Before our effort began, Ty was famous for their Beanie Babies, the popular '90s plush toys. They had older, ravenous fans and an ability to sell well to parents of small children at retail, but limited success with their DTC site, as the brand had been relegated to nostalgia.
Plush toys like Squishmallow were getting Kardashian-sized attention for the Kardashian-sized collections, being shown on social media by actual Kardashians. Meanwhile, Ty plush toys, still for sale at gas stations and trinket stores, had become dusty and irrelevant. Our strategic challenge was simple: reignite the passion for this once-famous brand and return it to growth by making the DTC channel viable. Ty had newer, more modern, product lines. Now was the time to bring their marketing into the twenty-first century as well.
Brand marketing was nonexistent for Ty. We needed to reintroduce the brand to modern consumers, expanding Ty’s audience from the original Beanie Baby collectors of the ‘90s to the true arbiters of culture and cool, teens and tweens. Our objective was to create relevance by building a creative brand platform, including foundational brand assets and a digital first media plan.
Our “Gimme Beanie” brand platform is an over-the-top, fictional brand world in which our toys are iconic celebrities and very ‘extra.’
The best way to bridge the gap between our brand and our new target was to turn Beanies into the next social media superstars. Ty needed to shift from a sales engine built solely on brick and mortar to a brand relationship built on superfans, self awareness, TikTok trends, internet-only inside jokes, and genuine entertainment value – basically, the engine that runs the internet and retail trends.
From K-ARMY to The Bey Hive, fans and celebrities have intermingled to create a teen/tween-approved form of internet-only superstar. This insight sparked the creative idea, our channel plan, and executional style. Beanies are the OG stars of plush toys. The time is now for Beanies to get internet famous.
Teens and tweens love camp and performative cuteness, and Ty knows cute. We used Ty’s notorious legacy of scarcity and cuteness as inspiration for positioning the new Beanies as celebrity icons, and worked to build relevance by using performative cuteness to earn a place in modern culture. Enter "Gimme Beanie", a brand platform to give voice to all Ty fans.
We concentrated our efforts on Paid Social Ads, Organic Social, and CTV.
We also activated influencer creators, merchandised the website with custom bundles to mirror our “starring cast” and developed DTC-exclusive bundles, limited-time offers, and free-with-minimum-purchase gifts, all strategies to increase average order value (AOV).
To complete our activation strategy, additional activities included:
We created ridiculous backstories, POVs, and personalities for our celebrity Beanies, taking a world-building creative approach including “type-casting” them in blockbuster movie trailers – the heartthrob, bad boy, and ingenue – exclusively starring our Beanies. We borrowed from tabloid culture to create headlines that wink at internet stardom. We developed an audio signature to end every paid communication with Ty’s url.
We recommended Ty keep their media budgets for Google Ads and Meta flat from 2021, and invest incrementally in campaign media to support the Gimme Beanie brand platform and associated social strategy.
Because we wanted Beanies to rise to internet stardom, we focused on the channel where internet stars are born: TikTok. We took a risk by investing in TikTok — historically not a shopping channel — as our primary top-of-funnel driver, but TikTok’s efficient reach and access to our target meant our investment produced both follower growth and purchase intent: When daily TikTok media spend reached $400/day or higher, we maintained return on ad spend (ROAS) from branded search of 3X or higher (on flat spend). ROAS fluctuated, often dropping below 3X, when we did not meet this TikTok media spend threshold.
We produced 5x weekly organic content and used content from 50 creators on TikTok to reinforce our world-building approach, and we maintained relevance among the followers we earned by using established Beanie personas to interact with trends and timely events in culture, including unpaid social shoutouts from Kim Kardashian and Lil Nas X.
After years of flat sales, we returned Ty to growth. Historically, Ty offered low-priced products at a variety of mass retail outlets. Take that one-plush-toy retail model online, add free shipping and fulfillment, and it's no longer a viable sales model. With the combined efforts detailed above, we grew revenue, AOV, and followership for the brand, thereby solving two problems with one effective solution.
We measured our success by tracking a few different KPIs before and after campaign launch.
These results are significant because we proved that, for a brand once reliant on low-cost, impulse purchases from an older target, shifting focus to DTC and winning with cultural relevance among teens and tweens led to increased revenue and AOV and brought the brand back to viability in the digital space.