2019 is going to be an eventful year for the kids worldwide. The year will mark the arrival of movie-remakes like The Lion King, Aladdin, and the new season of Avengers, Stars Wars, and Toy Story franchises.
Apart from the kids, guess who else is eagerly prepping for the release of these films – The global toy industry.
The film releases of these licensed franchises will create substantial opportunities for the sale of the licensed toys. But unlike yesteryear, the success-story of the high profile toys is not signified by its sales-figures but by its popularity on the YouTube.
In fact, the impact of YouTube on the global toy industry is much bigger than a commoner can ever imagine.
To see it all, let’s begin from the 2019 Toy Fair in New York. The event saw the participation of over a thousand toy companies and millions of toy-store owners from around the globe. The toys in demand included kites, blocks, games, puzzles, gadgets, slime, but the store owners were seen bee-lining to one specific toy and that was ‘LOL Surprise! Dolls’.
What is ‘LOL Surprise! Dolls’ all about?
The tiny-sized dolls are the latest offering by California-based MGA Entertainment – a giant in toy-industry. The company is also known to make Barbie (signature doll-product by Mattel Inc) struggle to stay relevant. MGA’s revenue in 2018 by selling these dolls (priced at $11 and rare edition at $70) amounted to over $4 billion.
But what made these dolls so popular? Well, the product became a hot-selling item all owing to its strategic packaging. These dolls come in opaque balls to hold the surprise element for kids. Moreover, the dolls have different hairstyles, outfits, and bodies, so kids are always excited to crack what’s inside the pack. Each pack comes with multiple wrapping-layers to include accessories and stickers, and that enthuses children to rip through every layer. The company is said to change the designs every three months to keep up with the kids.
The toy-packing has primarily taken its inspiration from the trend of unboxing videos on YouTube.
Currently, millions of YouTube videos are featuring the unboxed LOL Surprise! Dolls. Children can be found removing the toys from the elaborate packaging and playing with it. This toy precisely demonstrates the idea how YouTube is influencing the toys. It is surprising to notice that some of these unboxing videos have as many as 24 million views.
The trend of ‘Unboxing’
Not started on YouTube, the unboxing format first appeared on websites like Unbox.it and Unboxing.com. The trend was set in for the consumer-electronics initially. Many gaming consoles were unveiled to the tech fans. It caught a lot of fury and was often dubbed as “geek porn”.
After YouTube’s launch in 2005, the majority of the gadget community switched to the video platform. In a decade, the unboxing videos’ on YouTube have grown by 871 percent.
‘Children live on YouTube’
Agree or not, young children are spending a lot of time online. A research says that on an average, the US kids aged 8 or below are exposed to electronic screens for two hours and 19 minutes in a day. A separate research found that children spend more time online than watching TV.
YouTube doesn’t release explicit data on how many of its viewers are kids, but one study says that kids aged 8 or below spend 65 percent of their online-time watching YouTube videos. YouTube has launched a specific-app for children’s content, YouTube Kids.
The mainstream video-site permits viewing to children aged 13 or above, but it can be seen commonly that parents let their young kids watch YouTube.
The toy-makers, of course, want to meet the children where they live – YouTube. Because of the powerful influence of the platform, companies are creating toys with keeping YouTube in mind. The toy-makers are allotting big budgets to pay toy influencers for floating reviews.
All is not well on YouTube
But YouTube promotions have its share of controversies. It has been revealed that some pedophiles are engaged in posting sexually-implicit comments directed at young children using the comments section in YouTube.
Another online petition says that unboxing is a softer way of “capitalist brainwashing” and hence the petition is seeking a ban on the toy channels on YouTube. Brazil’s public prosecutor office has sued Google for unboxing videos, accusing it of promoting “abusive advertising practices toward children.”
Parents are also beginning to complain that their children are becoming victims of mindless content directed to them via YouTube.
If we leave the debate of YouTube’s raging content aside, one thing is certain. YouTube has altered the toy-industry and how kids consume toys.
Are toys perfect for unboxing?
Guardian reports that 20 of the top 100 channels on YouTube are promoting toys. These videos have garnered hundreds of millions of hits.
The channel Ryan ToysReview, hosted by an 8-year-old boy named Ryan, is an example of the biggest success of toy influencer on YouTube. Forbes report that Ryan’s earning through YouTube amounted to $22 million in 2018.
So what is it that makes toy-unboxing a perfect fit for the format? Perhaps, because the toys are colorful, toys are exciting; they come in great packaging and rarely fail to surprise.
Besides, toys are an enormous and lucrative business and have always been so. The global toy-industry earned $21.6 billion last year but cannot escape relying on YouTube that has over 1.9 billion monthly users.
How YouTube is revolutionizing toys
Apart from MGA Entertainment, Hasbro – a leading US-based toy company – is also considering a re-launch for all its brands to ensure that its products have an “experience onscreen.” In May 2018, Hasbro took its shot at unboxing by launching Lost Kitties in cardboard carton, which were plastic cats buried in putty.
YouTube is bound to impact the toy industry in a big way, especially, its packaging. Since the demand for toys is backed by unboxing videos on YouTube, toy brands will explore packaging in such boxes or wraps that would specifically look good on camera.
Toy-makers are accepting that YouTube virility is the new goal for all toys. They are certain to create maximum surprises to keep the kids engaged.