Build-A-Bear Doesn’t Do “Just Because”

This is the second part of this two-part series on Build-A-Bear’s complete brand experience, one that I totally dig.

Now that I’d left the store, Tex in tow, I was directed to continue my (& Tex’s) experience online at Build-A-Bearville.  My behavior/attitudes as a 35-year old male is a bit different than Build-A-Bear’s target – a tech-savvy 10-year old girl – so I didn’t go straight home and hop online to visit the community.  But when I was ready, the first thing I did was take a look at something I received in-store – Tex’s birth certificate included two codes on it that allow me to register him in Build-A- Bearville.

This Build-A-Bearville is a great community for the audience.  It’s set up like a virtual world with custom avatars – both of you and your new best friend – where you can explore, make friends, buy things, and make your own home, among many others.  Some quick stats that I found to be very interesting, via Brandon at Kioskcom – users of Build-A-Bearville have created 1.5 million avatars (mine is below), 1.2 million unique visitors a month, avg. 30 min visit in the community.  They have created a sticky experience online. 

This process, getting set up in the community, personalizing it and everything, takes a bit of time, but once you get set up, you’ve created the foundation of your presence in the community.  Everything you do from that point forward builds and strengthens your presence in the community.  All of these actions drive you, as the consumer, deeper into the brand.  Every moment of engagement is an opportunity to build loyalty.  Their essence is woven through this entire experience in such a great way.  It’s even evidenced by their user agreement – their “Golden Rule” – that everyone who joins has to agree to:

Be kind.  Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Never give out personal information.  As a parent and as someone who gets/understands/encourages the use & impact of technology on my kids’ lives, these are rules that I want them to see everywhere they turn, certainly rules that I want them to see in an online community.

The “Be kind” and “Treat others the way you would like to be treated” must be engrained in their corporate culture, too, because everyone in-store embodies these characteristics.  Some might see all of this – the kindness, the language, the spirit of everything – as a little hokey, but for a brand who is made for a 10-year old tech savvy girl, they do so many things right.

I think one of the keys to this success is that they completely understand their audience.  They know exactly who they’re talking to, they believe it, (and it’s right), so everything they create as a brand is purposeful.  And as a result, is meaningful to their audience.  Purpose and meaning transcend technology and trends and slick marketing.  They enable much more probability to be sustainable over the long-haul.

This also enables them to be “channel agnostic.”  They don’t care about “screens” (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, whatever), they care about their experience.  And they let the experience drive particular messages/content in each channel, whatever they perceive to be the best to deliver those messages to this audience.  If digital signage doesn’t make sense to the experience, they don’t utilize that channel.  If it does, they do.  This alleviates the “just because” syndrome that many brands and marketers tend to fall victim to, particularly with DOOH/digital signage.

Brandon said they are looking for the right ways to integrate mobile into this equation.  Since these guys can be purposeful in everything they do, I would only expect this mobile integration to be another fitting piece to the puzzle.  I said earlier that they have created a sticky experience online, but in fact, they have created a sticky brand experience all the way around.  Kudos to them.

PS – some of the cool things offered in the community are:  online newsletter/paper, tasks & challenges, virtual badges, mini-games, pre-written chat messages.  My avatar can do things like wave and dance (yes, the dancing is fun!)  Tex can even roam around the community with me and play fetch.  There are lots of things to do in a safe environment.

Would love to know your thoughts, impressions, etc…Shout if you want.

6 thoughts on “Build-A-Bear Doesn’t Do “Just Because”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 11th Screen » Build-A-Bear Doesn’t Do “Just Because” --

  2. Mike

    I like Build-a-Bearville and Build-a-Bear Workshop is a Friendly store, I already own 6 Furry Friends and I’m also an adult male, I’m actually waiting for next week to properly celebrate one of my Bear’s Birthdays :D

  3. Mike Cearley Post author

    Thanks for the response and sharing. I think it’s a great testament to BAB that they’re able to engage audiences that span a wide range of demos in such a deep and meaningful way. Happy birthday to your bear!

  4. Chris Wilson

    Thanks for describing this experience in such detail.

    I think the amazing thing here is how the focus that Build-A-Bear has put into creating a smooth and holistic experience has allowed them to quickly form a deep relationship with their customers. In only a matter of a day or two they have the customer’s mailing address, email address and have them plugged into their social network. But that all happens because of a clear focus on the small touches in the customer experience and how they work together and move the customer from one point to the next.

  5. Mike Cearley Post author

    Yeah. The two things that they have a clear understanding of: 1) their audience and 2) their brand, specifically their purpose and vision. These things guide their culture and everything they do for their customers. I think they do a great job of putting the experience before the brand. Then, the brand benefits.

  6. Bruce

    I like Build-a-Bearville and Build-a-Bear Workshop is a Friendly store, I already own 6 Furry Friends and I’m also an adult male, I’m actually waiting for next week to properly celebrate one of my Bear’s Birthdays :D

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