Alexandria, VA, United States. Funworld. March, 2012. (English). KidZania, the interactive role-playing FEC where kids can try out up to 100 adult occupations in a very entertaining environment, has recently embarked on an impressive international expansion from its base of operations in Mexico that defies the economic slowdown of the past few years.
Cammie Dunaway, president of KidZania’s U.S. operations and global chief marketing officer, tells Funworld why she believes the company has thrived in this climate: “I think it’s because KidZania is so unique. It takes role playing, which is great fun for kids, and combines it with a real-life experience.”
Perhaps part of KidZania’s success can also be attributed to its strategy of marketing itself as a differentiator. The company says it draws traffic to retail centers from a very attractive age group —families with kids ages 4 to 14— and Dunaway notes that KidZania’s policy of allowing only one location per city adds value to that differentiation.
Although KidZania had enjoyed tremendous success since opening in 1999 in its home base of Mexico, there was no guarantee its appeal would extend across oceans into places with very differing cultures, like Tokyo, Lisbon, Dubai and Seoul.
However, this didn’t really concern Dunaway, and she explains why those locations have thrived: “We knew role-playing was timeless and universal and that it would translate to kids around the world. But we also understood it was important to recognize local cultures, and that’s why we pursued a franchising model, so we could partner with franchisees who really did understand how to deliver the best experience in their particular marketplace.”
KidZania has openings slated for Bangkok, Beijing, Santiago, São Paulo, Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai, but its next big expansion target is the United States, where it hopes to eventually open 12 to 14 locations. The company is currently evaluating several U.S. locations and conducting feasibility studies, with construction to start in 2013. But it’s limiting itself to only the largest U.S. markets. “It’s important for us to have the right population density —the right number of families with kids 4 to 14— and that leads us to the larger metropolitan markets,” notes Dunaway.
One thing always of concern to retail centers is nearby attractions that drain people —and their money— away from shopping. But Dunaway doesn’t see this as a problem with KidZania. “We’re drawing traffic to the malls, and we have a state-of-the-art security system that allows parents to go shopping or to a movie or restaurant while the kids are in KidZania,” she says. “We provide RFID bracelets so parents can go up to a kiosk in the mall and locate where their kids are in KidZania.”
A new concept KidZania is launching is called a Drive Park. The prototype will open in 2012 in Mexico City and will teach kids about driving safety and allow them to drive little cars modeled on the Toyota Prius after taking driver training.
As for KidZania’s future expansion plans, Dunaway remarks, “I believe we’re already the fastest-growing kids’ entertainment brand in the world. But we also want to make a real difference in kids’ lives —it’s not just about getting big.”