Beverly, MA-based startup FashionPlaytes today announced a rebrand of its consumer-focused business, renaming its DIY design platform as FPGirls to reflect the site’s change in marketing direction which now focuses directly on ‘tween’ girls aged 5-12, instead of more generally at girls and their parents. The change has been in the works for some time, as the company has gathered feedback and conducted research on how to best serve its community of young girl “designers,” who can create their own clothing designs using the platform and then order those designs through the site. The site’s shift in direction has so far secured it tremendous growth this year, adding 100,000 new users to its membership in the first quarter of 2012.
The FPGirl rebrand is actually the culmination of the a lengthy concerted market research effort, along with gradual changes to the site’s marketing efforts, which FashionPlaytes VP of Marketing Carl Schwartz told BetaKit in an interview the team’s been working on since around October of last year. Around that time, the team started conducting user and focus group testing to find out what their target tween market really wanted.
FashionPlaytes launched in 2009, and spent the first year building up the backend manufacturing, essentially building a proof of concept, Schwartz said. Once that was done, they started marketing to parents and moms to introduce the site to the girls through them. But research showed the site’s target audience responded better when they felt they were being included in a club with their peers, rather than being introduced to something through their parents.
“The sentiment we heard is that it’s not necessarily cool to hang out with your mom, and the girls using our site wanted a site for them,” Schwartz said. “In a sense, we let them pick the name, let them pick the logo, and I probably personally talked to two or three hundred girls, and it was essentially crowdsourced. The decision to rebrand at that point wasn’t even really a decision. The feedback was overwhelming.”
As mentioned, FPGirl added 100,000 new users so far in 2012, jumping from 50,000 to 150,000. Engagement also got a boost, with the site seeing community-made designs leap from 600,000 to over 2 million. The new focus and huge uptick in users will help the company secure additional strategic partnerships, like the one it maintains with Hasbro which brings branded content from the toy maker’s properties (including LittlestPetShop and My Little Pony) to FPGirl’s design tools, and another arrangement with LittleMissMatched that provides that children’s clothing provider with a branded version of FashionPlaytes’ design studio.
Schwartz said the company has lots of plans in the pipeline to help the site continue its explosive growth, including the impending launch of a program that uses a network marketing model that “pays moms that are actively bringing in customers, essentially putting them on our payroll.”
While other companies like Zazzle and CafePress, which became a publicly traded company earlier this year, target simple custom clothing and accessory design, FashionPlaytes is unique in its focus and approach. So long as it continues to ask intelligent questions about what its users want, and form partnerships that accentuate its appeal in its chosen demographic, the FPGirl brand looks to have plenty of continued growth potential.