Targeting the Inner Child: How Toy Brands Are Marketing to Adults

Published by Engagement Labs on December 4, 2015

Gifts, gifts, gifts! This is on everyone’s minds these days with the holiday season upon us. For children, toys are an easy option, but they can also be a surprisingly excellent gift for adults. With toys made for both children and adults stocking the shelves, it’s a hassle to figure out which toy is best for your loved ones. We tried to ease the process by recently ranking the biggest U.S. toy brands and manufacturers that have people buzzing this season.

While toy purchases can be for both children and adults, toy brands understand that when marketing on social media, they are for the most part speaking to older demographics. So how do toy brands appeal to consumer demographics that may not be their product’s target audience? Based on our look into the top-ranking toy brands’ social media, here’s what we found:

Satisfying the Big Kid Within

Toy brand, Funko, is a perfect example of appealing to an older demographic as they produce pop-culture toys that many consider collector items. The brand doesn’t just stick to the simple approach of posting new and upcoming merchandise on Facebook and Twitter, but they also host frequent contests encouraging their fans to like, comment and share for a chance to win the toy for free. When a winner is selected, a follow-up post is shared congratulating the winner.

Not only are the contests a sure-fire way for the brand to instigate fan engagement, but the winner announcement shows that Funko is a brand of their own word. Fans see that the contests have real winners, which keeps them invested in the content and on the lookout for the next opportunity.

Funko doesn’t stop there. The brand gets creative to keep fans entertained on social channels by posting images of online fans who collect their toys, something they have deemed the “Funatic of the Week”, while also creating fun YouTube videos to promote upcoming products.

Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite toy car brand, Hot Wheels, balances the marketing for older and younger demographics simultaneously. A look at their Instagram page reveals that some of the most popular posts for the brand are photography shared from fans that captures the cars in unique and original settings.

Hot Wheel’s incorporation of user-generated content in their online marketing strategies helps users visualize the product in their day-to-day settings, while showcasing the brand’s investment in their fans. This develops trust between the consumer and the brand, which can keep consumers coming back for more.

Stepping Into the Parent’s Shoes

When it comes to marketing toys to children online, you’re marketing to their parents. Seeing other children enjoying the toy can be very influential for a parent. American Girl does this particularly well as showcased by some of their most popular Instagram posts which include images from meet-ups in the local community where real children gladly pose with their dolls. This type of content helps parents imagine their own children playing with the dolls, something that stays on their mind when the toy shopping begins.

PLAYMOBIL takes a more creative approach as their Instagram account leverages user-generated content and professional photography that puts their products in unique scenarios. The visual storytelling used by the brand allows parents to imagine the different possibilities for how their children can play with their toys.

Plugging Into the Gaming World

Another hot market for toys is gaming consoles that appeal to both children and adults alike. Nintendo brings together the gaming world on their Twitter channel by posting content involving iconic characters from famous games such as Zelda and Super Mario. Directly asking fans quirky questions related to these characters gets the audience talking and opens up that two-way communication that brings fans back to the channels for more interaction.

Knowing that a big portion of their online audience is adult gamers, gaming consoles also attach themselves to relevant pop-culture figures who are heavily involved in the gaming world. For instance, Nintendo has conversations with Chris Hardwick, the comedian host of the late night game show @midnight, generating thousands of likes and retweets from fans.

Meanwhile, Playstation has earned growing online engagement through posts such as wishing gaming YouTuber, PewDiePie, a happy birthday and attaching themselves to upcoming blockbuster Star Wars to promote upcoming games. The attachment to influential gamers and gaming topics catches the eye of audiences to draw them into the social channels.

Final Playtime

Ultimately, the one thing we’re seeing with toy brands that can be applied to any brand’s online marketing is that they’re not afraid to take risks. Toys are fun, so toy brands keep their online content fun too. These brands know that much of their merchandise is aimed at children, but they don’t let that stop them from engaging with older demographics by getting in touch with their inner children.

A key improvement that we suggest for toy brands that are posting their merchandise is to incorporate Buy Now buttons or posting direct links to purchase their merchandise. With shoppers looking for their latest gifts online, you don’t want to miss a sales opportunity by forcing your users to sift through your website to find the product that caught their attention on social media.

So this holiday season, get in touch with your inner child and don’t be afraid to have fun with your social media channels before your fans decide they want to play with another brand.

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About eValue™:

The eValue™ score measures the effectiveness of a brand’s overall social media performance on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram and provides a score from 0 – 100. It’s the aggregate of the three subscores including Engagement, Impact, and Responsiveness that work together to create one top-level KPI. Our subscores are calculated by using hundreds of submetrics which are then benchmarked against a hand-picked database of 100,000 verified brand accounts on each channel.

Engagement: Measures the level of interaction generated by your content and how well your community reacts to it.

Impact: Measures how many unique users have potentially been exposed to a piece of content posted by the channel’s admin through organic, viral and paid reach.

Responsiveness: Measures the rate, speed and quality of your responses to fans.