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NeoPets is a virtual pet website that was created in 1999 by Adam Powell and Donna Williams that involves the creation of virtual pets referred to as Neopets that live in a virtual world, Neopia. Once a player creates an account, they can be able to create their own Neopets and take care of them by buying food, accessories, and toys with a virtual currency known as Neocash. Purchases can also be made through the use of Neopoints, which are earned when a player wins a game or invests in the NeoPets stock market. Users can also explore Neopia with their Neopets and interact with players on Neoboards (NeoPet, 2010).
Case Study: Will NeoPet become a Fad?
The case study referred to by Daniels et al. (2007) addresses certain issues that relate to international business environments and operations. In addressing the aspect of whether NeoPets has the potential to be a fad; the concept of fads needs to be defined. Armstrong and Kotler (2007) define a fad as a fashion that is quickly adopted by the general public with a lot of hype and excitement. The sales of the product peak very early and quickly and then start experiencing a decline. Products that have been deemed as fads in the past include the Hula Hoop, Beanie Baby’s, and the Rubik’s Cube. Armstrong and Kotler noted that the above products failed to survive in the market because they did not meet the rising expectations and needs of their target audience (Armstrong & Kotler, 2007).
The online environment has the potential to shape the perceptions and beliefs of consumers, increasing its base and sales. NeoPets has created a virtual community of users who are invested in taking care of their Neopets in a network that is operating on a social and economic basis. The resulting effect is that NeoPet’s highly interactive virtual website has become very successful in targeting the emotional aspect of its users, ensuring their long term membership and participation. This has enabled it to reduce its presence in the virtual market from being that of a fad to a more permanent fixture (Daniels et al, 2007)
NeoPet Marketing Strategies
NeoPets uses the concept of immersive advertising and product placement to market and promote the game where advertisers incorporate their adverts into the website’s screen saver and also in the game as the users are playing in the virtual world, Neopia (Zimmerman, 2007). Marketing surveys have been used to gain insight from players on how to market the game and make it more popular.
NeoPet users who take a survey as well as view movie trailers and cereal advertisements earn extra Neopoints and Neocash. Another technique NeoPet uses in its marketing strategies is giving its current members incentives whenever they introduce a new member into the virtual world Neopia. Advertisers who use the NeoPet’s website are companies such as Disney, Kelloggs, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, Warner Brothers, Mars, Nestle and Universal Studios (McGinnis et al 2006).
Country to Country Differences
Differences in country to country acceptability might be significant, a situation that is due to the technical availability of the game in certain countries rather than the cultural or language differences. The Neopets website incorporates the use of various languages which makes it more acceptable and usable to a world wide audience. The technicality of the game is also interpreted in multiple languages to allow the users of the software to understand how to set up the game. Its acceptability in other countries might be limited because most children, especially in developing countries do not have access to a computer or internet connection. Those that have internet connection might not know how to play the game or navigate around the virtual world (Daniels et al, 2007).
Criticisms of NeoPet’s Practices
Critics have viewed the immersive and interactive advertising techniques used by NeoPet as being potentially exploitative especially to its young players who cannot be able to distinguish between the commercial and non commercial aspects of the website. This type of advertising is unregulated by the regulatory agencies. Parents have also claimed that website takes up too much of their children’s study time as it is very addictive.
The messages and values expressed in the web content might influence the ideologies of the users making them believe that whatever information displayed in the website is the truth (Wollslager & Steiner, 2005). To counter the above criticisms, the NeoPet website should incorporate parental feature’s that will allow parents to limit the amount of time children spend on the game, the makers of the website should ensure that they meet the regulations set out by the self regulatory agency when it comes to marketing and advertising in the website.
Extending Membership to the Adult Market
NeoPets boasts of having a membership of 30 million with 39 percent of these members falling in the under 13 year age category while 40 percent of the members are between the ages of 13 to 17 years. To increase its base to adult users, NeoPet could develop a game with a similar concept but more complex, sophisticated and has more variety in its gaming content. Adult users like games that are challenging and creative. NeoPet should incorporate this aspect when designing its games (McGinnis et al, 2006).
Armstrong, G., & Kotler, P. (2007). Principles of marketing. United States: Prentice Hall.
Daniels, J.D., Radebaugh, L.H., & Sullivan, D.P. (2007). International business, environments and operations. 11th Edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
McGinnis, J.M., Gootman, J.A., & Kraak, V.I. (Eds) (2006). Food marketing to children and youth: threat or opportunity? Washington: National Academies Press.
NeoPet (2010). About NeoPet. Web.
Wollslager, E., & Dr. Steiner, M. (2005). Training junior capitalists. Web.
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Zimmerman, J. (2007). Web marketing for dummies. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing Inc.