Today’s toys are way cooler than the toys that I was used to as a child–toy manufacturers are continually becoming more innovative with toy technologies as kids are more inclined to want to play with tech-focused devices. My toys were more realm of American Girl dolls that I wasn’t actually allowed to play with (thanks, Ma), but these futuristic trends in toy design are definitely not slowing down any time soon. Marketing in the toy industry has also seen a major shift in recent years, as a rise in popularity of toy brands sponsoring YouTube kid influencers–, innovating through AR and VR, and through mobile experiences. Let’s take a look at YouTube and mobile as the marketing BFFs for toy brands today.
In recent years, the most popular branded YouTube channel, toy giant LEGO, has been steadily amassing more than 6 million subscribers and posting videos every few days. They create entire series of videos around their product launches and releases, and get YouTube influencers like Ryan ToysReview to post about them. Videos on toys being “unboxed” have garnered over 60 million hours of video footage posted to YouTube and is one of the biggest ways that toys are marketed today. Unboxing is popular in lots of sectors, including retail, health and beauty, and technology (need a quick update on unboxing? Check here) and the video-based experience is spot on for the toy industry for several reasons; It’s useful for parents to watch the videos to check the product’s quality, allows brands to use ads and messaging targeted to kid viewers, and the platform is far more authentic than a TV commercial aired during cartoons.
Today’s kids are exposed to a lot of technology during their childhood. It’s common for kids to play on an iPad, play video games, or play learning games on their parent’s phone. More and more kids are getting phones at a younger age–56 percent of kids aged 8-12 have a mobile phone–and the average age to get a cell phone is now around 10 years old, which has drastically decreased over the last 5 years. So to connect with the always-online generation of kids, toy companies like NERF, Mattel, and Nintendo have put effort into creating better digital play experiences, like VR headsets and virtual video games. These interactive mobile experiences are a great way to connect tech-savvy kids with games and toys to keep their attention and build stories around their virtual worlds.
Retail toy stores have been notably failing in past years (i.e. Toys R Us) thanks to the shift toward digital, so slick technology integrations and a digital presence are key for the toy market. This holiday season, expect more excitement around the latest toys unboxing videos on YouTube than the old Target Thanksgiving day circulars that we knew and loved.