Before our effort began, Ty had nostalgic, ravenous fans and an ability to sell well to parents of small children at retail, but limited success with their DTC site.
Ty was famous for their Beanie Babies, popular '90s plush toys, but today the brand was 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 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.
Ty wasn’t sure how to connect their desire to regain relevance with the growth of their nascent DTC channel. They knew they wanted TikTok content and followers, so we recommended a creative brand platform to develop a more intentional, modern brand voice. We dove in - inserting the brand into relevant trends and culture in a uniquely, ownable and memorable Beanie way. We built a digital strategy designed to engage TikTok users and motivate consumers to shop Ty.com.
We set an initial goal of 150,000 TikTok followers, a 130% increase from campaign launch. When we quickly reached that goal, we set our sights on 500,000 followers.
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 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 superstardom. Today's teens and tweens love camp and performative cuteness, and Ty knows cute. This insight sparked the creative idea, channel plan, and executional style. In the process, we smashed the routine of content for content’s sake. By choosing this target, we evolved from dusty collectibles to modern internet superstars, and regained celebrity plush toy status. 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.
The first step was putting the adorable toys in 6 ambitious OLVs that mirrored big studio movie releases. Under the handle of “Ty Gimme Beanie Studios,” the toys themselves were the notorious, celebrity stars. The first “films” premiered on CTV and social media in early February 2022, and because we wanted Beanies to rise to internet stardom, we focused on the channel where internet stars are born: TikTok.
We created ridiculous backstories, POVs, and personalities for our celebrity Beanies. We took a world-building creative approach including “type-casting” them in blockbuster movie trailers, exclusively starring our Beanies. We borrowed from tabloid culture to create headlines that wink at internet stardom.
With our "Gimme Beanie" brand platform about to launch, we engaged 50 diverse influencers - from artists to athletes, and actors to fashionistas - between January and March 2022. This creator content was specifically designed to reach every corner of TikTok and earn our way onto teens and tweens’ highly curated feeds. A total of 241 assets were created, generating awareness and driving users to Ty’s TikTok. Our TikTok following doubled and continued to grow exponentially with paid ad support in the 60 days following each post.
We produced 5x weekly organic content 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.
Owned and shared media accounted for nearly 25% of Ty’s total marketing spend. Our incremental TikTok-focused media buy provided a halo effect for owned and shared channel content. This paid reach helped us exceed our follower growth goal, essentially proving that incremental spend = incremental followers.
Our new creative brand platform, centered around media and celebrity, was the perfect strategic connector between traditional and digital platforms and had a direct impact on today’s most modern, elusive, and relevant channel.
We earned our way into our target’s highly curated TikTok feeds by boosting post frequency; utilizing both original content and partnerships with the perfect blend of creator-influencers, and turning these posts into ads driving specifically for follower growth. Our influencer content drew over 2.6 million views and over 3,600 hours of view time throughout the campaign…that's equivalent to 423 seasons of The Office. We reached more “For You” pages than ever, truly made an impact on our teen-tween demographic, and went well beyond our goal of 500K followers.
How do we know our strategy worked? Furthermore, how do we know outside factors weren't responsible for the growth we saw? We sought to answer these questions in the last six weeks of the year, as priorities shifted to sales over follower growth.
TikTok spend was significantly reduced, resulting in a dramatic drop in our follower growth rate. While our follower count continued to grow, though at a much slower rate, this drop in spend proved that TikTok has become a “pay to play” platform and brands can no longer solely rely on organic content for significant growth on this channel. We learned that a budget of $5,000 per month will grow your followers over 80% faster.
Our goal of 500K followers was reached in mid-September, and we celebrated with a cute, stop-motion video that has since received more than 4.1M views.
Starting at 65,100 followers at the beginning of 2022, we accumulated 609,400 total TikTok followers by the end of 2022.