What child hasn’t spent playtime pretending to be a nurse, firefighter, veterinarian, or some other grown-up job? The indoor simulated cities of KidZania take that game to another level, letting kids from 1 to 14 years old role-play in hundreds of different jobs while earning kidZos, the currency of KidZania. From accountants or pilots to delivery drivers or journalists, KidZania provides kids with job-specific uniforms, equipment, and salaries that are (often quickly) spent on food, merchandise, or activities such as painting classes, at one of the now 27 KidZania parks worldwide.
Helping children create a more socially responsible world is what entrepreneur Xavier Lopez Ancona envisioned when in 1999 he launched his first vocational KidZania park in the Santa Fe district of Mexico City, welcoming more than 800,000 visitors in that first year.As the current president of KidZania, Ancona “believes that kids deserve a better future,” says senior loyalty manager Rafael Dives. “And he understands that the best way to help them create that future is by acquiring new skills, caring for others and the environment, and making work fun.”
In addition to generating revenue by selling nearly 10 million tickets each year, KidZania franchises its new parks, with locations across the globestarting with Mexico and including Seoul, Mumbai, London, Dubai, and Sao Paulo, and 10 more parks under different stages of development. The company also receives corporate sponsorships from brands wanting to have a presence in the park. “Kids can deliver packages from a DHL truck, or adjust controls from the cockpit of Qatar Airlines plane,” Dives says.
Upon entering the park, children and their parents are given radio frequency identification bracelets, which share the same signal in case they get separated during their visits. After passing through a security scan, kids can visit the immigration office and obtain their “paZZports.” “We’re not just an amusement park, we operate as a nation and our loyalty program revolves around giving kids citizenship,” Dives says.
Based on the number of visits and the types of activities kids complete in the park, KidZania offers three levels of citizenship—naturalized, distinguished and honorable—each with its own set of job opportunities, salaries, and discounts. After, children become “honorable CitiZens they earn the opportunity to run for CongreZZ, KidZania’s legislative body that is governed by 20 young people who meet quarterly at a regional park to voice their opinions about current global trends and how they feel about the services currently being offered at KidZania. While KidZania’s corporate executives set the park’s policies, feedback from each park’s CongreZZ is also used to make decisions about how CitiZens and tourists experience KidZania.
The company also relies on its CongreZZ to gain insight into how it can increase park visits and grow the business. “One of the things we’ve learned is that most kids visit the park because of word of mouth,” Dives says. “So our loyalty program is now heavily focused on building KidZania advocates.”
Making Business ‘Very’ Personal
Using Oracle Responsys, Dives’ team recently launched a new campaign inviting parents to host children’s birthday parties at KidZania, with KidZania staff managing everything from sending out event reminders to providing food and activities.
“The biggest thing for us is that Responsys is moving our marketing programs beyond sending mass emails that often fall flat,” says Dives. “It’s helping us execute programs that actually change behavior.”
For example, rather than just blasting out one standard version of KidZania’s newsletter, KidZania now customizes newsletter content based on children’s CitiZen status, activity interests, or how long it’s been since they last visited a park.
“We used to really struggle when parents had more than one kid,” Dives says. Now, KidZania can personalize one newsletter with unique offers for multiple children within a single household. “Sometimes the most effective message as simple as, ‘Hi Juan and Karla, you need just 10 more stamps to achieve Honorable CitiZen status, which will make you both eligible to run for CongreZZ.’”
KidZania is also using Responsys to conduct A/B testing on its email subject lines to gauge which messages resonate the most with parents. “The park is for the kids, but all of our loyalty communications are for the parents,” Dives says.
Dives notes that unless its marketing messages are relevant to parents, opening rates and click-through rates will drop, and KidZania will end up competing head-on against every other amusement park lobbying for a family’s time. “We’re more than just another playground,” Dives says. “We’re a place where kids learn about values, about how to be good citizens in the real world. These are the most important attributes of KidZania, which are the foundation of our communication with parents and they’re the reasons why we are so selective about our messaging.”