Mexican 'family entertainment' company KidZania is taking the premise of edutainment – the melding of retail and entertainment with an educational spin – to extremes with the launch of a brand new destination in Westfield Shopping Mall, London today.
KidZania operates "branded learning experiences" that enable kids to trial professional careers via realistic role-play, all within a child-sized cityscape. The aim is to establish an ecosystem in which, as in the real world, working life is tempered with leisure time and social activities. This newest opening – its 19th venue to date, globally – is a 75,000 sq ft space located on the upper levels of the shopping centre.
The experience kicks off with entry via a faux British Airways airport terminal and check-in kiosk, where visitors receive a security bracelet embedded with an radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag – ensuring that children are monitored at all times and unable to leave KidZania city without their guardian present. They then receive a cheque for 50 KidZos (the official currency of KidZania), which they cash at the Central Bank to pay for services or items – such as ice cream, for instance.
In a bid to teach the children about the role of money and work, from then on, KidZos can only be earned via employment. Participants can even open a personal account within the bank to save money and earn interest – clearly incentivising return visits.
The children are immersed in job roles including doctor, fireman, police officer, journalist or beautician. There is also a smoothie factory run by UK drinks manufacturer Innocent where children can learn about the origins of food, and a garment recycling shop run by Swedish high-street fashion retailer H&M. The brands and job roles are tailored to each market (in Japan, for instance, the kids can become sushi chefs), boosting cultural relevance.
In each location, the children can experience a series of role-play activities that last up to 20 minutes. This takes place under the guidance of facilitators dressed in uniforms, dubbed 'KidZania tutors'. When the children have finished all the tasks assigned to them, they are paid a salary in KidZos.
According to KidZania, the aim isn't to establish a purely financially oriented sponsorship system with the participating brands – effectively running the risk of appearing to be a cynical introduction to consumerism. "We partner with brands to design and tailor each activity," Ollie Vigours, chief executive of UK leisure and entertainment company Longshot Kids, which operates KidZania London, told Stylus. "We feel that brands bring a sense of authenticity and realism to the brand experience – something that children can relate to because they see them on an everyday basis." Notably, the brands involved don't sell products directly to the children, making the project more about raising brand awareness than instantly raising revenue.
For more on initiatives that merge education with entertainment, see The Rise of Edutainment and Product Playgrounds in our Power of Play Industry Trend, which specifically examines the important role of play to engage and educate consumers at all levels of the market.
For more on shopping centre retailing, including the ways in which many are moving from pure retail destinations towards multifaceted leisure hubs, see Mall Worlds – part of our Future of the Store Industry Trend. See also World Retail Congress Asia (Focus on the Family), New French Shopping Malls, JCube, Singapore's Super Mall and Westfield Stratford City.