Ninja hamsters ?!? Yep.
In going over their phenomenal holiday success, Zhu Zhu Pet creators realized their little mechanical pets had a bigger appeal to girls than boys. (Winning "Toy of the Year" accolades, they also took the title of "Best Girls Toy" at the 107th American International Toy Fair last week in New York City.) So, how do they grab the other half of the market while still appealing to their original fans?
They evolve ... and, they multiply! (Just like the real thing!)
With only four of the fuzzy, squeaky little critters last season the family is definitely expanding. More than 40 new hamsters will hit the market in 2010. Joining "Mr. Squiggles" and "Pipsqueak" will be "Pax", "Kingston", "Rider" and "Roxie", Zhu Zhu Rockstars ! They'll be long-haired with A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E !! A smart chip gives each their own distinct personality but they won't interact with each other.
Then, there's the Kung Zhu crowd aimed at 8 - 12 year-old boys. These will be split into two battle groups - "Ninja Warriors" and "Special Forces." Again, a smart chip will create both good and evil action figures. They can be "trained" to change their personality from cute and mild-mannered to fighting, battling warriors. (Now, not to create a stereotype, but this appeals to boys!!) They'll feature snap-on armor, weapons, vehicles and even an arena called the "battledome" to fight in. The catch? You never know who will win. (Okay, I'll admit it. Our little lady will definitely want these! So, she isn't dainty!!)
Tiring of hamsters? Then check out the Zhu Zhu Wild Bunch - "Stinky" (you guessed it - a skunk), "Sweetie" (bunny), "Rocco" (raccoon) and a hedgehog (to be named later). There will be more playsets, hamster-powered cars and boats, even beauty salons. The critters, themselves, will still be under $10.00 with accessories going for as much as $30.00.
So, what made Zhu Zhu Pets such a hit?
Well, most obviously the price. then, there was the almost lifelike unpredictable activity involved. Everybody wants to see what they'll do next. All the fun of a pet without the mess, cost of feeding and responsibility. When you tire of it, throw it in the toy box for a while.
The big story here, though, was the marketing !!!
Ultimately, the general public hit the cyber world and pushed these crazy little rodents to the top of almost every kid's Christmas list! Sales took off mostly on the word of parents raving about them online in social network settings. Mom's tweeted about their sweet appeal and where they got them. Facebook friends shared the news and passed the word. Parents blogged about their antics and how adorable they were. Other media lifted this info from the web and put it into print and audio broadcasts. Demand went up, supplies got tighter. Moms, standing in line to get the precious little items (many stores limited purchases to 2 to a customer) tweeted to all their followers where they had found them. Word spread like wildfire!! Sales went over the top!
With the introduction of the many new characters, I foresee a collectible market much like Beanie Babies.
Still wondering if Twitter and Facebook can help sales?