Toymakers are scrambling to get hot on social media

Not only has TikTok become kids’ favorite search engine, it’s also become the main place kids go to find the toys they want (and beg their parents).

Why is this important: Where “hot” toys are catching the attention of the entire ad industry – and this season’s holiday hot toys are heavily tied to apps, video games and social media influencers.

  • Manufacturers are hastily shifting their marketing dollars from TV to TikTok, YouTube and other places where influencers strut their stuff.

Driving the news: At a ‘hot’ holiday toy preview event at Chelsea Piers in New York this week, toy brands were talking about the credibility of their products on social media and the licensing deals they have with influencers and video game franchises.

  • “It’s one thing to have a show on the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon,” said Bonkers Toys chief marketing officer Joel Alicea. “The reality is kids are watching YouTube, kids are on TikTok.”
  • All of her company’s toys – which include a range of Addison Rae dolls and figures linked to YouTube video gamer Aphmau – are tied to specific influencers.
  • Many of the toys were tied to games kids play on Roblox and Nintendo Switch.
    • For example, each “Twilight Daycare” collectible doll comes with a code redeemable for goods on the wildly popular Roblox game.

Case study: A shape-puzzle toy called Kanoodle has gained unexpected popularity thanks to a math tutor who calls herself Miss Arlene and posts superfan videos on TikTok and Instagram (using a hashtag she coined: #kanoodlechallenge).

  • “This game is 16 years old and it’s had an incredible resurgence thanks to TikTok” – and Miss Arlene in particular, Educational Insights senior marketing manager Lee Parkhurst told Axios.
  • The company says it has no relationship with Miss Arlene – whose screen name is Silentmath – but will launch a new product next year inspired by her videos: Kanoodle Pyramid.

What they say : “My TV budget this year is zero,” Canal Toys President and CEO Bill Uzell told Forbes in 2021. “Last year I only used influencers, and this year only influencers, and I don’t see myself going back.”

Yes, but: Blockbuster movies always have the power to boost toy sales. The industry’s 2% growth in the first half of 2022 was encouraged by the release of “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” in April and “Jurassic World: Dominion” in June, market research firm NPD said. .

  • And some bestsellers don’t have big ties to media properties: Squishmallows — the cuddly stuffed animals that are the Beanie Babies of the moment — accounted for seven of the top 15 selling toys from January to June, NPD said. .

Where is it : At the Toy Insider-sponsored holiday preview, “hot” toys included many STEM-related products as well as an emerging category: toys that address children’s sensory or emotional well-being.

  • An “Express My Feelings Journal” asks children to draw a picture of what they look like when they feel lonely.
  • A new line of dolls called “Fidgie Friends” features clothing and accessories meant to be handled like a fidget toy.
  • No block of wood was in sight.

There were, however, plenty of modern twists on old favoriteslike a new Spirograph set with 3D glasses and Rubik’s Phantom, a heat-activated cube in which the heat from your fingers temporarily reveals the color of the tile, for added resolution fury.

  • Another sign of the times: Vtech’s “Level Up Gaming Chair” is a video game chair for toddlers, equipped with a joystick and fake headphones. (So ​​much for the wooden rocking horse…)

Between the lines: Children are not only watching TikTok — they also produce content.

  • Toys like “Studio Creator” help kids create “professional-looking digital content” like “dance videos, vlogs, baking videos, [and] unboxing videos”. (Slogan: “Become the next BIG influencer!”)

The commercial angle: The plunge in toy purchases that followed the Toys R Us bankruptcy in 2017 was followed by a rebound, including record sales in 2020 and 2021, per NPD.

  • Amazon, Target and Walmart have beefed up their toy departments.
  • Pandemic shutdowns and boredom have parents rushing to buy toys.

And after: The return of Toys R Us to Macy’s stores next month is expected to boost toy sales, as will Amazon Prime Day this fall.

  • “I expect the toy industry to continue to outperform other general merchandise categories for the remainder of the year,” said NPD toy expert Juli Lennett.
At left, Thompson Clarke, a speed-solving champion who works for Spin Master Toys, demonstrates the Rubik’s Phantom, which looks like a dark cube until the heat from your hands reveals the colors of the tiles. Right: Lee Parkhurst demonstrates the Kanoodle. Photos: Jennifer A. Kingson/Axios

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