a rapidly evolving era when U.S. cable and satellite operators are competing fiercely to deliver personalized, portable TV, Sezmi offers a fresh alternative at a fraction of the cost.
Jul 30, 2010 Stella Artois - Premium Chic -- Yew Fei Chan
  With a stylish branding campaign and a new label, Stella Artois Black, Stella Artois is upping the stakes in its bid to make the brand the sophisticates' bewitching cold brew of choice.
Jul 23, 2010 Alibaba - Online Riches -- Barry Silverstein, the Chinese business-to-business global trade platform that went public in November 2007 with a record-breaking IPO, continues to break down barriers.
Jul 16, 2010 ngmoco:) - Playing Games -- Barry Silverstein
  From the name of the company to the mobile games it makes for the iPhone and other smartphones, ngmoco:) seems to be functioning in an alternate universe.
Jul 8, 2010 Chantecaille - Nature's Beauty -- Chan Yew Fei
  The Chantecaille brand, and family, bring their passion for nature and the environment to their global beauty business.
Jul 1, 2010 TMZ - Hollywood Insider -- Robyn Schechter
  Celebrity scandal and gossip is a thriving industry -- here's why the TMZ brand is enjoying a reputation for being the industry leader.
Jun 25, 2010 Honest Tea - Leaves You Feeling Refreshed -- Barry Silverstein
  Honest Tea came from humble roots to become President Obama's favorite tea, and become part of the Coca-Cola stable of beverage brands
Jun 18, 2010 Canon - Picturing a Future Beyond Cameras -- Barry Silverstein
  While many consumers still know Canon for its legacy cameras, perhaps even more recognize the name from the company’s other products, which include calculators, scanners, office copying machines, computer printers, LCD projectors, and medical equipment.
Jun 11, 2010 IV-7 - The Next Generation of Germ Defense -- Sheila Shayon
  As the BP oil spill and Gulf Coast disaster continues to grip the headlines, public debate about our increasingly toxic environment and the efficacy and safety of disinfectant products continues to rage. Enter IV-7, a new non-toxic disinfectant.
Jun 4, 2010 BYD - Driving China Electric -- Barry Silverstein
  As Chinese brands continue to grow on a global scale, brand names previously known only within China’s borders are now generating worldwide awareness. BYD is one such company, having risen from relative obscurity to a brand that has caused quite a stir because of its new electric car, the e6.
May 28, 2010 Acupuncture Records - China’s Piercing Electronic Music Brand -- Laura Fitch
  Acupuncture Records promotes China’s alternative music to the world
May 21, 2010 Crocs - Back in Style -- Shirley Brady
  Crocs are back in style
May 14, 2010 Red Mango - Finally, Frozen Yogurt Done Right -- Dale Buss
  Red Mango, frozen yogurt done right
Apr 30, 2010 HTC - on call -- Barry Silverstein
  HTC has become renowned as a high-tech brand and innovative company of firsts.
Apr 23, 2010 AirAsia - high flyer -- Barry Silverstein
  Malaysia's discount airline is also Asia’s fastest growing airline.
Apr 15, 2010 PBS - broadcasting with purpose -- Barry Silverstein
  The public’s trust in PBS may help save journalism.
Apr 7, 2010 Eno - eno-ough? -- Laura Fitch
  Eno builds grass roots franchises in China.
Mar 31, 2010 Dos Equis - most interesting? -- Renée Alexander
  Dos Equis sheds Mexican stereotypes for “interesting.”
Mar 25, 2010 Barilla - pastability -- Barry Silverstein
  Barilla cooks up old school pasta with modern marketing.
Mar 17, 2010 Madécasse - rich -- Barry Silverstein
  How Madécasse is putting Madagascar on the branding map.
Mar 10, 2010 Bacon Salt - kosher -- Barry Silverstein
  Bacon Salt adds flavor to a new brand category.
Mar 4, 2010 E*TRADE - oh baby -- Barry Silverstein
  E*TRADE doesn’t kid with your money.
Feb 24, 2010 Bruegger’s - dough boys -- Barry Silverstein
  Bruegger’s brand rises to the challenge.
Feb 17, 2010 Windborne Music - progressive rock -- Robyn Schechter
  Windborne Music’s unique brand of rock symphony.
Feb 10, 2010 Barnes & Noble - booking it -- Barry Silverstein
  Why Barnes & Noble is an epic branding story.
Feb 3, 2010 Kashi - on a mission -- Barry Silverstein
  How Kashi helps itself by saving the world.
Jan 27, 2010 ASICS - runner up -- Barry Silverstein
  How ASICS keeps pace with bigger shoe brands.
Jan 20, 2010 Hudson’s Bay Company - medals? -- Renée Alexander
  How the Hudson’s Bay Company will compete at the Olympics.
Jan 13, 2010 5-Hour Energy - powered up -- Barry Silverstein
  5-Hour Energy overpowers the competition.
Jan 6, 2010 Cesar Millan - fetching? -- Barry Silverstein
  Why Cesar Millan is leader of the pack.