Disney Launches Web Personalization with Zizzle

By Gina Keating

The Walt Disney Co.'s online shopping site on Wednesday launched its first "You design it" feature in a move aimed at riding the fast- growing trend toward giving choosy Internet shoppers exactly what they want.

Disney partnered with online customization site Zazzle.com, which licenses thousands of images from Warner Bros., Marvel Comics Inc., Lucasfilm Ltd. and 20th Century Fox, among others, and also allows users to sell their own art for use on personalized T-shirts, greeting cards and postage stamps.

It took Disney, which aggressively protects its copyrights, about two years to figure out how to open its vast art archives, while controlling how consumers could use its characters.

"Disney very much wanted to create the Disney experience and insure products we ultimately sell to consumers protect the brand and reinforce a lot of what it stands for," Zazzle co-founder and Chief Executive Robert Beaver said. "That was our challenge from an engineering standpoint."

Zazzle's Disney boutique, which can be accessed via disneyshopping.com and disneyinkshop.com, allows consumers to select a Disney character, T-shirt style and color and to add a name or phrase from an approved list.

The 4,000-plus Disney images can also be used on stamps or greeting cards on Zazzle.

Disney, which has long allowed customers to add their names to items sold at its stores and theme parks, is "constantly looking to add personalized items for guests," said David Barad, Disney's vice president of marketing for Disneyshopping.com.

"Everything we look at we are now looking at ways to let the guest make it their own," Barad said.

Online holiday shopping was expected to reach $26 billion in 2005, an

18 percent increase over 2004, according to JupiterResearch.

Sales of Disney personalized products were expected to rise 25 percent to 35 percent over last year's holiday quarter, Barad said. Personalized products made up 10 percent to 12 percent of Disney Shopping's overall business last year and were expected to grow to 15 percent, he said.

"Of the items that we have for personalization, over 90 percent (of consumers) personalize them," Barad said. "That is telling us pretty powerfully that they want to personalize it."

The partnership with Zazzle allows Disney to market its secondary characters, which usually are not licensed by traditional retailers and to tap into emerging, consumer-driven trends, Barad said.

"That's the great thing with the Zazzle business -- we can try to take advantage of characters we didn't see (as pop culture icons)," he said.

Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc. and 20th Century Fox is owned by News Corp.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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