Free Trial Upsells to a Monthly Membership

My 6 year old daughter just recently started playing Club Penguin. For those of you not in the 6-12 year old demographic, Club Penguin is an online multiplayer game from Disney.

Club Penguin Homepage

Kids can sign up for free, create a penguin and play the game. It is a nice game – take your penguin on adventures and explore a snow covered world with activities, games and interact with the other cute multi-colored penguins waddling around.

Your penguin earns coins by playing these mini-games in the world and with those coins you can buy items for your penguin. You can buy furniture to decorate your igloo, outfits for your penguin and adopt and care for pet puffles. But, ‘free’ in this game only gets you so far, membership to Club Penguin has its privileges as I recently found out from my daughter.

As she was watching the Disney channel a couple weekends ago she saw an ad for this new Fire Card Jitsu game available to play in Club Penguin. As any technologically savvy 6 year old would do, she paused the DVR, quickly went to the computer, opened her favorites, logged onto clubpenguin.com and launched the informational video off the home page. Aha – she discovers you can only play Fire Card Jitsu if you are a member.

She shows me the commercial on TV, takes me to the computer and proceeds to educate me on the benefits of Club Penguin membership. So, we check it out, what are the privileges of membership? Well, not only do you get to play Card Jitsu, apparently you can get more items for your penguin and igloo, more games, this gold ‘M’ emblem on your player card, access to secret areas and priority admission on servers. There are 3 options for membership – $5.95 per month, $29.95 for 6 months or $57.95 for a year membership.

So I figure since she has just discovered this we’ll make the small investment and try it for one month. Not only can you buy the membership online, Disney is so clever, but you can buy membership cards in various increments at retail locations. They cross-promote and cross-merchandise everything on their site from penguin plush toys, books, play sets, figurines and video games and, they’ve got the major retailers involved too! And, as my daughter has also informed me, each add-on penguin purchase you make gives you coins, codes or something that can benefit you in the online game.

Club Penguin Merchandise

As a technology marketer myself, I appreciate the free trial strategy, one that we suggest to many of our clients. We often recommend offering a free trial, promoting the free trial and then up-selling the next step to those who take advantage of the trial. I realized my daughter had been up-sold to the next step. Enjoying her free membership, she saw the ad on the Disney channel promoting features of the full membership, got me to log onto Disney’s Club Penguin, go to the on-line Disney store, and purchase a Club Penguin membership – I was totally sucked in, they managed to up-sell my 6 year old who in turn up-sold me!

It’s been 2 weeks, she has earned her black belt in Card Jitsu, and now is on her way to completing the Fire Jitsu round to earn her fire suit. She has also passed the quizzes to become a tour guide and a secret agent, upgraded her igloo and adopted some new puffles – all things she couldn’t do with just a ‘free’ membership.

Card Jitsu 1st Place

I’ve justified the monthly membership by thinking this is some sort of learning tool because she has to read directions to understand some areas of the game, she’s also learning some financial management skills and social skills interacting with other players, she is enjoying the game and it gives her something to do when she’s ‘bored’. Now I just have to decide if I should renew for 1 month or 6…..,


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