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Kellogg's also likes to receive e-mail from their pals in cyberspace. The brief histories of the Kellogg's pitch-creatures that are featured at the site are warily superficial, sticking mostly to names and dates. From the Tony the Tiger™ biography, for example, we learn that he was introduced in 1952, and that he originally shared the box with a character named Katy the Kangaroo. Katy was phased out quickly, but the biography doesn't say for what reason. Nor does it sufficiently explain the origin of Tony Jr.™, a "child tiger" that soon began appearing in commercials with Tony™. At first, the elder feline referred to his charge simply as "boy," but then later began addressing him as "son." It would be interesting to know the reason for this change--was Tony Jr.™, as his name suggests, supposed to be Tony's™ progeny all along, and "boy" just a poor way to express that? Did a confused public demand clarification of the man-tiger/child-tiger relationship? Or was it simply a change the company made on its own?

The biographies avoid such details, however; maybe Kellogg's feels that all but the most basic facts pose a risk to corporate reputation. Or maybe it's just that such information is too tangential to the company's sales effort. In the name of establishing a "relationship" with its customers, Kellogg's is willing to waste a little time and space on these soft-sell biographies, but not much.

Imaginary characters can help create virtual communities, but only by serving as a stepping-off point, a locus for audience elaboration and analysis. When the lives of imaginary characters are presented in a rich, intriguing way, people not only want to know more about them, they want to put their own spin on them as well.